Welcome Back, Dental Benefits!

Another year is upon us! Did you know that goals related to a healthy lifestyle — such as eating better and exercising more — consistently rank among the top new year resolutions? Considering the connection between oral health and overall wellness, taking care of your smile fits right into the mix. And while some resolutions can be hard to stick with, prioritizing your dental care is very easy to do since dental insurance benefits typically reset at the beginning of the year.

Preventative Care

While plans vary, most dental insurance providers cover preventative care in full. As Cigna explains on their website, this most often includes two cleanings and checkups, along with routine X-rays. Keeping up with routine preventative care lowers your risk of gum disease and helps detect any problematic issues early. This can prevent more serious — and costly —  problems from developing down the road.

Annual Maximum

Delta Dental explains that an annual maximum is the most a dental insurance provider will pay toward your dental work in a given benefit year. This amount can vary depending on the type of plan you have. At the beginning of a new benefit year, your annual maximum resets, so the entire amount is available again. For most plans, this amount is always the same, regardless of how much of it you used in the previous benefit year. Any unused funds do not roll over, so it’s a good idea to take full advantage of them.

It’s important to note that even if the entire amount of your maximum allowance is available, there may still be a cost associated with your treatment. The amount you owe will depend on the type of insurance plan you have, the type of treatment you receive, and the maximum allowance amount. More information about how private dental insurance works can be found here. It’s always a good idea to get more information from your insurance provider so you are fully informed about what your plan covers and whether you are responsible for a patient portion and/or a deductible.

No dental insurance? You can still save!

For patients without insurance, savings are still possible with our Smiles360 Dental Savings Club. Those who purchase an annual membership fee receive preventative care at no additional cost, along with generous discounts on a variety of treatments.

Contact Us Today

Make oral health a priority in 2022! If you have any questions about treatment options available to you or would like to make an appointment, contact us any time.

Exploring the Association between Oral Health and IBD

December 1 marks the beginning of Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week. As the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation explains, approximately 3 million Americans live with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which fall under a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, the two conditions are not the same. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the  gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus, whereas ulcerative colitis typically affects only the colon or large intestine. Both conditions can impact oral health.

How IBD Impacts Oral Health

Having IBD can affect oral health in a number of ways. For example, IBD may manifest in the mouth as painful ulcers, decreased saliva production or gingivitis, among other problems. Indeed, one study published in PLOS One journal reported that IBD patients underwent significantly more dental procedures than control patients, most often related to dental caries and tooth loss. Another study estimated that as many as 50% of patients with IBD experience oral lesions such as canker sores. Evidence also suggests that oral health problems may stem from the medications used to treat IBD, as well as from the body’s decreased ability to absorb essential nutrients.

How Oral Health Impacts IBD

Although findings show that having IBD can have an important impact on oral health, the reverse is also true: how healthy your mouth is can also help or hurt IBD. In fact, recent research published in the journal Cell found that periodontitis, or gum disease, aggravates gut inflammation as bad bacteria in the oral cavity migrate to the gut. While that seems like bad news, it tells us that maintaining proper oral care can affect how often those with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis experience flares, and is yet another indicator of the substantial role of oral health in overall well being.

Proper Oral Care for Patients with IBD

For patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the following oral health tips can not only help improve your gut, they can benefit your overall health:

If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, we can help you find the treatment plan that works best for your condition. Schedule with us today!

Thank a Hygienist in October!

With October comes changing leaves, chilly breezes . . . and National Dental Hygiene Month! It’s the time to recognize your hygienist for the work they do to keep our mouths, teeth and gums clean and healthy. It’s also a great opportunity to spread the word about the importance of maintaining your oral health.

What’s so great about hygienists?

Your hygienist is so much more than the person who cleans your teeth. Hygienists are gum experts who can educate on and treat all forms of gum disease. They also screen for and/or monitor important aspects of your overall health, including blood pressure, sleep apnea and oral cancer. Many patients spend more time with their hygienist than anyone else in the practice! That means hygienists play a key role in your overall experience at the dental practice, and they place great efforts in building a positive relationship with their patients. 

How can I observe dental hygiene month?

The best way to recognize dental hygiene month is to make sure you are caring for your smile with regular preventative appointments. If you don’t have your next visit scheduled, now is a great time! Your hygienist can help remove tartar build-up and detect any potential problems before they worsen. For those with insurance benefits, scheduling before the end of the year also means taking advantage of the benefits already available in your plan. For those who don’t have insurance, no worries! Our Smiles360 Dental Savings Club offers two preventative care visits at no extra cost. 

Happy National Dental Hygiene Month!

This National Dental Hygiene Month, say thanks to your hygienist for the great work they do to keep your smile healthy! And don’t forget to floss!

Playing fall sports? You might want to wear a mouthguard.

With fall sports on our minds, it’s a good time to talk about the best ways to protect your mouth. If you or your kids are planning to play football, basketball, hockey, soccer, or any other sport this fall, one of the most important pieces of safety equipment to invest in is a mouthguard. Learn more about what mouthguards are and how they can keep your smile safe.

What is a mouthguard?

A mouthguard is a protective device worn inside your mouth to prevent or reduce injury to the teeth, lips and gums. They are typically made of soft plastic and adapted to fit comfortably to the shape of your upper teeth. Research shows the overall risk of orofacial injury is nearly double when mouthguards are not worn.

When should you wear a mouthguard?

On their MouthHealthy.org website, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that mouthguards be an essential part of sporting equipment. While many consider high-contact sports like football and basketball to put you most at risk, dental injuries can also occur in no-contact sports, including gymnastics.

What kinds of mouthguards are there?

The ADA describes three different kinds of mouthguards:

Stock or ready-made: These mouthguards can be found in many grocery and drug stores and are ready to wear out of the box. They are the least expensive option; however, they often do not fit very well, and can sometimes make breathing and speaking difficult.

Boil-and-bite: Also available in stores, boil-and-bite mouthguards usually fit better than the stock versions. Before using, you soften the guard material by boiling it, then “bite” into it, allowing the material to mold around your teeth and gums.

Custom-made: A custom-made mouthguard is made just for you by your dentist. For many people, this option offers the best and most comfortable fit. When your dentist makes your mouthguard, he or she can also tailor it to the needs of the individual athlete and their sport. 

Remember, any mouthguard protects better than no mouthguard! If you or your child plays fall sports, a mouthguard is an important piece of equipment that will prevent injury to teeth and gums. Choose one that is comfortable to wear, otherwise it may be left in the locker room. Talk to your dentist if you’re interested in having a customized mouthguard made just for you!

Oral Health for Older Adults

Keeping good oral hygiene habits is important at any age. As we get older, regular visits to the dentist remain necessary, particularly since changes to our health status can often affect our oral health. One study found that older adults with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are more at risk for tooth loss. The American Dental Association also notes that many prescription medications taken for these conditions can impact our teeth and gums. On the flip side, taking proper care of your mouth as you age can help prevent a number of problems — including cavities, gum disease and oral cancer — and keep your immune system from becoming overburdened.

Here are a few ways your dentist can help you maintain a healthy smile as you age.

Preventative Care

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68% of adults aged 65 and older have gum disease, and one in five have untreated tooth decay. One of the reasons may be the prevalence of dry mouth among older adults, often caused by medications for certain chronic diseases, which can increase the risk of cavities. Your dental team can help by providing regular cleanings and advising you on the best ways to treat dry mouth.

Oral Cancer Screenings

According to mouthhealthy.org, a website of the American Dental Association, the average age of oral cancer diagnosis is 62. During your regular dental visit, your clinician can check for abnormal cells or lesions in the oral cavity that might warrant further evaluation. Detecting oral cancer early through regular screenings can go a long way toward successful treatment.


Many older adults have lost some or all of their teeth, which can make it difficult to eat and speak. Dentures are removable, artificial teeth and gums used to replace missing teeth. Our denture specialists can help you get a beautiful, natural-looking set of dentures that fit comfortably. With proper care, dentures can last several years. 

Dental Implants

Unlike dentures, dental implants are a non-removable, long-term replacement for missing teeth. Dental implants are designed to make replacement teeth look, feel and function like natural teeth. The dental implant itself is a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as the support to prosthetic teeth, securing them firmly like a natural tooth. You can brush and floss them just as you would natural teeth. 

Dental Coverage for Older Adults

With about half of adults between the ages of 65 and 80 reporting that they do not have dental coverage, going to the dentist can be a challenge as you grow older. For those without insurance, our Smiles360 Dental Savings Club may be an option for you. With an annual fee starting at just $269, Smiles360 members receive preventative dental services at no additional cost, with generous discounts on a variety of treatments. 

We are committed to being your partner in oral health at any age. With flexible payment options, a variety of services and a friendly team, we look forward to keeping you smiling. Make an appointment today!

Why are oral cancer screenings so important?

Did you know that April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month? The Oral Cancer Foundation tells us that nearly 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, only about 57% will live longer than five years. Often, this type of cancer goes unnoticed by the patient until it has progressed to later stages. While smoking and alcohol consumption have long been known as risk factors, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer among young non-smokers has steadily increased due to HPV16 — the same virus that causes more than 90% of all cervical cancers. 

Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms

The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth and wart-like masses and mouth sores that do not heal.
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing.
  • Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from the oral cavity.
  • Distortion of any of the senses or numbness in the oral or facial areas.
  • Sore throat, hoarseness or ear pain.
  • Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, or shifting teeth.

Ask us about oral cancer screenings!

Thankfully, having regular oral cancer screenings is the best way to detect oral cancer in its early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. The Check Your Mouth website offers guidance on doing self-examinations in between dental visits, but having a qualified professional examine your mouth for signs of problems is vitally important. Be sure to ask us about oral cancer screenings at your next checkup! 

Howard Family Dental is a part of Mortenson Dental Partners.

Keeping Your Smile Healthy for Dental Hygiene Month

Every year in October we celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month! This is the time of the year when we recognize the work dental hygienists do, and help raise awareness on the importance of good oral health. As your partner in oral health, your dental hygienist helps to keep your teeth clean and educate on and […]

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