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Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Saving On Expensive Dental Products

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In some ways, saving on dental products is a lot like saving on other items you might buy for your home or personal consumption. Comparing prices, using coupons, signing  up for emails, buying less expensive versions or brands are all techniques used for both dental needs and "regular" products. The difference between dental recommendations and say food or home furnishings purchases is that dental products are a lot more like medical products. If your physician recommended that you take a specific rx, you wouldn't try to DIY it at home. The same goes with what your hygienist or dentist may recommend. In contrast, I can very easily make my own ketchup or grow my own vegetables and not only cause zero harm to myself, but may actually increase my nutrient intake. I can also buy furniture second-hand with no ill effects. Not the same with most medical and dental recommendations. I can't manufacture my own dental floss or fluoride toothpaste in the basement. And I don't think it's prudent to buy an electric toothbrush or water flosser second-hand at the thrift store.

All of that said, there are ways to save a lot of money on the products and equipment that you need to keep your teeth and gums in good condition. For myself, I estimate that I have saved 30% to 40% on my dental product purchases by following these tips.

If you're one of the lucky ones who inherited a great mouth of teeth, then you may not need any of this. For myself, I come from a long line of family who no matter how hard they try to care for their teeth, they still have a mouth full of issues. So these tips are really for those who have received recommendations for specific, costly products and tools just so they can hang onto their natural teeth or avoid painful procedures down the road.


with your hygienist

  • ask if there's a less expensive, but equally effective alternative
  • ask for samples at every visit
  • ask for coupons or coupon codes for ordering online
  • if your hygienist is recommending that you purchase everything under the sun, ask why. In my case I asked about mouth rinses. My hygienist was honest with me and told me I didn't need a commercial product, but I could use a baking soda and water rinse to alter the ph in my mouth.
  • if an electric toothbrush is recommended, and this isn't in your current budget, ask your hygienist for cleaning tips using manual toothbrushes. It may take a combination of 2 different manual toothbrushes to get your teeth thoroughly clean. 
  • don't be passive in the dental chair but ask for tips on how you can do better. I think of my hygienist as more of a coach and less of a judge, if that is helpful to you.
in use at home
  • measure amounts used every time -- if toothpaste says pea-sized, eyeball a pea-sized amount, if floss says 15-18 inches, find something handy to the sink that is that length to measure against. I use the mirror above the sink to measure my floss, holding the string up to the mirror before cutting. If a recommended mouthwash calls for an amount by ounce, find a cup that measures that amount and use that cup every time.
  • use every last bit. this is the tip that most of us already follow when it comes to toothpaste. We flatten and scrape tubes, cut open tubes, and rinse tubes to get every last bit.
purchasing online
  • if product is only available online, compare prices between manufacturer "store" on website and Amazon or Walmart.com.
  • sign up for email and text alerts to get initial introductory discount from manufacturer website
  • take advantage of periodic sales, usually announced through texts and emails, stocking up as affordable
  • buy in bulk, such as multi-packs to get a bit of a discount
  • buy at least the minimum amount required to get free shipping every time
  • price compare "subscribe and save" option to ordering on your own in your time. Amazon's "subscribe and save" offers 5% discount on initial purchase and 10% on subsequent subscription purchases of 5 or more of the same items. In contrast, I can save 15% off of the same base price through the manufacturer's website by waiting for a sale (notification by text and email). I save an additional 2% by buying a multi-pack bundle (and it qualifies for free shipping). So, my savings by skipping the subscription saves me 17%, whereas the best case with Amazon's subscription service is a 10% savings. (BTW, I've been advised to use a rather expensive toothpaste. So this works out to be a good savings for me.)
purchasing locally
  • if the product can be purchased locally, obviously compare prices between stores, use coupons, and buy when on sale.
dental floss
  • even if you're buying plain old regular floss, consider shopping online at either Amazon or Walmart.com. You can often find larger spools of floss online than you can in local stores. And beyond that, online you can find refill spools of floss. Compare the price per foot between the small and large canisters.
  • There's a hidden savings in buying a large refill spool or a large canister of floss. At the end of every small container of floss, there's always that last short bit of floss that is too short for a complete cleaning. I usually end up throwing these short pieces away, unused. Larger spools of floss will mean that you come across that short end fewer times in a year compared with multiple small containers of floss.
  • many of the newer eco-friendly or specialty brands of floss offer refills for their individual canisters. While you don't get big savings from buying a super large canister or refill, these smaller manufacturers do offer a discount when buying simply the refill (that you would then place in the holder) as opposed to the holder with floss. When searching in an online store, add the word "refill" in the search field.
night guards
  • over the counter night guards that you fit yourself cost $20 to $30. Pros- cheap and quickly obtainable. Cons-they wear out more quickly than those provided through your dentist and need replacement. OTCs are also a one-size fits all product that is then molded to your bite. If you happen to have an unusually large or small jaw, the OTC may not fit properly.
  • custom fitted night guards provided through your dentist can cost upwards of $200. Some dental insurance carriers will pay part of this cost. However, there is usually a coinsurance payment required. Pros-you know they will fit exactly to your bite, plus they tend to last longer than OTC night guards. Cons-they are expensive and take more time to replace when they do break down, crack or develop a hole.
  • whether buying over the counter or through your dentist, most dentists recommend replacing night guards every 3 to 5 years, or sooner if they break down. So this isn't a once and done cost to consider.
electric toothbrushes
  • both my dentist and my daughter's dentist recommended we buy the low-end big name brand electric toothbrush but buy off-brand replacement heads. The savings on off-brand replacement heads is substantial. For example, on Amazon you can buy a 4-pack name brand replacement head for $22.50, a price of $5.63 each head. Alternatively, you can buy a 10-pack off-brand for $16.96, a price of $1.70 each head. The ratings on both the name brand and off-brand are comparable. Even if the off-brand head wore out twice as fast as the name brand, you would still save almost 50% on your replacement head costs.
  • as for buying the low-end big name brand of electric toothbrush, these models typically have just one or two settings and need more frequent charging. For my mouth, my hygienist agreed that I only needed two settings (1 gentle, 1 regular cleaning). And for my convenience, I plug my toothbrush in every night, so it always has a full charge.
water flossers
  • I've had the same Waterpik for 10 years. I bought a low-end model at a local big box store, on sale and using a coupon. It still works as well as it did when new. 
  • maintaining a water flosser will extend the life of your unit significantly and save its replacement cost down the road. The 2 problems that would make a Waterpik completely unusable (and that you can prevent) would be with the pump motor if it were damaged through contact with water or mold, bacteria, or mineral deposits inside the reservoir or tubes and hoses. The first is simple. Just keep the motor unit itself out of water. Keeping it free of mold, bacteria or mineral deposits requires a little more attention. Empty completely after each use. My model holds just enough water for one use. After each use I empty the reservoir into the sink. Since the spaces inside the tubes and hoses is not visible to the user, I also empty the hoses completely after each use by holding the reservoir above the dental pick end and allow all of the water to run out of the hose into the sink. A little moisture might remain inside the tubes or hoses. To combat mold and bacterial growth in those areas, I run about 3 capfuls of hydrogen peroxide diluted in 1/2 cup of water through the machine and into the sink every other Saturday. Alternatively, you can use a 2:1 ratio of white vinegar to water. (The vinegar approach will also tackle mineral deposits if you have hard water.) I follow this cleaning rinse with a reservoir of plain water. Air dry thoroughly. After each use I detach the reservoir from the motor unit and allow the area where these two parts meet to dry between uses. Once a month wash with soap. I hand wash the reservoir (detached from the motor unit) and the wand and tip using liquid dish soap once a month. I also remove and clean the rubber valve at the bottom of the reservoir. Note: some wands contain a battery and can't be immersed. Know which type of wand your model uses and clean that part according to manufacturer's directions. This all sounds more involved than it really is. For more information on cleaning a water flosser, see this wikihow.
  • if you buy a big name-brand water flosser, replacement parts for some elements are easily purchased online. Here's Waterpik's replacement part listing with links to trouble-shooting a couple of issues.
I'm on the fence when it comes to tongue scrapers. I currently brush my tongue with my toothbrush after doing my teeth. One study I read indicated that while scraping your tongue can reduce bacteria in your mouth, tongue scraping didn't reduce plaque formation on teeth. And yet another study indicated that scraping your tongue and/or brushing your tongue can reduce plaque. I'll have to ask my hygienist when I see her later this month what she has read on tongue scrapers and plaque.



6 comments:

  1. Lots of good tips here! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lots of good tips. I always ask my hygienist what needs more attention and about products and methods. They are a coach as you mentioned. We're thinking about getting an electric toothbrush and/or waterpik, but need to do some research first. We had both when my sons had braces, but those units have long since bit the dust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I think that's a helpful attitude, to ask questions and get advice from the hygienist. I know it's helped me.
      Good luck with your research on new equipment.

      Delete
  3. A previous dentist's hygienist tried to sell me a top-of-the-line electric toothbrush. I said no, as things were pretty tight money-wise, and I wasn't sure I'd even like the brush. Instead, I bought an inexpensive Spinbrush. Liked it well enough that I still use one. My current dentist's hygienist is just fine with it. Then again, my teeth are in pretty good shape, so this might not be a good option for folks with dental problems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,
      That's great that you found what works. I'm all for finding the least necessary interventions and equipment while getting the results you want. We've had a similar situation with a dentist office years ago, wanting to sell us an expensive electric toothbrush, much more than what we needed. We, too, went with a less expensive option, purchased on our own and not through the dentist/hygienist.

      Delete

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