I’m curious if affordable dentists take longer to get results than other dentists. I’ve always had bad teeth. I kept thinking I’d be able to afford more dental care as I got older. But, I’m 40 now and still have horrible teeth. Realizing it’s now or never, I searched for an affordable dentist so I could get started. I’ve been going monthly for almost two years and still see no difference in my teeth. My teeth are stained and crooked. Every time I bring up braces he just says, “Let’s get those teeth and gums healthy first.” I’m discouraged. After two years, I figured I’d see a difference. Am I being ripped off? Would it go faster with a more costly dentist?

Nell M.

Dear Nell,

Affordable Dentist

There are a few things going on here. But, first, I will say that an affordable dentist should work equally as effectively as the highest priced dentists. The two things you’re concerned about, the color and crookedness of your teeth are cosmetic issues. Generally, you get the teeth healthy, then start on the cosmetics. However, you should already be noticing a brighter smile. Your teeth are being regularly cleaned, so they should be at least a tad whiter.

If you do the cosmetics too soon it can be detrimental to your goals. For instance, if you have gum disease (and it sounds like you do), getting braces to straighten your teeth before your gums are healthy will cause your teeth to come loose and fall out. Then instead of straightening your teeth, you’re stuck replacing them.

Because you’re going to the dentist monthly instead of twice a year leads me to believe you have advanced gum disease. That’s your first priority. When that’s in check, there’s much more you can do cosmetically with your teeth.

One proactive step you can do on the cosmetic end, even while you have gum disease, is teeth whitening. I will warn you, the exposed areas where your gums have receded will be sensitive to the whitening gel. Though, with professional teeth whitening, it’s common for the dentist to custom design the trays to your bite. He can try to avoid those areas, while simultaneously making sure the coverage is such that you’ll have an even tooth color.

All of that being said, two years seem excessive with monthly visits. You should be able to spread them out more by now if he’s doing everything he can to help with your gum disease and you’re keeping up with your oral hygiene. You may consider getting a second opinion. Some dentists even give free second opinions so it may not even cost you anything.

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