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Slash Your Dental Bills: The Surprising Economics of Preventative Dentistry Revealed!

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Introduction to Preventative Dentistry

(00:00:00 – 00:01:03)

 

Host Eon Engelbrecht introduces the podcast, guest Dr Clifford Yudelman
and sets the stage for a deep dive into the economics of preventative
dentistry.

The Basics of Preventative Dentistry

(00:01:03 – 00:02:30)

 

Dr Yudelman explains preventative dentistry and highlights its importance
in maintaining dental health and avoiding costly treatments.

The Economics Behind Preventative Care

(00:02:30 – 00:04:21)

 

An exploration of how regular dental maintenance can prevent expensive
treatments in the future, analogous to regular servicing of a car or home
maintenance.

Common Misconceptions About Dental Care Costs

(00:04:21 – 00:05:56)

 

Addressing the myths surrounding the costs of preventative dental care
versus emergency or advanced treatments.

Real-life Economic Implications of Dental Neglect

(00:05:56 – 00:07:55)

 

Detailed discussion on how neglecting dental health can lead to
substantial financial and health costs.

Insurance and Preventative Dentistry

(00:10:31 – 00:12:29)

The role of dental insurance in making preventative care more accessible and the limitations thereof.

Case Studies and Real-Life Success Stories

(00:12:29 – 00:14:48)


Dr Yudelman shares compelling cases where early intervention through preventative dentistry saved patients significant amounts of money and pain.

Beyond Money: The Broader Health Implications of Dental Care

(00:14:48 – 00:17:07)

A discussion on how dental health impacts overall health, well-being, and
even societal productivity.

The Future of Preventative Dentistry

 

(00:17:07 – 00:19:14)

 

Insights into how advancements in dental technology and increased awareness can further improve preventative care’s cost-effectiveness and
efficiency.

The Importance of Early Education on Dental Hygiene

 

(00:19:14 – 00:22:11)

 

Highlighting initiatives and the critical role of educating children about dental hygiene to prevent future dental issues and costs.

Wrapping Up

 

(00:22:11 – 00:24:02)

 

Wrapping up the episode with a summary of key points, thanking the guest, and encouraging listeners to take proactive steps towards dental
health.

[00:00:00] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Welcome to Save your money, save your teeth. It is the go-to podcast where curiosity meets dentistry. Straight from the experts.
I’m Eon Engelbrecht, and every week I’ll be chatting with Dr Clifford Yudelman, taking a
deep dive into the world of dental care from a consumer’s perspective. So whether
you’re looking to brighten that smile or protect your wallet, we’ve got you covered with
practical advice and the latest insights. So stick around as we uncover the secrets to
maintaining both your dental health and also your finances. Today we talk about the
economics of preventative dentistry, exploring the cost benefits of regular dental
checkups and teeth cleaning to prevent those expensive treatments. Later we say a
very big hello and welcome to Dr Yudelman. How’s it going, doc?
[00:00:53] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Hi Eon,nice to speak to you again. I hope
you had a great week since we last spoke. And yeah, it’s going well, I’m great. Thanks
for having me on the show again.
[00:01:03] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Welcome back. Great to talk to you. So,
Doctor Yudelman, what is preventative dentistry, and how does it impact long-term
dental costs?

[00:01:13] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Thanks for that. So that’s the main subject
for today. And so just to define that preventive dentistry includes your regular dental
checkups, your cleanings, things like fluoride application, if you need fluoride or getting
specific dental advice on how to look after your teeth and prevent any problems that
may already be starting or to make make things like small cavities actually go away.
Which maybe we’ll be chatting about later. And then we do things like dental sealants
on kids that need them. Still, to prevent decay and disease, it reduces the need for
expensive treatments in the future by catching issues early or preventing them
altogether. And that leads to significant long-term cost savings, and regular
maintenance helps to avoid escalating minor issues into serious conditions like you said
a stitch in time saves nine. You know, why wait until your tooth has a big cavity? When
perhaps you can intervene and prevent the cavity in the first place.
[00:02:30] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Exactly. And not to mention the pain of
having that very deep cavity there and living with that and getting food stuck in it; that’s
the worst thing that can happen.
[00:02:42] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Yeah. If you’re getting food stuck between
your teeth, don’t leave it too long. It can cause all kinds of problems.
[00:02:52] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Oh, yeah. No, that’s not good at all. Can you
explain the economic principle behind the cost benefits of regular dental checkups?
[00:03:01] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: So, I mean, the principle of preventive
maintenance, where regular upkeep avoids major expenses, applies to dental care, just
as it does in other things, like getting your car serviced every, however often the
manufacturer recommends, rather than waiting until you blow a gasket. And the same
with like looking after if you if you’ve gone and invested most people, their biggest
investment is their house, and at some point they might sell it and downgrade to a
smaller property. And it’s so much better too, to prevent, you know, too if you’ve got a
small leak in your roof, you’re not going to wait until your whole house floods and then
you have to replace your carpets and so on. So, I mean, people do a lot of preventive
things similar to preventive dentistry. And investing in regular checkups is cost effective
compared to the much higher costs associated. When you treat dental diseases that

develop, you know, unchecked. And the economies of scale can apply when
widespread preventive care reduces the overall demand for dental emergencies and,
you know, can lower the costs for all this type of stuff.
[00:04:21] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: What would you say doctor, are the most
common misconceptions about the cost of preventative dental care?
[00:04:30] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Well, I think going on from what we just
said many people believe preventive care is expensive, but that’s when they they don’t
take into consideration the much higher cost of treating more advanced dental issues.
You know, if you if you’re getting regular cleanings and the hygienist is showing you
how to floss a particular area, that may be, uh, getting some, you may be starting some
gum problems if you, if you leave that. For several years. You might end up at a at a
periodontal specialist and have surgery, and you can spend 10 or 20,000 rand to do a
bone graft, when maybe you could have just been getting your teeth cleaned on a
regular basis and alot of people get coverage. If you got medical aid, a lot of the time
the preventive care is usually, well, well covered. Um, at OptiSmile, we don’t we’re not
signed up with any medical aid practices. I mean, medical aid schemes. But we know
when patients come in and, and have a checkup and x rays and a cleaning and so on,
they claim back and it’s usually pretty good coverage. And there’s also a misconception
that home care is enough to avoid dental issues. And people underestimate the role of
professional cleanings and checkups in preventing serious conditions.
[00:05:56] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: How significant would you say are the
savings when you compare regular dental maintenance to emergency or advanced
treatments?
[00:06:07] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Oh, I mean, when you start talking about
emergency, you’re talking about someone having a toothache or pain. If you have a
tooth sensitive to cold and it lingers for five or 10s seconds, it’s really a good time to get
it seen to. Or perhaps, you know, you were in 6 or 12 months ago, and the dentist said,
oh, we should keep an eye on this or the, you know, we need to watch that. At least
you’re on the lookout for any potential problems. And if you wait until you get something
cold on a tooth and it starts lingering for more than 20s, you know, that’s called
irreversible pulpitis, not to get too technical, but basically the tooth will then start

twinging all on its own. Or maybe you drink something very cold, and it throbs for 20, 30
or 40 seconds. It goes away, and then it comes back on its own. At that point, you need
a root canal or an extraction. There’s no way around it. Whereas if you got it treated
earlier, you would prevent that type of problem. Depending on where you go in South
Africa, a root canal can be anywhere from 8 or 9000 all the way up to 15,000 rand. And
perhaps you could have had a filling for, you know, 900 or 1000 rand up to 1500. So,
and then even worse, if your tooth is not salvageable, you get an extraction. Who wants
to get a tooth pulled in this day and age? And if you get a tooth pulled out, then maybe a
dentist will offer you a bridge. That’s like having three crowns done. That can be a lot of
money or an implant. Which is I mean, we do a lot of implants, and the patients pay a lot
of money. They literally pay through the teeth. I don’t mean to make light of it.
[00:07:55] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: ha ha ja!
[00:07:56] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: I wish those patients came to see us 5 or
10 years ago. Exactly. And where, you know, regular maintenance prevents periodontal
disease, which is costly to treat. But as we mentioned in previous podcasts, there’s
other health issues and you can incur additional medical expenses, and the cost of
dental neglect can extend beyond financial implications, including, you know, lost wages
from from work or quality of life, which might be harder to quantify but very significant.
[00:08:27] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: You know what I actually remember just
after school, I had a root canal and, uh, I it took me so long to pay it off. And it was one
of the weirdest and scariest, uh, procedures I’ve ever had done on my face, on my
mouth or in my mouth.
[00:08:46] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: You’re not meant to scare our listeners,
but I think most people listening maybe share share your experience. And, werwe’re
definitely going to be doing a whole podcast just about root canals and avoiding root
canals. And I mean, in this day and age, you know, we like at OptiSmile, if someone
does need a root canal, we have a we have a Bluetooth machine that connects to an
iPad. And and it’s all very carefully controlled. And, you know, doing, doing a root canal
in this day and age shouldn’t be the same type of experience as what you mentioned.

[00:09:24] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Yeah. We didn’t have any of that fancy
technology it was.
[00:09:27] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: But someone’s got to pay for that iPad
and that fancy handpiece and and each of those little root canal files can be a thousand
rand or more, you know, to use a set. Yeah. And yeah, there’s nothing. Nothing. Yeah.
There’s no bargains in neurosurgery and root canals.
[00:09:44] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Yeah, I know I’m sure a lot of us have stories
to tell about root canals. But it was my experience with the particular dentist I had was,
uh, it was almost like he was a plumber. That’s all I’m going to say. Okay.
[00:10:00] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: hahaha! So we should actually do a call in
a call in sometime. And, and people can share wisdom teeth stories, root canal stories
and weird, there’s a lot of weird dentists out there. I get I get patients telling me about
their their weirdo, you know, the last. Time they went stuff that that the dentist did, and I
just got to sit there and nod my head because I can’t believe that there’s dentists out
there doing that stuff. But if you’re one of those guys listening, you know, don’t do that.
[00:10:31] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Yeah, yeah. So that’s why you see, that’s
why prevention is so important. And I you know, to this day I still regret not giving that
tooth attention when it, you know, I mean, like your car, you see those little warning
lights coming on. What do you do? Well, if you’re a good person, you go and you take
your car and you go get it seen to you. Don’t wait for all the lights to come on before you
do something about it. Sometimes it’s too late and that’s when you go into the root canal
segment of it all. But anyway doctor, what role does insurance play in the economics of
preventative dentistry?
[00:11:08] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Yeah. So look, insurance and medical aid,
you know, I don’t think it’s a good term because they’re in the business of making
money. And so a lot of the time, they will cover like the bare minimum, and when it’s
time to get a root canal or an implant, they’re not going to pay very much. So if, if all you
can afford to do is to go to a dentist on your medical aid, I mean, we’re not on medical
aids. We charge out-of-plan rates. But if at the bare minimum, going on your medical aid
plan, generally you have very little out of pocket cost if you want to upgrade from that.

Um, I think next week’s podcast, we’re going to talk about, you know, finding a quality
dental provider. And some of that might come into it. But, you know, medical aid can
help make some things affordable. But I wouldn’t rely on medical aid. It’s amazing how
many people have got medical aid and just never use it, at least for the bare minimum,
like going and getting an x-ray and getting a checkup or a cleaning. Even if you don’t
want to get fillings or root canals, at least just go and find out what’s going on.
[00:12:29] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Could you share with us some case studies
or real-life examples of cases where preventative dentistry was actually proven to be
economically beneficial? Doctor.
[00:12:40] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Yeah. Look, I mean, we see patients
every day that come into us for a, for a checkup. And if they had come, you know, 6 or
12 months before, they could have saved themselves a lot of money. So, I mean, we
kind of have. Cover that a little bit to give a specific example. Um, I mean, same. The
other day I saw a lady who came in and her gums looked healthy and she she had been
going to the dentist regularly. She came from another country and she was very high.
High up. Um, I can’t give too much information, but she was an international. I wouldn’t
say dignitary, but let’s just say the poor lady had no idea what was going on in her
mouth. And she’d been going to a dentist regularly. And when she was talking to me, I
was looking at her. And I was hoping that when I took the x ray, I wasn’t going to see
what I actually saw. And and sadly, this lady had braces a few years ago in a, in a
country, another country, um, uh, let’s just say somewhere in South America and, uh, a
developed country and and maybe they didn’t check her gums. And that had contributed
to severe aggressive gum disease on her three front teeth. All she all she could see was
that her one tooth was moving a little bit. And when I took an x ray, I honestly, in 40
years of practice, I’ve never seen such severe destruction of somebody’s bone. And I
think it’s happened over. You know, she hadn’t gone in the last two years. She got her
braces off and she’d been traveling and and she came to see me with very few
complaints. And, and, you know, it’s very hard to tell people, you know, you really
should have kept up your six month cleanings. Or in her case, if there are underlying
gum problems, you know, to to at least get your teeth cleaned even more regularly
every three months.

[00:14:48] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: So beyond the financial aspects, what other
long-term health implications are we looking at as a result of dental neglect?
[00:15:01] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: In a previous podcast, I can’t remember. I
think it was the one before the last. Um, we spoke about. Neglecting your dental care
can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, uh, respiratory
infections in elderly people that like inhaled bad bacteria from their mouth. And there’s
there’s many links between oral health and overall health. So we’ve covered that. Um,
the other one is, you know, long-term dental pain and dysfunction can lead to difficulty
eating and in severe cases, malnutrition and diminished quality of life. But I’m not sure
that that would affect a lot of our listeners unless, um, they’ve got severe phobia. You
could get someone that’s a high LSM or with a good income. Sometimes, I’ve even
seen medical doctors who are very scared of the dentist. They’ve got the money to
come. They’ve got broken teeth. I had a medical doctor not long ago with his wife, who
insisted that he come in. He had 3 or 4 broken teeth. He couldn’t even eat. And he he. I
mean, it always blows my mind when you get doctors who don’t look after themselves
like that. And then one of our previous episodes, maybe we can put a link in the in the
show notes is the psychological impacts, you know, lower self esteem, social withdrawal
due to poor oral health and appearance, and breath issues. We spoke about breath in
the first podcast, uh, our Valentine’s Day, the one that we kicked off the series. So,
anyone listening to this, please go back and share our previous podcast. So go back
and look for look for these. It seems like we’re covering quite a lot of stuff. I’m very
happy with the way our podcasts are going. Eon. Thank you very much.
[00:16:54] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Absolutely no thank you to you doctor, I think
looking to the future, how do you see the economics of preventative dentistry evolving?
[00:17:07] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: So, advances in dental technology and
materials will definitely lower the cost of preventive care and make treatments more
effective and less invasive. So we’re looking into purchasing. There are three of these
machines available on the market. Um, and they seem to be getting better and better.
There’s machines that use warm water with powder in the water. And when you get a
cleaning, we just basically, like, hose down your tooth. And it you don’t need a lot of that
high pitched ultrasonic scaling and all of that polishing with a brush or a rubber cup. Um,
they are already practices in Cape Town that use it. The machine, all these new, these

new, um, technology and materials are very expensive. I mean, the one machine is from
Switzerland. It costs 200,000 rand, which means if you know, if you do even 4 or 500
cleanings, it’s going to cost someone 500, 500 rand a cleaning. So these things are very
expensive. But at OptiSmile we really emphasise using the latest equipment and so on.
And and as long as it’s proven and it’s been going for six months or a year, and there’s
a few of the different things on the market, you know, we we tend to get stuck in quite
early. You know, there’s an increased emphasis on holistic health, um, lead to better
integration of dental care into the general health care. And, um, growing awareness of
the importance of oral health could lead to changes. I mean, you know, someone like
Discovery or other medical aids really should pay better for gum treatment and, and
treatment by dentists for sleep apnea because, you know, they’ll pay for less heart
transplants if they if they help people look after their teeth. Yeah.
[00:19:14] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: And finally, doctor, would you say early
childhood education, uh, on dental hygiene would play a significant role in reducing
those future dental expenses.
[00:19:27] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Yeah, I 100%. I’m so pleased you
mentioned that. So at OptiSmile, myself and and my wife Robyn, who’s the CEO and
she runs OptiSmile. We’ve been involved not only with the Rotary Club but also with
something called the Dental Wellness Foundation in Cape Town. We help with a
program in Mfuleni and Khayelitsha with up to 20,000 kids a week. We’ve got these
toothbrush mamas in the townships that actually teach the kids how to brush their teeth.
They come after school, they get free toothpaste, and and they brush together. It’s a
social thing we that we educate these mamas. When I say we, I mean we help support
um the the organisation. I personally don’t go and teach the kids, but we’re very
involved with that and we have been for a number of years during Covid. The Dental
Wellness Foundation, also had soup kitchens and sandwich programs. And we got
involved in growing food at schools. My wife is still very involved with the Rotary Club.
It’s no longer part of part of Dental Wellness. It’s part of rotary is at Ellington School. We
teach kids how to grow vegetables. And it actually, uh, that all helps, you know, proper,
you know, diet and oral hygiene and hand washing. It’s also a hand washing program.
Um, you know, these things prevent, uh, these gastric, uh, diseases from passing from
one kid to another, things like cholera, which you’ll find in the townships when there’s an
outbreak, you know, education. Um, funnily enough, you think that higher LSM or

wealthier kids wouldn’t have cavities, but we see, because they can afford more candy
and more coke, and we we we see worse problems often in kids that come from wealthy
families. So, you know, school based dental health programs can reach children who
might not get health education at home. So, you know, reducing decay in the
community is very important. And integrating oral health education into general health
and wellness curricula, you know, reinforces the importance of dental care as part of
overall health maintenance. So I’m really happy to be able to talk about that so thanks
for asking
[00:22:11] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: And with that, we wrap up today’s episode of
Save Your Money, Save Your Teeth. Dr Clifford Yudelman, once again, thank you so
much for sharing your expertise with us. We really appreciate it.
[00:22:26] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: Thank you, and thanks for having me on.
And you know, sometimes talking about a stitch in time saves nine and just being
proactive. If someone’s listening to the program and they’re very scared of the dentist,
have low self-esteem, or haven’t had a cleaning in a number of years. They feel
embarrassed about their teeth, you know, they can book a no-charge or a free video
consultation with me or one of the dentists at OptiSmile, or there are a lot of other
dentists in South Africa and around the world that do the same kind of service, um,
where, you know, maybe you couldn’t ask a dentist, uh, about a particular problem and
not spend any money. Just do a free video consult at least, put your foot, you know, dip
your toe in the water, so to speak. Um, and that I think, you know, I’m not here to
encourage people specifically to come to OptiSmile. You know, if you if you live on the
other side of the country or you overseas looking, you know, listening to this podcast,
the, uh, don’t, don’t let problems get worse. I think that’s the overall message for today.
Preventive dental care works.
[00:23:44] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: Exactly. And we we have enough potholes in
the roads. We don’t need potholes in our mouth as well. I think that’s very important.
[00:23:57] Dr Clifford Yudelman OptiSmile: hahahaha…Don’t edit this out, please. No,
I love that.

[00:24:02] Eon Engelbrecht E-Radio-SA: And also as always. So thank you, doctor.
And also to our listeners for tuning in. Remember, while we strive to provide valuable
insights, always consult your dental professional for advice tailored to your health. And
also, don’t forget to subscribe for more enlightening discussions and then join us again
next week as we continue to explore the fascinating intersection of dental, health and
financial savvy. Until then, keep smiling and taking great care of your teeth.

 

Table of Contents

Dr. Clifford Yudelman

Founder & Principal Dentist

As a globally recognised restorative and cosmetic dentistry expert, Clifford brings over 40 years of experience across four continents. A 1983 Bachelor of Dental Science graduate from the University of Witwatersrand, his career has spanned private practices in London, San Diego, Perth, and Cape Town. Currently the founder and principal dentist at OptiSmile, he is celebrated for transforming dental visits into positive experiences and fostering patient confidence through superior dental health, with a commitment to the latest dental technology for improved patient outcomes.

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