I have just been to the dentist, and need not return for another six months! Is it not the most beautiful thought?

Hercule Poirot, in Agatha Christie's One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Fear of the dentist is so common that it has many names: “odontophobia,” “dentophobia,” or “dental phobia.”  But how about the fear of bad breath?  How about the fear of yellow teeth?  Or of your teeth falling out?  Or of dying from a dental infection that spreads to the brain?  It’s happened—we’re not making this stuff up.  Let’s face it. It’s time to think about dental insurance, which helps pay for the cost of both routine dental care (exams and cleanings) and corrective care (cavity fillings, root canals, extractions, caps, and more).

But I hate going to the dentist.

Join the club.  1 in 4 adults has untreated tooth decay, which is kind of gross when you think about it.

Why do I need to go at all?

Man in the dentist's chair looking at his clean white teeth and smiling

More and more studies are confirming the link between your oral health and your overall health. The Mayo Clinic reports that bad oral health can actually contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Yikes! If you don't visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and check-up, you might actually be risking your health.

Here's a short list of reasons why going to the dentist helps you stay healthy:

  • Prevents heart disease
    • The bad bacteria in your mouth can enter your bloodstream and contribute to clots and constricted arteries.
  • Prevents lung disease
    • Those same bacteria can also travel down into your lungs.
  • Prevents diabetes
    • Gum disease makes it harder for your body to control its blood sugar level—it can help cause diabetes.
  • Prevents premature birth
    • Pregnant women with gum disease are up to 7 times more likely to have a premature, low-birth-weight baby.

Are these facts scary? Of course they are. But the fix is pretty easy—brush, floss, and see a dentist twice a year. Nothing about the dentist is as scary as hearing your doctor say you have heart or lung disease!

But I don't have heart disease, or lung disease, or diabetes.

You don't have to have a documented condition to need dental care.

ABC News reported a story in 2011 of a man who died when a dental infection spread to his brain. He couldn't afford the care that would have saved him. The article quotes Dr. Irvin Silverstein, a UC San Diego dentist. "People don't realize that dental disease can cause serious illness," Silverstein said. "The problems are not just cosmetic. Many people die from dental disease." Silverstein added that when people are unemployed or don't have insurance, they can end up dying from treatable, preventable diseases, like dental infections.

How does dental insurance work?

It's just like health insurance or vision insurance. You select a plan, make a monthly payment, and the provider helps you pay for your exams and dental work. Low-cost dental insurance plans are geared more towards people who have good dental health and just need routine maintenance like cavity fillings.

If your teeth are in worse shape and you need treatments like root canals or dental implants, dental insurance can help offset the cost of these expensive procedures. This is where dental insurance is really going to pay off for you.

How much will it cost me?

Woman getting a dental exam for no cost thanks to her dental insurance

Not a lot. You don't have to take our word for it. Individual policies cost approximately $360/year, on average. Let's do the math:

$360 per year / 12 months = $30 per month

Now let's make the comparison with other things that cost $30:

  • Parking ticket
  • Fake Prada bag, bought from the guy selling purses on the street corner
  • Overage charge because your iPhone 5 still sucks up data when it's connected to Wi-Fi
  • Groupon offer for free underwater knitting lessons

Aren't clean white teeth much more useful to you in your daily life than any of this stuff?

Mayo Clinic: Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
ADHA Fact Sheet
ABCNews.go.com: Man Dies from Toothache, Couldn't Afford Meds
Bankrate.com: Is dental insurance worth the cost?

Impress your friends:
Agatha Christie, the creator of Hercule Poirot, is probably the world's best-selling author. Her books have sold an estimated 4 billion copies, enough to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. Christie also holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-running stage play in the world, The Mousetrap. As if that weren't enough, she wrote a romantic novel called Absent in the Spring under the name Mary Westmacott - in three days.