Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017

UFF Takes the Long View: Saving Money by Taking Care of Your Teeth

Without going into the boring details, I will just say that we have, and have had, some dental issues in our family (what family doesn't?!). And dental care, as you know, is very, very expensive.

We are so fortunate to have dental insurance coverage for the UFF members provided through my job. It caps at $1000 per person per year, which sounds like a reasonable amount of money. If a person has two teeth cleanings a year, a dental evaluation, and x-rays, this is sufficient. Add on any more than that, however (orthodontia, wisdom teeth removal, more frequent cleanings, dental procedures of any kind) and that number is exceeded faster than you can say fluoride.

Our next UFF defense against dental bills is a Flex Spending Account. This allows me to set aside money pre-tax (capped at $2,500 yearly) that can be used to reimburse for health expenses. Not only is the money not taxed, but it's less painful to have it already removed from take-home pay. For the past THREE years however, our family of four has exceeded the FSA by upwards of $1000. The culprit is always dental bills.

Which brings me to this: boring old daily maintenance routines are SO worth the time!

Brushing, flossing, and whatever else your dentist recommends are about the least exciting things you do in a day. If you're like me, and rush around in the morning, or want to stay up a little later doing something more fun (knitting!), it's tempting to skip a step or abbreviate the process. But I beg of you, don't: you will pay in the end.

I have a time-consuming dentist-recommended regimen that consists of using a rubber-tip gum massager, flossing, two minutes of brushing with an electric toothbrush, and fluoride applications. Just writing it out is tedious. It's taken me a long time to overcome my laziness and follow this practice nightly, but I'm there now.

As I look back at our dental spending, I see that we've paid over a thousand dollars out of pocket for dental procedures each year just for me, UFF Mom. Yikes. Of course, I'll do what needs to be done to take care of health issues, because it's a foundational priority. But my hope is that some of this can be postponed in the future (or made unnecessary) by upping my self-care.

So…I'm going to harness the power of habit and try to  do this whole cleaning routine in the morning too. Twice a day. Just have to get up a little earlier!

What boring maintenance routines have you used to save money in the long term?

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