The Compassionate Blog

Inability to Afford Dental Care Can Lead to Devastating Medical Issues

What do cancer, cardiovascular disease, premature births and self-esteem have to do with dental financing? Pretty much everything. When your patients can’t afford root canals, check-ups or even regular cleanings, their general health can be seriously impaired. The New York Times has stated that the inability to afford dental care can effect a person’s employment abilities. Poor dental care has even been linked to social problems and isolation. Dental health undeniably effects more than just teeth.


To get back to basics, both dental patients and dental practitioners should read the report from the US Surgeon General posted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The report states something that most people know but don’t really think about: that the mouth is a reflection of general health and disease.

Oral tissue can, to quote the report, “signal the presence of disease, disease progression, or exposure to risk factors.” Many systematic medical conditions are first seen in the mouth. Dental issues can be the symptom leading to a larger medical issue, for example, diabetes. This is why, to again quote the report: “oral cells and fluid are increasingly being used as diagnostic tools.”


And what medical issues are we talking about when discussing the need for good dental care?

Here is a start:

Heart disease, stroke and related cardiovascular problems. Bacteria from oral problems—like gingivitis and periodontal disease--can easily enter your bloodstream. From there that bacteria can travel to other parts of the body. When those bacteria are one of the specific pathogens that have been known to cause heart attaches and strokes, they can result in a life-threatening cardiovascular episode. To quote the Postgraduate Medical Journal, “…dentists now have the added responsibility of diagnosing and treating dental disease not only to help patients save their teeth and gums, but also potentially save their lives.”

Cancer. As most smokers are aware, tobacco use is strongly linked with esophageal and lung cancers. That makes sense, but what few people realize is that oral bacteria can also contribute to an array of other cancers. Strong evidence has linked oral bacteria to malignant tumors in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as cancers of the blood and kidneys.

Rheumatoid Arthritis. The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society has found that people with gum disease were four times as likely to have rheumatoid arthritis. The RA sufferers with gum disease were also found to have more severe forms of arthritis.

Reproductive Issues. Gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis effect more than just a patient’s ability to eat, they can also create medial problems for men, woman and even the babies they produce. Studies have shown that women with dental health problems take on average two months longer to conceive than women without. Men with dental disease have a lower chance of generating healthy sperm. Dental infections can travel from mother to infant, resulting in birth complications and lower birth rates. Maintaining good dental health is a factor for every member of a family—even those not born yet.

Organic brain conditions. Yes, dental issues can result in problems with the brain. A university study has linked poor dental health with poor memory, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. A bacterium specifically contributing to gum disease has been found in the brains of those suffering from those conditions. Those already suffering from these brain issues can sometimes slow the onslaught of symptoms to insuring that they follow a strict, thorough dental health care regime.

Diabetes. Diabetics know that good oral care is critical in maintaining health. As with other conditions, problems maintaining blood sugar levels sometimes are first evident in their gums. For those with diabetes, dental care is an integral part of their over-all health program.

Acid Reflux. Dentists are sometimes the first health care professionals to see the signs of acid reflux. Hydrochloric acid, a naturally occurring substance in the stomach, can splash up into the esophagus and onto the teeth, causing burns in the throat and damage to the tooth enamel. Regular check-ups can spot the damage on a patient who thinks antacids are enough to solve his stomach problems.

Bulimia and stress. Like with acid reflux, bulimia is evident by uncommon enamel damage. Regular vomiting can destroy the back of the patient’s teeth, which is not only a serious dental condition, it indicates the need to medical and psychological intervention. The same can be said with a patient who grinds her teeth. Dental devices can alleviate the grinding, but the cause of the stress need to be further addressed.

Self-esteem. Having poor teeth can affect self-esteem. Visibly uneven, broken, discolored or missing teeth can lead to social isolation, feelings of inferiority and prevent people from socializing. As well, lack of proper dental hygiene can result in halitosis—also known as bad breath—making personal interactions awkward. This condition is particularly crippling among teenagers and young adults, as was determined in a study posted by the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.

Job prospects. Oral problems can create a poor impression at job interviews, and even be the reason why a person fails to get a sought-after job. Sadly, a person who can’t afford dental treatment will fail at a job interview that would help him or her afford dental treatment.


And these examples are just a sampling of the issues related to dental care.



Dentists are part of a chain of health care providers that contribute to the ultimate well-being of an individual. The professional services you provide can have a wide range of consequences. The problem, like so many other issues in life, come down to affordability.

Most recently, the issue of affording dental treatment came into focus in the wake of the passing of the AFFORDABLE CARE ACT. People were being told again—or for the first time—about the massive problems that can result from lack of proper dental care. At the same time, government officials found them debating the issue of cost. People need to have regular dental check-ups, cleaning and treatment of oral health issues. Unfortunately, even those with dental insurance can have problems affording the dental treatment they need. To again quote directly from the Surgeon General’s report:

“The data indicate that lack of dental insurance, private or public, is one of several impediments to obtaining oral health care and accounts in part for the generally poorer oral health of those who live at or near the poverty line, lack health insurance, or lose their insurance upon retirement.”

A variety of dental financing plans exist, as well as insurance plans that cover dental services. These same plans contain stumbling stones that make them inaccessible. Low credit scores, pre-existing conditions and unreasonable payment options can hold these plans out of the reach of many. When you offer a payment plan that more patients can actually afford, you give them more than financing. You help your patients maintain a better quality of life. This is why dentists who offer financial options to their patients provide a necessary and even critical service.

By allowing patients to determine their payment amounts and schedule, dentists contribute to more than a smile—they could prevent major health problems. Adding Compassionate Finance to your services could make all the difference in the lives of your patients.