Top Dental Articles

April 12 | Articles
Jay B Wettstein DMD PC
Regular visits to your dentist can improve your dental health and if you have coverage, you’re more likely to visit your dentist. Those visits can help prevent and monitor dental health issues that could lead to more serious conditions and require more expensive treatment, such as cavities, tooth removal, root canals and even oral cancer.

The good news is that Americans have more choices for dental coverage than ever. It’s important to know all your options when choosing the right dental plan for you and your family. Use this insurance buying guide to get started—and get covered.

For some people, buying dental benefits may cost more than paying a dentist’s office directly. When considering a plan—especially if it’s not provided through your employer—ask yourself the following questions to estimate how much you might spend out-of-pocket:

• What is your plan premium?
• What is your plan’s deductible?
• What is your co-payment?
• What percentage of treatment costs (coinsurance) will I pay?

Start With Your Dentist
When you consider the total cost of your dental treatment, you must remember to include the cost of the dental plan itself. Another important factor to consider is what kind of care you regularly receive from your dentist. Are your regular checkups enough, or do you routinely need procedures (like cavity fillings) performed? Talk to your dentist about your dental history and possible care needs before making your decision.

Because your health is always changing, revisit these conversations with your dentist before your policy is renewed each year, or when it’s time for you to choose your benefits at work when you’re hired or during open enrollment. Notice that we have used the term dental benefit plan and not dental insurance. Insurance plans are designed to make you whole in the event of a loss. Insurance, by definition, entails a risk of loss to the insurance company. Typical dental benefit plans are not designed to cover all dental procedures, and dental benefits coverage is not based on what you need or what the dentist recommends.

Dental benefit plans are not designed to cover all dental procedures. Plans usually cover some, but not all, of your dental costs and needs. Many plans involve a contract between your employer and a dental plan, but you can also purchase individual plans on your own or through the Health Insurance Marketplaces.

Your dentist’s main goal is to help you maintain good dental health, but not every procedure your dentist recommends will be covered. To avoid surprises on your bill, it is important to understand what and how much your plan will pay.

Which dental plan or insurance is right for you?
Sorting through different dental plans can sometimes feel overwhelming. Get a breakdown of your options, and find out which one is best for you.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
A PPO is a dental plan that uses a network of dentists who have agreed to provide dental services for set fees. The number of dental services covered depends on the plan. If you have a PPO plan and see a dentist out of the network, you will most likely have more out of pocket expenses.

Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO)
A DHMO is like an HMO. Network dentists are paid a set fee every month to provide covered dental services to you whether you see the dentist or not. Typically, some of the covered services have no cost to you, or you may have to make an out of pocket payment for the service.

Discount or Referral Dental Plans
Discount and referral plans are technically not benefit plans. The company selling the plan contracts with a group of dentists. These groups of dentists agree to discount their dental fees. Discounts are usually applied to all services including cosmetic. These plans do not pay for any services received, instead, you pay the full cost of treatment at the reduced rate determined by the plan.

Not all employers offer dental benefits. If you’re struggling to find affordable dental coverage, here are some places to start.

Ask Your Dentist
Some dental offices are starting to establish dental membership savings plans. Typically, these plans charge you a fixed dollar amount on an annual basis and cover certain procedures at no additional charge (for example, cleanings and exams). After that, other procedures are discounted. Ask your dentist if he or she offers such a plan.

From Your State
Assistance programs vary from state to state. Contact your state dental society to find out about care in your area.

• Idaho

• Oregon

The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act extends health insurance to millions of Americans, most importantly guaranteed coverage for your children. Although the new act does not require dental coverage for adults, some state marketplaces may also offer dental coverage for adults. Learn more at

Oral Health America
Are you over 60 or the caregiver of an older adult in need of dental care? Visit for a list of the resources available in your state.

Children’s Health Insurance Program
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides free or low-cost health coverage for more than 7 million children up to age 19. CHIP covers U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants, as a government Medicaid program.

February 16 | Articles
Photo of Baby Teething
A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaws at birth and typically begin to appear when a baby is between 6 months and 1 year.

When teeth first come in, some babies may have sore or tender gums. Gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad can be soothing. You can also give the baby a clean teething ring to chew on.

You can also give the baby a clean teething ring to chew on. Some teething products are designed to be kept in the freezer, as the cool teething ring keeps tears at bay.

If your child is still cranky and in pain, consult your dentist or physician. Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are 3.

Why Baby Teeth Matter

Not only do primary teeth help children chew and speak, they also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when they come in. This can make teeth crooked or crowded. That’s why starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.

When Should I Start Taking My Child to the Dentist?

The ADA recommends that a dentist examine a child within six months after the first tooth comes in and no later than the first birthday. A dental visit at an early age is a “well-baby checkup” for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can show you how to clean the child’s teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumbsucking.

How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth

It’s important to care for your baby’s teeth from the start. Here’s what to do: Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.

For children younger than 3 years, caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste.

For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.

Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing their teeth daily.

October 10 | Articles
Photo of sensitive teeth
Is the taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee sometimes a painful experience for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. Possible causes include:
  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Fractured teeth
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum disease
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Exposed tooth root

In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth.

Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity. Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
  • Fluoride gel. An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
  • A crown, inlay or bonding. These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.
  • Surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive-tooth pain. Ask Dr Jay Wettstein if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.