Dental costs keep many students from paying visit
April 12, 2010 —
With childhood memories of sterile smells, shrill drills and scary leather chairs, many college students don’t like to think of revisiting the dentist.
Dental floss and a toothbrush may come free of charge, but for many students once committed to their dental health, the visit’s costs often prove to be the dealbreaker.
“The only college students I have seen come in are on their parents’ insurance,” said Marie Yax, a registered dental hygienist at All Smiles Dental in Saginaw, who has worked in the field for 25 years.
The absence of the uninsured makes sense, she added. Costs without insurance vary from dentist to dentist, but a cleaning can cost around $70, Yax said. And a simple filling costs more than $100.
But if the cavity becomes so bad that the tooth needs to be removed, a root canal can range from $300 to $500, and a crown from $800 to $900. If a specialist is then needed, the cost could increase further.
“I realize that college students are tight on funds,” Yax said. “But often, if they would have come in earlier to prevent problems, they will save lots of money in the long run.”
Some students skip all four years of college and then wait a few years to get a job. By the time they come in, 10 years have passed and with them have come a great deal of decay, Yax said.
Cindy Johnson, a registered nurse and manager at MedExpress Urgent Care clinic on Bay Road, recognized that paying for health care in college can cause a great deal of stress.
“Having insurance definitely plays a larger factor in attending the doctor or dentist for college students and for the general public as well,” Johnson said. “If someone is stuck between a trip to the dentist or buying a bag of groceries, the choice becomes obvious.”
And according to Vickie Yahn, a registered dental hygenist, it is especially important for college-age students to be checked regularly.
“College students tend to lack in sleep, drink sugary beverages and become run down from the stress of school,” Yahn said. “These factors can affect gum tissue and could cause a general gum infection.”
Yahn, who works at the office of William J. Lamb in Saginaw, said that everyone should having dental check-ups twice a year.
“It really is not wise to skip cleanings,” Yahn said. “If a cavity is there, the larger the cavity gets, the treatment becomes more severe. Instead of a simple filling, if you wait two or three years, you might need a crown.”
Yahn said the longer a person waits, the worse the problem can become.
“We see people that haven’t been to the dentist in 30 years and come in because they are in pain,” Yahn said. “People tend to make visits tougher than they need to be because they fear the cost and have anxiety about seeing the dentist. But really, it doesn’t need to be that bad.”
Another issue with dentist visits for college students is scheduling time to go to the dentist.
Elementary education freshman Beth Koch recently had to reschedule a dental cleaning three times because of timing conflicts.
“Arranging dental appointments can be very inconvenient,” Koch said. “My dentist is in my hometown, which is an hour away from campus, so going home for a cleaning can be quite an ordeal.”
To students who attend school far from home, Yax recommends finding a temporary dentist nearby.
If they do, Johnson recommends bringing medical and dental records, especially if they have an unusual or chronic problem.
Another option for college students on a tight budget is Delta Community College’s Hygiene Clinic. The clinic is a learning institution for the school’s dental hygiene program. There, students are monitored by other hygienists and dentists.
The clinic will perform cleanings, X-rays, fluoride treatments and dental sealants. They will not provide treatment for fillings, crowns, bridges, root canals, braces and emergencies.
Yax realizes that it is difficult to make time to go to the dentist, but prevention really is the key.
“Years ago, the mentality was not prevention and people didn’t care if they would eventually need dentures,” Yax said. “Now, the mindset is to nip the problem in the bud before it even starts. We know it is hard, but we encourage college students to come in at least once a year.”
If cost and time are the issue, Yax recommends over-the-counter fluoride rinses in a pinch.
“Any type of dental care and prevention is better than nothing,” she said.