The American Dental Association reports that more than 21 percent of U.S. adults haven't been to the dentist in more than three years. Just over half go once every six months.
Ideally, dentists want to see patients twice a year, but gum disease increases that. If your dad hasn't been to the dentist in a while or has gum disease, he may need to go up to four times a year.
If he's reluctant, it may take some coaxing, but it's important. The cost of a visit, fear of the dental procedures, or difficulty finding a convenient location that's accepting new patients are often the three largest hurdles. Work with him to find a solution.
Dealing With the Cost
Dental visits do cost a lot of money. If he has dental insurance, it will help. If he doesn't, talk to the dentist to see if payment plans are accepted. If it comes down to his health, paying in installments is better than risking his health.
When he does go to the dentist, be firm on what the dentist can and cannot do. He may have a dentist that pushes fluoride treatments and claims they're covered by his dental policy. Ask for proof before the treatment is done. Dentists often use a general guide and don't check your specific policy. If you check and have it in writing, he can't be held responsible for that treatment.
Fear of Dental Treatments
Sometimes, the pain and discomfort that come with dental procedures is the leading reason people stay away. Look for a dentist that deals with fear and dental anxiety. If you find the right doctor for your dad's needs, he'll have a dentist that works slowly to ease that fear and make sure he's comfortable.
For treatments that are necessary and will cause discomfort, there are ways to make it easier for your dad. Mild sedatives may be an option. A room with aromatherapy, music, headphones, or videos he can watch may make him less nervous.
Difficulty Finding a Location Taking New Patients
One of the more challenging issues is that many dental practices are full and not taking new patients. If that's the case, try the ADA's Find-a-Dentist website.
To use the site, you enter your dad's ZIP code and dental needs, such as general practice or oral surgeon. Choose how many miles he's willing to travel. Once that information is submitted, a list of dentists who are accepting new patients appears.
You may need to expand the search. If your dad cannot travel that far on his own, call an elderly care agency to arrange transportation services to his dental and medical appointments. Elderly care aides can also help him with dental care at home.