Chances are you know someone that only gets their teeth cleaned every few years. You may even be that person. But, frequent and regular cleanings are more important than most people think. Beyond helping to maintain a bright and clean smile, regular cleanings help your overall health in many ways. If you’re enrolled in the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP), TDP covers yearly diagnostic and preventive services, giving you even more reasons to visit the dentist.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of all adults in America live with untreated tooth decay.
“When tooth decay isn’t treated, it can lead to cavities and even tooth loss,” said U.S. Army Col. James Honey, chief of the TRICARE Dental Care Section at the Defense Health Agency.
During a 12-month period, the TDP covers two routine teeth cleanings. If noted on the claim form that you’re pregnant or have a registered, covered chronic medical condition, then a third routine teeth cleaning is covered during a 12-month period.
Normal dental cleaning visits generally follow a similar format. First, a dentist or hygienist reviews your medical history with you. If you’re due for X-rays, these images will help detect decay or changes in your mouth. Next, the dentist or hygienist will remove plaque, tartar and stains from your teeth. Polishing the teeth and applying fluoride are the final steps.
If you’re age 18 or younger, the dentist may consider placing sealants onto the back teeth to help prevent cavities on the chewing surfaces. The TDP covers sealants for permanent molars through age 18.
A healthy mouth may lower your risk for some serious medical issues, including stroke and heart disease. Early signs of certain medical conditions may be visible in the mouth, including oral cancers. For these reasons, the dentist inspects your mouth, lips, jaw and throat.
The dentist will also look for signs of gum disease, also called periodontal disease. Gum disease is an infection in the tissues that hold teeth in place. Nearly half of all adults age 30 or older show signs of gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Finally, the dentist checks for proper tooth alignment and biting, chewing and swallowing patterns.
Don’t let another year pass. Make an appointment for your next cleaning now. Do it for your teeth, your wallet and your health.
For more information about the TDP, download the TRICARE Dental Program Handbook. For information about all dental plans, visit Dental Plans on the TRICARE website.