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Understanding Dental Insurance Terminology

January 20th, 2021

If you have a hard time understanding your dental insurance plan, particularly the treatments and services it covers, you’re not alone. That’s why Dr. Timm and our team have put together a cheat sheet to help you through them.

It’s common for patients to get lost in the morass of the terms and phrases that surface when you’re dealing with a dental insurance plan. Knowing the commonly used terms can help speed up the process and enable you to get the most out of your coverage.

Common Terms

Annual Maximum: The most your policy will pay per year for care at Blue Spruce Dental. It is often divided into cost per individual or per family.

Co-payment: Typically, a small amount the patient has to pay at the time of service before receiving care, and before the insurance pays for any portion of it.

Covered Services: A list of all the treatments, services, and procedures the insurance policy will cover fully under your contract.

Deductible: An amount you must pay out of pocket each year before the insurance company will contribute for any treatments or procedures. The amount can vary according to your plan.

Diagnostic Services: A category of treatments or procedures that most insurance plans will cover before the deductible, which may mean services that occur during preventive appointments with Dr. Timm, including X-rays or general screenings.

Exclusions: Dental services not covered under a dental benefit program.

In-Network: An insurance company will usually cover a larger portion of the cost of the care if you see an in-network provider for treatment.

Out-of-Network: If you visit someone who is not a part of your provider’s network, the insurance company may pay for a portion of the care, but you will be responsible for a significantly larger share out of your pocket.

Lifetime Maximum: The most that an insurance plan will pay toward care for an individual or family over the entire life of the patient(s).

Limitations: A list of all the procedures the insurance policy does not cover. Coverage may limit the timing or frequency of a specific treatment or procedure, or exclude some treatments altogether.

Member/Insured/Covered Person/Beneficiary/Enrollee:  A person who is eligible to receive benefits under an insurance plan.

Premium: The regular fee charged by third-party insurers and used to fund the dental plan.

Provider: Dr. Timm or other oral-health specialist who provides treatment.

Waiting Period: A specified amount of time that the patient must be enrolled with an insurance plan before it will pay for certain treatments.

It’s essential to understand the various insurance options available to you. Knowing what your insurance covers can save you major costs in the future.

Dr. Timm and our dental staff hope this list of terms will help you understand your dental insurance plan better. Be sure to review your plan and ask any questions you may have about your policy the next time you visit our Michigan Center, MI office.

How do OTC whitening treatments compare to in-office whitening?

January 13th, 2021

If you are unhappy with the color of your teeth, teeth whitening may be an excellent choice for you. Many patients of Dr. Timm suffer from darkened teeth due to the natural aging process, regular consumption of coffee or tea, or nicotine staining from cigarettes.

Some people may have darkened teeth due to long-term use of medication. Certain medication-related stains on the teeth cannot be lightened, but virtually every other type of teeth stains can be effectively lightened using either professional dental whitening or at-home whitening.

While both types of whitening have benefits, at-home kits are less expensive and less effective overall. Professional teeth whitening is a highly effective option, but it requires a bit more of an investment. Here is the basic info on each type of whitening.

At-Home Whitening

At-home whitening is done in a number of different ways today. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Whitening strips that are applied to teeth and then removed after a specified period. These will typically be used once a day for at least a week.
  • Whitening gels or pastes that are placed in a one-size-fits-all plastic tray. These trays are worn, retainer style, for a set period of time once a day.
  • Whitening toothpaste, which is used daily, and whitening mouthwashes are also available today. These products require constant use to realize results.

In-Office Whitening

In-office whitening is the fastest way to achieve whiter teeth. If you want an almost immediate difference in the color of your teeth and their overall appearance, this is probably the option for you.

Dr. Timm will typically apply the whitening formula directly to your teeth. Following the application, we will have you relax in our office between half an hour and an hour.

Some office-whitening formulas are strengthened with the use of heat, specialized lighting, or laser application. Patients will usually notice whitening results after only one application, but it usually takes at least a few appointments at Blue Spruce Dental to notice a truly dramatic change in tooth color.

Going Green for the New Year

January 6th, 2021

Does your list of New Year’s resolutions for the coming months include reducing your ecological footprint? If so, let’s ring in the year with some basic—and some innovative—dental ideas to help you meet your goal.

  • Conserve Water

This is probably the easiest –and most cost effective!—item on our list. If you leave the water running while you brush, you are watching gallons of water go down the drain every day. Luckily, toothbrushes rely on wrist power rather than water power. Wet your brush before you begin, and use water only as needed to rinse. You’ll save hundreds of gallons of water every year.

And while we’re near your sink, if you like to rinse after brushing and flossing with disposable plastic cups, consider using compostable paper products or a regular drinking glass that you can clean after using.

  • Biodegradable/sustainable /recyclable toothbrushes

Some brushes promise to be completely compostable, with handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo, and heads fitted with biodegradable boar bristles. Investigate before you buy, because boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain about the taste, and boar bristles are harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect your enamel and gums. Organic bristles are also more prone to bacteria growth.

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, or wish to avid animal products, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. These brushes also offer PBA-free bristles, bristles made largely from castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

And don’t forget recycling as a possibility to cut down on your plastic use. Toothbrushes are available with handles made from recycled plastic. And once you’re finished with them, these brushes can be recycled again.

  • Biodegradable dental floss

This is another innovative take on dental supplies, and one that offers lots of new options. Regular dental floss is usually made from waxed nylon. Biodegradable floss, on the other hand, can be made of silk or plant materials, and coated with beeswax or plant-based wax. Some of these biodegradable flosses even come in refillable or compostable packaging.

  • Organic toothpaste

If you’re incorporating organic foods into your diet, you know that organic options are more easily available than ever before. And now there are more organic toothpastes available, as well. Natural toothpastes can be found which are vegan, fair-trade sourced, and preservative- and artificial ingredient-free.

Before you buy, though, do discuss your choices with Dr. Timm. Why? Because many natural toothpastes are formulated without fluoride, a mineral shown to prevent cavities in study after study. Which leads us to . . .

  • See Your Dentist Regularly for Checkups and Cleanings

Along with your daily dental hygiene routine, don’t forget to make regular appointments for examinations and professional cleanings at our Michigan Center, MI office. Dr. Timm can help you discover the best ideas for products and practices which are good for you and good for the planet, for a lifetime of natural, sustainable smiles.

Healthy Resolutions for Healthy Teeth

December 30th, 2020

Every January 1st, you have your resolutions ready. No more nail biting. Lose ten pounds. Stop smoking. None of us are happy about those annoying bad habits we’ve picked up over the years. But if nothing else has helped you keep your resolutions, maybe seeing how they can improve your oral health will give you some extra willpower.

  • No More Nail Biting

You can easily see how nail biting affects your fingernails, but its effects are more than cosmetic. The pressure this habit puts on tooth enamel can lead to cracks, chips, and enamel erosion. Nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism, or teeth grinding. (More on that below.) And the transfer of germs from fingers to mouth and mouth to fingers is a vicious circle that can lead to illnesses and infections in both fingers and mouth.

  • Cut Down on Junk Food

Sugars and carbs help pack on the pounds, no doubt. Did you know that they can also help create cavities? Sugar is a favorite food for oral bacteria, which allows them to produce acids which attack and weaken tooth enamel. And carbs? They convert easily to simple sugars. Choose nutritious snacks and beverages, and you will keep those teeth healthy. You might even lose a few pounds!

  • Lower the Volume

If your partner complains about sleepless nights thanks to your nocturnal teeth grinding, or your friends ask you to quit chewing on that cup of ice while they’re trying to watch a movie with you, listen to them! (If you can hear them over the grinding and chewing.) Bruxism can fracture teeth, cause headaches and jaw problems, and might even lead to loose teeth. Chewing hard foods can have the very same effects. Too much pressure from any source can damage your teeth. Grinding, chewing ice, crunching down on hard candies—any habit that’s loud enough to annoy others could be a warning to be more careful of your teeth.

  • Don’t Put That in Your Mouth!

Helping you eat and chew nutritious foods—of course. Smiling—absolutely. Ripping off a piece of duct tape, tearing open a potato chip bag, holding your dog’s leash while you look for your keys, opening a tight bottle cap—no, no, no, and really no. Fractures and chips are common injuries when you use your teeth as tools. Your teeth have a crucial job to do, but that job description never includes “scissors” or “nutcracker” or “bottle opener.” Take that extra minute and find the tool you need!

  • Drink in Moderation

Along with all the other consequences of over-indulging, too much alcohol in your diet can be bad for your oral health. Alcohol, especially paired with sugary drinks, helps create that acidic environment that leads to weakened enamel. More than that, it’s dehydrating. Without sufficient hydration, we don’t have the optimal saliva production we need to fight cavities. After all, saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes acids, and strengthens enamel through remineralization. Ring in the New Year—moderately!

  • It’s Time to Quit

Cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco—there is no tobacco product that is healthy for your body or your teeth! We’re all familiar with the discoloration tobacco can cause, but it also has serious oral health consequences. Oral cancer, gum disease, early tooth loss—all these conditions have been linked to tobacco use. Today there are more methods than ever before to help you quit. Make this your year!

You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start working on healthier habits. If you’d like to tackle teeth grinding, banish nail biting, stop smoking, or work on any other habits that can damage your health and your teeth, talk to Dr. Timm at your next visit to our Michigan Center, MI office. And, don’t forget—resolving to see us twice a year for a checkup and a cleaning is a resolution that’s extremely easy to keep!