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April 16, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 3:31 pm

There are five major reasons that people do not get the necessary dental care they need. They are money, time, lack of concern, fear and trust. Let’s take a quick look at each one and see if any of them fit you, or anyone you know. I’ll also discuss what dentists often try to do to overcome these obstacles for patients.

Although you may think that money would be the number one reason people avoid ideal dental treatment, it is not. Even in tougher economic times, money, although a significant barrier for many, is still not the number one issue for most. Yes, dental care in some cases can be a significant investment. With insurance companies unwilling to raise the bar, as I have talked about in numerous columns, patients often get stuck with large dental bills.

Unfortunately, as of now, we have to face these facts, and it does not mean avoiding the dentist. Many dentists offer payment plans through third party carriers, or within their offices so patients can pay for treatment over an extended period of time. Ask your dentist if they have such an option. The point here is to get a plan. Once a plan is established, your dentist can work with you to prioritize and sequence your treatment. This way, if you need to spread your treatment over a period of time to make it affordable, you can pick away at a well thought out plan.

Time is an excuse. We all use time as an excuse for many of the things in our lives we want to avoid or procrastinate about. The reality is, however, if we place something high enough in our value system there is always time for it. In order to move something higher up in our value system, we must be educated and come to realize that this particular thing is of benefit to us. This brings us to the most common reason people avoid ideal dental care.

Lack of concern about dental health is prevalent with a huge percentage of the population for a few reasons. Absence of pain is one. Other than a toothache and need for a root canal, there few things that actually cause pain. For example, take periodontal (gum) disease. About 75% of the population has some form of this disease, but only 50% of the population go to the dentist. Why? No pain. This doesn’t mean it is healthy and there are not potential problems down the road, like loss of teeth or other medically-related problems. It is up to the dentist to educate patients on these types of issues, but people have to actually go to the dentist to get this information.

Some people have fear of going to the dentist….and for good reason, due to bad past experiences or bad information. However, dentistry today should be a comfortable experience most of the time. For those who are still fearful, there are different medications dentists can use to ease the experience.

The last barrier to ideal treatment is trust. For a patient to move forward with treatment, it is essential the patient both likes and trusts the dentist. Although I am sure that the skills of your dentist are important to you, I am willing to bet that you would not stay with a dentist who you did not like or trust. Find someone you can connect with and build a strong doctor-patient relationship.

If there are other reasons you avoid optimal dental care, e-mail me and I will be glad to offer some suggestions.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at You can view all previously written columns at

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