Would You Floss for $8,000?


Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for your friendly neighborhood periodontist, it could prevent a lot of pain—both dental and financial.


Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the gum tissue around the teeth, the fibers that hold the teeth in the jaw bone and the bone itself.

Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also under the gum, forming a sticky substance called “plaque” that hardens to form tartar. This leads to infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone it begins to decay and pus forms which causes swelling, redness and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out.

If you remove the soft plaque from the gum margin around the teeth you will toughen the gum and prevent the disease. Here’s how to do that:

1. Floss between the teeth and under the gums. This is the only way to remove plaque effectively from between the teeth.

2. Use a power brush such as a Oral-B Professional or Phillips Sonicare to effectively scrub and vibrate the soft plaque away.

3. Use a rubber tip stimulator (available at drug stores) to massage the gum between the teeth. This toughens the gum and makes it more impervious to bacterial infection.

4. Have a good professional cleaning at least annually.

Dental floss is cheap. You can get yards and yards of it at any drug or grocery store for a buck or two. Most rechargeable, battery-powered toothbrushes sell for $60 to $100. A professional cleaning and exam varies across the country, but runs around $50 to $140.

If you absolutely cannot afford a powered brush the best alternative is to brush with a soft-bristle, nylon toothbrush. The bristles should be pressed between the gum and the tooth surface at a 45 degree angle just as you would use a scrub brush to clean the angle between a floor and a wall. Brush horizontally, back and forth. Flossing and brushing is the only way to prevent periodontal disease.

In terms of the cost of failing to prevent gum disease, allow me to scare you to death.

If you have gum disease with no bone damage (called gingivitis) the cost of scaling and root planing with follow-up appointments may cost up to $1,600. If there is bone damage (called periodontitis) which needs surgical intervention, the surgical fee could tack on another $3,000 to $4,000. If bone needs to be re-grown by various bone regenerating methods, the cost may be an additional $300 to $400 per tooth.

If you are unfortunate to have untreatable periodontal disease, extraction of hopelessly diseased teeth could cost $100 or more per tooth. And a full set of dentures will run up to $8,000.

Here’s a plan: Spend a little time and money now to prevent gum disease so you can spend that $8,000 on something else more enjoyable.

Question: How would you rather spend $8,000?

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5 replies
  1. kaetra says:

    Great advice and a great perspective! Also think of all the money you’ll save on Doctor bills! Having healthy gums helps keep your body healthy too and reduces your risk of heart disease!
    When I get my teeth cleaned I always pay the extra $25 bucks to get this special germ killing gel applied to my gums (I forget what they call it). The protection lasts for 3 months, and this along with regular flossing and using a daily gingivitis killing rinse (like Listerine, not Scope) has really turned it around for me.

  2. Chem Tutor says:

    I can’t floss with dental floss or those shorter flossers–my arthritis limits my fine motor action. The best flossing device I have ever used is the Reach Access flosser–it is the only one that gets the pockets between my molars. I haven’t had a cavity in years since using it!

  3. Bev M says:

    You really should read “Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye” by Dr. Ellie Phillips. I have documented proof with my dentist/periodontist that this works.

  4. Mary Edgett Oakley says:

    I went from the edge of gum disease to great gum health in just a couple years of excellent help from my hygienist and dentist. So the damage can be reversed!
    When I started seeing a new dentist after we moved, the hygienist was much more informative than my former hygienist. My new dentist also had the latest equipment, including a laser treatment for getting right to the bacteria that causes the gum disease. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/12/08/new-laser-procedure-treats-gum-disease-with-less-pain/
    My first laser procedures took two appointments and involved numbing my mouth. The following laser treatment is painless, and my dentist only charges $35 for the procedure every 6 months, which lasts only about 10 minutes. She follows it with a cleaning with a water jet . I used to have a couple of pockets that measured 6, 5 and a lot of 4’s. Now I have only one that is a 5 and we are working on that one. Also, my gums don’t bleed at all when they are cleaned every 3 months. I will probably be able to switch back to a cleaning every 6 months soon! And I had always thought my teeth were in good shape…..

  5. Tooth Fairy hygienist says:

    I agree with everything except the “back and forth” brushing. Because teeth are not flat, a slight circular motion helps the bristles get in between the teeth. Good message though! Keep up the good work!


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