Desperate Times and Backyard Dentists

A recent study by the University of Washington Dental School’s Dental Fears Research Clinic found that an estimated fifty percent of Americans avoid going to the dentist out of a fear or their anxiety. That adds up to roughly about 150 million people. It is a shocking figure, but not as shocking as the 73% of Americans who do not go to the dentist because they think they cannot afford it.

Americans between the ages of 18-34 are the most likely not to receive dental care for this reason. When dealing with a toothache they turn to pain medication, instead of making a much needed dental appointment. Low-income families earning under $50,000 per year are also less likely to see a dentist when experiencing pain. But it is hard to blame these families and individuals who face an economic recession and depleted job market. Certain sacrifices must be made in order to stay afloat, but sometimes these good intentions can lead down a bad road.


Reports are surfacing nationwide about the use of “backyard” or “garage” dentists. The concept is similar to mechanics that work out of their homes, but instead of working on your car, they work on your teeth. Families are blinded by the low-cost dental work provided by these amateurs and choose to ignore the obvious dangers. These “dentists” lack appropriate tools, years of medical school, and often operate in unsanitary conditions. Complications brought on by their work seriously endanger the health and lives of those desperate enough for their services. Like the 14-year-old girl from Miami left permanently disfigured by one of these “dentists” when her only problem was a broken tooth.

Millions of people also turn to emergency rooms for dental care. They see it as a safe, cost-efficient alternative, but don’t realize they are actually creating a bigger problem. Millions and millions of dollars are spent each year providing ER dental care. The money comes from taxpayers, many of which are the ones seeking this type of care. They think that a trip to the hospital is less expensive than getting regular dental checkups. What they don’t realize is that an ER visit ends up costing ten times more than the dental care that could have prevented their problems. It is estimated that about 17 million low-income children go without this preventive care each year.

The biggest issue seems to be the fact that millions of Americans are not informed about the dangers of not seeking proper dental care. They are afraid that the cost of a dentist will offset their budget and dig them deep into debt. These fearful families and individuals are some of the over 108 million Americans without dental insurance. They immediately believe that there is no way that they could afford a dentist without insurance, but do not realize there are ways to make it affordable.

Dental work, excluding most cosmetic dentistry, can be written off as a tax deduction, if the cost is more than 7.5% of the adjusted gross income. Prescription medication obtained through a dentist, false teeth, and even crowns can be included in this deduction, along with the expense for gas used to get to the dentist. These deductions can make a huge difference for many low-income individuals and their dependants or spouses. A lot of people don’t realize this tax-break is an option and stick with the notion that they cannot afford the dentist.

So what can dentists do to help fight the fear of affordability? There are many non-profit organizations, such as the Illinois-based Smile Healthy, working to provide the most affordable dental work and education on preventive care. Oral Health America sponsors a program called “Smiles Across America” providing free preventive care to hundreds of thousands of children every year. Getting involved in one of these programs or a similar one in your community can help you promote your practice and establish connections, while providing a good service for those in need. Identity Dental Marketing can help develop a smart strategy to market your practice at one of these events or even to promote one of your own.

Communicating the importance of preventive care to current and potential patients is up to the dentist. It’s time people realized that affording dental care doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. Identity Dental Marketing can help you show them that preventive care is more affordable than waiting until it hurts.

Post by: Identity Dental Marketing

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