What’s the one thing you can think of that can save your life, that’s probably already paid for, that you probably don’t want to do, and that the person responsible for doing it may lack the courage to tell you that you need it?
Would you believe… dentistry?
Now that we’re in the fourth quarter of the year, millions of Americans have dental plan benefits—essentially, dollars in their pockets—that will expire when the ball in Times Square drops on New Year’s Eve.
So what are they doing about it?
In today’s world, dentistry is a lot more than drilling, filling, and billing. For most of us, a healthy mouth is the foundation of our wellbeing. We eat, drink, breathe, talk, and even kiss with our mouths. If our teeth and gums are healthy, we’re healthy. If we don’t take care of our mouths, it’s not just that we’ll get cavities. Gum and mouth disease can actually be precursors to all sorts of serious ailments from cancer to heart ailments.
So it seems like a no-brainer that anyone with dental insurance, who has benefit dollars that will expire on December 31, ought to be making an appointment right now to get work done.
So why don’t we?
According to Gary Kadi, CEO of NextLevel Practice, a dental consultancy, there are three major reasons why millions of Americans will allow those hard-earned dental benefits to vanish by December 31.
‘First is fear of pain,” Kadi says. “Nobody likes to go to the dentist! It’s painful, it’s expensive, and, well, it’s just no fun. So the primary person standing in the way of our health and wellness is the man or the woman in the mirror.
“As the cartoon figure, Pogo, used to say, ‘We have met the enemy, and it is us.’”
The next person keeping you from getting the dental care you need: believe it or not, it’s your dentist.
“Dentists, like most people, dislike rejection,” Kadi notes. “That’s why they so often wimp out—and I use those words deliberately—when they know a patient needs treatment, but they’re afraid the patient will say no.
“That’s why dentists say things like ‘We’ll just put a watch on it’ or ‘We’ll take a look at that again on your next cleaning.’ The dentist knows you need the treatment. They’re just afraid to hear the word ‘no.’”
Patients have no idea, Kadi says, so they just figure the treatment is optional instead of necessary. The dentists need to step up their game, get over their fear of rejection, and tell people clearly and firmly when treatment is in order.
And finally, according to Kadi, the third obstacle: the insurance companies. Insurers are ostensibly in the business of providing healthcare for you and me. But in reality, their mission is to keep spending to the lowest possible levels. So don’t look to your insurer to remind you that your dental health benefits are on a “use it or lose it” basis. Insurers are secretly hoping that you will ignore the benefits to which you are entitled. They’re putting the wellbeing of their bottom line ahead of the wellbeing of their patients.
“How do we know this is true?” Kadi asks. “Because otherwise, right about now, they would be coming out with big TV ads saying, ‘The end of the year is coming! Call your dentist and use your benefits!’ Ever seen an ad like that? Didn’t think so.”
In today’s world, you—not your doctor, not your dentist, and not the Internet—must be your own primary healthcare provider. So if you want to use your benefits, and enjoy the benefits of a healthy mouth, now’s the time to pick up the phone, call your dentist, make the appointment, and get the care you need, deserve, and have already paid for.
And then on New Year’s Eve, get ready to eat, drink, and be merry, knowing that you’ve done the most important thing you can do for your own healthcare. You did the thing that nobody wants to do but everybody needs to do: you went to the dentist!