Today’s Dentistry

Many years ago I sat in the waiting area of an automobile service business. It was 1999 and our relatively new 1997 Honda Civic was due for some service. I had just begun my second year of dental school. My wife, a registered nurse, worked nights at the university hospital and I worked evenings and weekends washing windows. As one might imagine, money was tight and spending it on servicing our car wasn’t our first choice. But, we needed that car to last. And it did! I drove it for the next 16 years.

Well, cars don’t have a lot to do with teeth, but the lesson I learned that day does.  

As I waited for our car, I noticed a note on the wall. I do not remember the exact words, but the sentiment was this:


The only thing worse than spending more for car repairs than you need to is not spending enough. If you do not spend enough to get the job done properly, you will inevitably spend more than enough when the poorly done job fails and you have to have the work done again.


I am a conservative dentist. Over the years I have come to appreciate the importance of repairing and restoring teeth properly, so that they stand the test of time (and of grinding, saliva, bacteria, acid, etc.). Sometimes I will recommend a crown, which may seem aggressive, when a patient simply wants a filling. Why? Because I have seen overly large fillings fail, teeth break, and dental care suddenly become much more expensive. The increased cost may be the loss of function because the individual cannot afford the needed care, the pain and lost time from work, or the actual cost of the dental care. I may recommend a tooth be removed when a patient wants to keep it. Why? Because even though there are no symptoms, I can see and feel the amount of lost bone around the tooth and I have seen that spread to other teeth and so, in the end, the patient ends up losing multiple teeth rather than just one. And so the story goes…

Many patients have treatment recommended to them that, for whatever reason, they have not had done. I review a recommended treatment report from time to time. Recently, as I was looking at this report, something caught my eye that previously had not – the amount of unused insurance benefits. An enrollee will pay a premium to an insurance company and then receive an annual amount that can be used toward dental treatment. Different insurances and plans will have varying rules and stipulations about how this benefit can and cannot be used. At the end of the year, any unused benefits are lost and remain with the insurance company, like a gift from the insured to his or her insurance company.

So I started adding up the amounts of unused insurance benefits: $367,063!!! That can buy a lot of dental work! And I am only one dental office out of tens of thousands across the country. Think of the millions of dollars in unused benefits that are simply turned over to insurance companies each year. It is staggering! I have patients with periodontal disease, with broken teeth, with teeth that need root canals, with teeth that need to be removed, with cavities that need to be filled, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if those insurance benefits were used and people could receive the care they need?

Using dental insurance benefits helps people to improve their oral health and feel better. They are able to get the proper care they need, avoiding the more expensive care that develops when problems are not properly addressed when identified. SO, contact your dental office and find out how much you have available with your particular insurance plan – you may not want to lose it to the insurance company at the end of the year.


Today’s Dentistry
1530 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR
(541) 482-7771

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Dr. James Burneson

Our practice is working together to realize a shared vision of uncompromising excellence in dentistry.

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