Dental-related blog posts.

Keep the brain young, fight heart disease, maintain oral health? What is this super food?

Lovers of red wine, rejoice!

Researchers have now identified yet another reason why you should keep on enjoying this beverage.

Some of us love to savor a glass of red wine — or two — with dinner every once in a while.

The catch is that this velvety drink often leaves the teeth stained, so maybe it’s not such a good idea to order it on your first date or while out on a business dinner.

That being the case, it’s certainly not intuitive to infer that red wine could do anything for your oral health — the contrary, rather.

The research was led by M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues from Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias de la Alimentación in Madrid, and the Department of Health and Genomics at the Center for Advanced Research in Public Health in Valencia.

Moreno-Arribas and team have now published their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Moreno-Arribas and her colleagues have revealed another merit that speaks in favor of red wine: some of its components may protect against the formation of cavities and against gum disease.

The health benefits of red wine come from its content of polyphenols. These are a series of micro-nutrients with antioxidant properties. As antioxidants, they can protect against action of free radicals, which are unstable atoms that play a key role in the cellular aging process.

Polyphenols are nutritional superheroes with many secret weapons. One of these is their impact on our gut bacteria. Some polyphenols can be absorbed into the small intestine, there to interact with the gut microbiota and fend off some of the bacterial “bad guys” that might threaten our health.

Picking up on this thread, Moreno-Arribas and colleagues hypothesized that polyphenols found in red wine and grapes could have a similar, protective effect in the mouth, fending off harmful oral bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

What happens in the mouth

In the new study, the scientists first compared the effect of two types of polyphenol typically found in red wine (caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid) as well as that of red wine and grape seed extracts (Provinols and Vitaflavan) on three harmful oral bacteria: Fusobacterium nucleatumStreptococcus mutans, and Porphyromonas gingivalis.

What they found — experimenting with a laboratory model of gum tissue — was that the two red wine polyphenols caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid were most effective at repelling the harmful oral bacteria and preventing them from attaching to healthy tissue.

Next, they tested a mix of caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, and Streptococcus dentisani, which is an oral probiotic that, as recent research has suggested, may help to prevent tooth decay.

This experiment was even more successful, as the protective effect of the two polyphenols was enhanced by the presence of the probiotic.

Finally, the analysis of phenolic metabolites, which are substances formed as the polyphenols start transforming in the mouth, suggested that these small products may in fact be the “active ingredient” associated with the polyphenols’ protective effect.

So go ahead — pour yourself a glass of red wine tonight, safe in the thought that this drink, at least, won’t cause you any oral suffering. Of course, don’t overdo it; red wine is an alcoholic beverage, after all, and too much alcohol isn’t anyone’s friend.

Using a small wine glass, though, could help you curb your appetite a little, so you can delight your palate — and teeth and gums — with some polyphenols, while still keeping your gray matter quite safe.

Adapted article:

Dentist inspecting patients mouth using a dental explorer

Dental Discount Plans vs Dental Plans

Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans

Over the last 10 years, 1 in 4 Americans have put off a needed dental procedure due to the high cost of oral health care.  Not surprising when you realize that the cost of dental care has soared by 20% over that same time.  The pain in the wallet that comes with a pain in your mouth has led many people to try to find another option; but which is the better option? Dental insurance? Too much coverage for you? How about a dental discount plan?

Even for those that have dental coverage as a part of their employee compensation package, they cannot always make full use of the coverage they do have.  Many dental insurance plans have coverage limits of only $1000 to $1500 dollars, and that’s after you meet your plans deductible.  Then there are the issues figuring out if your favorite dentist is in network, preauthorization requirements for many needed procedures, which can take weeks or even months, and finding out that your insurance doesn’t cover all your needed procedures.   Most plans require you to be in the program for a period of time before you can be authorized for root canals or fillings, so even if you get insurance, you may have to wait up to three months to be able to use it.  Then there is the painful fact that many of these dental insurance plans require you to pay for the procedure up front and be reimbursed later on down the road.

This combination of limited coverage, waiting periods, and red tape has caused many people to begin looking at dental discount plans.  Dental discount plans work very much like buying a Sam’s Club card.  You pay an annual fee (usually between $150 and $300) and then you get a reduced fee on all work you have done from any participating dentists.  These plans go into effect immediately and provide either a discounted rate or a percentage off of the work you want done.  Either way, you pay the full discounted rate at the doctor’s office at the time of treatment.

Which path is best for you really differs from person-to-person and your annual dental needs.  Even the cost of an employer covered dental insurance as a part of your employee compensation package should be compared and reviewed to insure additional coverage is not needed.

Dental insurance plans usually come with a monthly fee and cover 100% of preventative procedures such as check-ups, x-rays and cleanings.  They then usually provide a tiered system of costs for more involved work you want done.  Often, your total benefit can be roughly equal to your annual costs, so take the time to compare plans.

Dental discount Plans do not have deductibles or annual spending caps.  They are normally paid as an annual fee with coverage lasting for 12 months starting right away.  Dental discount plans normal costs are about half of what comparable dental insurance plans annual costs would be, but they offer only a discount on services not any form of coverage for needed procedures.

Often, the choice comes down to a persons need and preference.  If your personal yearly dental plan only calls for a few visits consisting of a check-up and cleaning, dental insurance may be the best bet for you as the annual cost of a discount plan might be more than the total savings offered for the minor work being done.  Not every needed procedure is covered by dental insurance however, while dental discounts are usually available for all of your oral care needs.  If you know that you have more involved procedures coming up, or if you have a family with active children, a dental discount card may be the way to go.  Other concerns, such as employment based coverage, insuring you are purchasing through someone with great customer service, and your favorite dentist is included are important considerations. Dental plans and Dental Discount plans found at cover over 260,000 providers in all 50 states. The odds are high your current dentist is already a provider in a dental discount or insurance plan found at

Everyone loves a nice smile and taking care of your dental health is a critical part of your overall health.  Take the time to look into your options to find the plan that is best for you.  If you need help checking your options, give Capital Benefits a call at 888-327-8880 or got to get started.


7 Tips to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Try out a few of these tactics to help your child get on a daily routine and the right track for great oral health.

1.) Set a good example!
Lead by example. Show your kids your oral health routine. Let them watch, hand them a toothbrush or if age appropriate some dental floss. Make it a positive experience that is a part of your daily routine.

2) Practice! Practice! Practice!
What’s a little baby doll brushing or practicing on a quick brush on you going to hurt? Nothing! In fact the more familiar the activity becomes for the child the more comfortable and easier to keep up those good oral hygiene habits!

3) Rewards. They work. Use them.
There is something that will entice your little one to brush those chompers. Is it a sticker chart? Maybe it’s a new toothbrush or a special tooth paste? There are several brands of tooth brushes that look and feel like toys, perfect rewards for good brushing.

4) Add some Technology!
What brings kids to the sink? Tunes and apps. That’s right, go to your favorite app store and check out the various apps you can download to provide your oral diva some tunes to jam to. Perfectly timed so they know when it’s been long enough, and they can stop.

5) Let Them Do It!
You know the struggle. Let them take the cap of the tooth paste, pour the fluoride into a cup, floss the front teeth… Whatever the task, let them participate as soon as the interest and ability is there.

6) Cater to the Little Things
If you still feel the resistance maybe it’s the toothpaste? No really. Try a new flavor, try a no flavor. Remember the pallets of the young are sensitive and mint and heavy cinnamon can be over bearing for their taste buds. Start mild. Maybe it’s a new step stool to reach and see at a higher height. Try to see the experience from the smaller perspective.

7) Play Games
Try using your child’s imagination to your advantage. Tell them they are space heroes and their mouth has been invaded by a zillion sugar aliens they need to brush out- or maybe they are a Princess and they need to brush the glitter off their teeth. Whatever the game, try to remember what it was like to be a young child and how to enhance the experience for them. 

Don’t forget The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. Primary teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age. Find great dental plans for any age here.

Improving Your Memory With This Superfood Spice

Years ago, health care giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) sold Band-Aid bandages containing the spice turmeric.Turmeric bandages might seem odd, but the spice has a long history of medicinal use in India. JNJ sold them to the Indian market, where many creams and salves included the spice. The company stopped selling these bandages about a decade ago.

But more and more research is pointing to the health benefits of turmeric.Turmeric is a spice derived from a root similar to ginger. It appears in food from many cultures, especially curry.

Turmeric gets its healing reputation from one chemical, curcumin. Curcumin has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties.

It turns out, a brand-new study linked turmeric with improved memory. That follows on other research into how it may fight cancer. So we wanted to take a closer look today…

Turmeric preserves memory. A new study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows how turmeric – specifically the curcumin – improves memory.

Researchers split participants into two groups: One group received a pill with curcumin. The other group got a placebo. They continued taking their pills every day for 18 months. Researchers ran brain scans of the participants’ brains at the beginning and end. In addition, participants took memory tests every six months. Those who took the curcumin supplements had a 28% improvement on the memory tests than those on placebo. And their brain scans showed fewer markers of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers believe this boost comes from the strong inflammation-fighting properties of curcumin. This follows other research looking at how curcumin interacts with the body. It appears to interfere with specific molecules that control the inflammation process.

Turmeric and cancer. Turmeric also contains powerful antioxidants. Several studies have shown that these antioxidants help detox our bodies. They also protect our DNA directly.And it can boost traditional chemotherapy treatments. One small study focused on folks with pancreatic cancer. The patients who took curcumin saw improvements with their regular medications. The chemotherapy worked better with the spice.

Pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers, is especially resistant to chemotherapy. But researchers found a specific pathway in some pancreatic cancers that keeps the cells resistant to drugs. It turns out that curcumin directly interferes with that pathway. The spice effectively shuts off the cancer cells’ resistance.

How to Increase Your Turmeric Intake

Now that we know the benefits of curcumin in turmeric, what’s the best way to take it?

Many of these tests use concentrated amounts of curcumin in their studies. However, one of the problems with supplements is bioavailability.

Bioavailability refers to how much of a chemical your body absorbs. For every pill you take, you only get a percentage of the main ingredient that’s “available” for use in your body.

Research has found two natural ways to increase the amount of curcumin we can absorb. The first is to combine it with piperine. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the chemical that gives black pepper its kick. Piperine prevents your body from breaking down curcumin as waste. In fact, one study from India showed that taking curcumin with a quarter teaspoon of black pepper increased levels of curcumin in the blood by 2,000%.

The second is to combine it with oils. The structure of curcumin makes it attracted to lipids, meaning fats like oils.

Another point to remember – curcumin isn’t the only active ingredient. A group from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas found this out in its study. They looked at curcumin alone and turmeric with different types of cancer cells. Turmeric killed far more cancer cells in each of the seven types tested. That included cells of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and multiple myeloma.

It turns out, studies done on turmeric with the curcumin removed still had positive results. The spice still packed plenty of antioxidants. So if you want to benefit from all of turmeric’s power, we suggest adding it to your diet as a whole food.

You don’t just have to stick to curry, though. You can use it as a spice on salads, in soups, and on rice.




What We’re Reading…

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth BulletinResearch Team February 1, 2018

Snack habits for kids is risky business for dental health

Tooth brushing only partly protects against the effects of sugary snacks on children’s teeth, research suggests.

A study of almost 4,000 pre-school children showed snacking habits were most strongly associated with decay.

Researchers found children who snacked all day – compared with just eating meals – were far more likely to have dental decay.

The study shows that relying on tooth brushing alone to ward off dental decay in children under five is not enough.

The study also said parental socioeconomic factors, such as the mother’s education level, explained more of the difference in children’s dental decay than diet or oral hygiene.

The researchers said that even though primary teeth were temporary, “good oral hygiene habits are set in childhood, and this relates both to diet and tooth brushing”.

Dental decay

Social scientists from the University’s of Edinburgh and Glasgow used statistical models and survey data to predict dental decay by the age of five.

They used data collected on diet and oral hygiene from repeated observation of children from ages two to five.

Snacking was the factor most strongly associated with decay, with children who snacked all day without eating meals having twice the chance of decay compared with those who did not snack at all.

There was an incremental association between lower frequencies of tooth brushing at the age of two and higher chances of dental decay at five.

Children who brushed less than once per day or not at all at the age of two had twice the chance of having dental decay at five compared with children who brushed their teeth twice per day or more often.

The study is published in the Journal of Public Health.

‘Ongoing challenge’

Lead researcher Dr Valeria Skafida, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of social and political science, said restricting sugar intake was desirable both for broader nutritional reasons and for children’s dental health.

Dr Skafida said: “Even with targeted policies that specifically aim to reduce inequalities in children’s dental decay it remains an ongoing challenge to reduce social patterning in dental health outcomes.”

Study co-author, Dr Stephanie Chambers, of the social and public health sciences unit at University of Glasgow, said: “Among children eating sweets or chocolate once a day or more, tooth brushing more often – once or twice a day or more – reduced the likelihood of decay compared with less frequent brushing.”

The researchers used data from the Growing Up in Scotland study – a social survey which follows the lives of children from infancy through to their teens.

The research was supported by The British Academy, the Medical Research Council and the chief scientist office of the Scottish government Health Directorates.

Water fluoridation is affecting my family how?

ANOTHER study confirms the detrimental effects of water fluoridation on the IQs of children Tuesday, January 09, 2018 by: Zoey Sky (Natural News) Another study has added to the growing body of evidence that links the fluoride found in water with lowered intelligence quotients (IQ) in children. A study, which was published last year, confirmed […]

Is dental insurance tax deductible?

Read more: Is dental insurance tax deductible? | Investopedia

A: Dental insurance premiums may be tax deductible. To be deductible as a qualifying medical expense, the dental insurance must be for procedures to prevent or alleviate dental disease, including dental hygiene and preventive exams and treatments. Dental insurance that is for purely cosmetic purposes, such as teeth whitening or cosmetic implants, would not be deductible.

Where Are Dental Insurance Premiums Deductible?

For most taxpayers, the cost of medical and dental insurance premiums paid during the tax year are deductible on form 1040 Schedule A as a medical and dental expense. Only the total of all qualifying medical and dental expenses, including insurance premiums, that when combined exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI), will actually be included in the total of all itemized deductions.

For example, if a couple has an AGI of $100,000 and a total of $8,000 of qualifying medical and dental expenses, including dental insurance premiums paid, then none of these expenses would be included as an itemized deduction. Ten percent of the AGI would be $10,000, which is greater than the couple’s total medical and dental expenses.

For a self-employed individual, the cost of dental insurance may be deducted on Form 1040, line 29, without having to itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A with the 10% of AGI limitation described above.

Other Limitations

Dental insurance premiums paid with funds from a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) are not deductible, as these funds are pretax and the IRS does not allow a double tax benefit.

Top Treats & Foods That Damage Teeth During The Holidays

We all want healthy teeth and healthy gums. But the lure of sweet treats, delicious drinks, and decadent desserts during the holiday season can overwhelm our otherwise sensible choices. Unfortunately, holiday foods that damage teeth are all-too-common this time of year.

Time to switch things up and try a new tradition: Holiday treats that can

strengthen your teeth and your holiday smile.

Avoiding Holiday Foods That Damage Teeth

Even if you’re diligent about brushing and flossing, many foods will make caring for your teeth an uphill battle, or might even damage your teeth outright. In order to help you protect your teeth this holiday season, we’ve put together a list of the holiday treats that damage your teeth the most:

Eggnog. Eggnog is full of sugar, which is always bad for your teeth. But since this drink often has alcohol in it, it can dry out your mouth and prohibits the production of saliva. That means the sugar residue stays in your mouth for longer and does more damage.

Candy Canes. These holiday staples are also loaded with sugar, but what makes them especially bad for your teeth is that they take a long time to finish. Unlike a cookie that you may eat in a minute, candy canes bathe your mouth in sticky sugar for minutes on end.

Holiday Sugar Cookies. That said, cookies can still be an issue. Especially the kind of sugar cookie common around the holiday. C’mon… it has “sugar” in the name! Eating too many of these will only accelerate tooth decay.

Potato Latkes. The pancakes themselves are not the problem, it’s what’s on the side. A common tradition is to dip potato latkes into table sugar, which turns a traditional holiday treat into something that’s damaging your teeth. When possible, eat them with applesauce instead.

Caramel Popcorn. Sugar is once again the culprit in this holiday snack. But it doesn’t help that caramel popcorn is so addictive. It’s easy to munch on it absentmindedly for minutes on end which just exposes more sugar to your teeth for longer.

Of course, this list might be longer if you have braces, Invisalign, or other orthodontics. (Read: “Holiday Eating With Invisalign: Should Candy Canes Be On the Menu?” and “Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid with Braces.“)

Holiday Treats For Healthy, Happy Teeth

It wouldn’t be much fun to spend the entire holiday season avoiding treats, especially when everyone around you is enjoying them so much. Luckily, you can be merry and be merciful on your teeth at the same time.


Here are some seasonal treats that you can indulge in without feeling guilty:

Peppermint Ho! Peppermint flavors are a staple of the season. Instead of eating candy canes, try peppermint tea (or make your own peppermint tea) and sweeten with low or sugar-free syrup. You can also try these homemade, sugar-free peppermint patties, of this terrific (and easy) dairy and sugar-free peppermint fudge.

Gingerbread. The bold flavor of ginger means that gingerbread tends to have less sugar than other types of cookies and cakes. So try gingerbread cookies over sugar cookies, or try baking actual gingerbread yourself- that way you can control how much sugar goes into it!

Cheese. Love cheese already? A study published in the American Academy of General Dentistry found that eating cheese raises the pH in the subjects’ mouths, lowering the risk of tooth decay. Cheese also contains calcium and protein, both found in foods that strengthen teeth. So go ahead, break out those holiday cheese balls. (We love this Christmas Tree shaped one you can make yourself.) If entertaining, it’s worth learning how to set up a simple cheese platter.

Almonds. Almonds are one of the best-kept secrets of the snack world. They are a good source of calcium and protein (which, again, helps to strengthen teeth) but are also low in sugar. While we don’t usually associate almonds with the holidays, winter has always been a season for roasted nuts. Try these spicy roasted almonds, or these rosemary roasted almonds, to get that nostalgic feel without loading your nuts with sugar. And, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can make these no-bake almond cranberry Christmas cookies. They’re vegan, low in artificial sugars, and totally tasty.

Keep Your Teeth Happy This Holiday Season

One more thing to consider – during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to let our guard down and “skip” our usual teeth cleaning habits. Bad idea: This is precisely the time of the year when those habits are most needed!

Dentures put wearers at risk of malnutrition because they can’t chew healthy food

By Sarah Knapton, science editor
11 DECEMBER 2017 • 12:01AM

Dentures put wearers at risk of malnutrition because they cause wearers to avoid healthy foods which are difficult to chew, a major study has shown.

Researchers at King’s College London found the same was true for people with teeth loss, who also struggle to chew food properly.In both cases, tooth loss and wearing dentures was associated with joint and muscle frailty which can leave people at risk of bone breakages and falls.

The scientists said that people with dentures, or fewer teeth find it difficult to eat foods such as fibrous fruits and vegetables, nuts and meat, which are essential for good nutrition. Although dentures improves chewing function, the bite force is much weaker than that of natural teeth, meaning users often avoid certain foods.

“Persons with inadequate dentition are less likely to eat hard food that is difficult to chew, for example, some of the fresh fruits and vegetables, apples, pears, carrots, nuts etc,” said Dr Wael Sabbah, from King’s College London Dental Institute.

“They could also have difficulties in eating some cooked food such as meat, depending on the way it is cooked.”

Around 11 million people wear dentures in Britain. Although just six per cent of people now have no teeth compared to 37 per cent in 1978, 74 per cent have needed at least one tooth extracting.

The study examined the health of more than 1,800 people who had an average age of 62, and were categorised into three groups; having at least 20 teeth, denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth, and people and non-denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth.

Researchers tested all groups for strength, frailty, BMI and oral health and interviewed about their nutritional intake.

The group that had less than 20 teeth and did not use dentures, and those who used dentures, were found to have consumed the least amount of nutrients, compared to recommended daily amounts. They were also found to be more frail.

Denturewearers and those with fewer teeth were 32 per cent more likely to be frail and 20 per cent more likely to be nutritionally deficient.

The researchers say the study demonstrates how important oral health is in preventing tooth loss which can cause nutritional deficiencies in later life.

Nutrients are crucial to maintain muscle mass and stave off musculoskeletal frailty.

“Few studies have examined the relationship between oral health, the number of teeth and general frailty,” added Dr Sabbah.

“One of the important findings of the study is the significant relationship between the condition of teeth and deficiency in intake of essential nutrients, regardless of the use of dentures.

“To date, the majority of efforts to improve frailty have focused on nutrition strategies, including health education, while the influence of teeth on dietary restraint of the elderly has been neglected.

“The findings of this analysis, along with that reported in earlier research, suggest that the use of denture could be a neglected intervention that could potentially have a preventative impact on musculoskeletal frailty.

“The results also highlight the importance of developing oral health policies to ensure older adults maintain functional dentition throughout their life.”

The research was published in the journal Geriatrics & Gerontology International.

A dental visit can cost you, but a delay can hurt your teeth and budget even more

By Janice Neumann


When I was in my 30s and a dentist told me I needed a few crowns, I decided to skip the expensive devices because of my meager paycheck. Besides, my teeth weren’t hurting.

Years later, I am paying the price in pain and costlier dental work. One of the damaged teeth that needed a crown distorted my bite, making a minor jaw-joint problem even worse.

Unfortunately I’m far from alone. The price of dental care is steep for many people financially, physically and even socially, according to Marko Vujicic, chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute at the American Dental Association.

Vujicic said that the majority of emergency room dental visits were for infections that could be handled in a dentist’s office. Overall, emergency room dental visits cost $1.9 billion yearly, 40 percent of which is public money, according to his institute’s analysis of data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

“I’m comfortable calling that highly wasteful,” Vujicic said. “That’s a very inefficient way to spend dollars.”

When Angela Lombardi, who lives in Bensenville, Ill., put off getting fillings because of the cost, the pain kept mounting and her teeth kept deteriorating. Eventually she had to have five teeth pulled at a county clinic, where the fee was low.

But that wasn’t the end of her pain. At age 32, she had difficulty chewing food and was too embarrassed to smile because of the unsightly gaps between her remaining teeth.

“Gosh, I had so many teeth pulled because of not having enough money to go to the dentist to get them treated,” said Lombardi, now 39. “When I got them pulled, there’s this empty space and it’s ugly. . . . You can’t chew, you can’t smile.”

Lombardi finally found help at Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine in nearby Downers Grove, where she will get a bridge and crowns for about $3,000.

The dental school, where care is provided by students, charges a third to a half of the fees charged by private dentists. “We want our students to have as robust an education as we can provide, and lower fees help attract and facilitate acceptance of treatment plans,” said Melisa Burton, Midwestern’s assistant dean of clinical education.

More people are avoiding dental care because of the cost than other types of health care, according to a study in Health Affairs that was led by Vujicic.

The study showed that adults ages 19 to 64 said they were more likely to forgo dental care because of cost than children or seniors (12.8 percent of non-elderly adults compared with 7.2 percent of seniors and 4.3 percent of children).

Nearly a quarter of adults with incomes below the poverty line said they did not receive dental care because of cost. Even people with dental insurance were avoiding getting their teeth fixed because of cost, according to the study.

People also said they didn’t get the dental care they needed because of fear, inconvenient locations or appointment times, and trouble finding a dentist who takes their insurance. Cost, however, was the main reason.

Vujicic said public health programs don’t seem to take account of the connection between oral health and overall health. Medicaid includes dental coverage for children and some states expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but 22 states do not offer dental care for adults via Medicaid while others offer varying degrees of coverage. Marketplaces created under the ACA offer dental coverage in separate plans.

“You and I understand the mouth is connected to the body, that bacteria in the mouth affects bacteria in the body, but policy doesn’t,” Vujicic said. “There is emerging and new evidence showing the link between chronic disease and oral health.” Oral care can help reduce overall health-care costs, research has found.

Vujicic advocates more insurance coverage, both public and private, for oral health. He said that adding dental coverage under Medicaid for the 22 states without it would cost $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion annually, but some of that would be recouped from fewer emergency room visits for oral care.

Jason Grinter, a dentist in Rockford, Ill., sees many patients who have gone without consistent dental care. He said the state’s Medicaid program has been a big help to patients in Illinois, covering fillings, dentures, extractions and, in some cases, root canals and crowns.

Grinter said he sympathized with patients who couldn’t afford dental care or dental devices such as partial dentures, which aren’t included in Illinois Medicaid for adults. He also said private insurance often caps benefits at around $1,000 per year, a ceiling that has not kept pace with dental costs.

“We’re all struggling, and a lot of times it’s a difficult conversation between the patient and dentist because there is the [financial] barrier,” Grinter said. “Not that someone is trying to price-gouge, but the price in my lab is $500 to $600 for a removable denture. . . . If you want to add some time and materials, it’s going to get up there in price.”

Often families will make sure their children get to the dentist, Grinter said, but tight budgets mean the parents won’t do the same.

“They will bring their kids to the dentist three or four times to get all the treatment that is needed,” Grinter said, “but they’re not willing to do that for themselves.”

Forgoing dental care in adulthood can mean even worse health problems in old age, according to Amber Willink, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. And Medicare does not cover dental care (or vision and hearing care).

“There’s that cumulative effect of put it off, put it off, put it off. . . . It’s only going to be that much worse and that much harder to manage and treat,” Willink said. “We’re talking about people who are having trouble eating because of their dental issues.”

As for Lombardi, she is looking forward to the day when she can smile again. The university care helped, and then her boyfriend stepped in with a Christmas present.

“He told me, ‘Your gift is I’m going to help you get your teeth fixed,’ ” she said.

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