Taking a chunk out of cavities and cash

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The economy is having some people sacrificing their smile to save money. Some East Texans losing employer dental benefits are now passing on making appointments. For local dentists, keeping old customers and getting new ones, is, well, like pulling teeth.

The dreaded sound of a dentist's drill works at taking a chunk out of cavities and, for many, their hard earned cash. It's a rare commodity in a recession.

"Probably in the past six months or so I've seen a lot of people lose their jobs and you know at the same time they lose their insurance," said Dr. Otto Herod, a dentist.

It is a loss making a trip to the dentist's office hard to come by. Herod has serviced East Texans' smiles for years, but recent times have him seeing fewer.

"A lot of people have put off coming until they find another job," said Herod.

Many people who do have jobs aren't much better off. Seventy-four percent of America's workforce has employer provided medical coverage. Even fewer see dental benefits. Only 48 percent of workers are given the option. Dentists say while it may be tempting to take a break from the chair to spend elsewhere, cavities continue.

"Dentists see that all the time people not wanting to go in because it's not really hurting saying, 'I can put it off another year or so,' but the decay doesn't stop until it's taken out," said Herod.

In Texas, dental costs and access loom as obstacles putting the state at 47th in dental visits. In the past year, 42 percent of Texans haven't even seen a dentist. It's a number one doctor hopes future patients can change.

"If someone thinks a tooth is hurting them or bothering them, they'll overlook it, but if they think they're sick or have the flu, they'll flock to the internist," explained Herod.

It's better to pay a little money now, Herod says, than with painful costs and procedures later. Texans aren't the only ones who aren't able to make it to a dentist's office. In the USA Today poll, more than a third of the people surveyed had not sat in the dentist's chair in the last year.

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