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Why Spending On Your Health Is Frugal

Micah and I both grind our teeth. It’s not too surprising, he’s got the stress of writing a dissertation and teaching at the same time, I can get tightly-wound (especially if I’ve been working on websites right up until the minute I go to bed…which happens some nights). Neither of us thinks we do it every night, but we’ve both woken up mornings with the distinct impression that we were just clenching/grinding.

Last week, we saw the dentist who said we were definitely grinding and recommended mouth guards for both of us. I don’t like spending money and I worry about being upsold, but this time I was 100% on board with his recommendation.

Spending on your health is frugal. A little preventative care now can save you a bundle down the road.

I’m especially aware of the need for good dental hygiene because of the stark example my sister & I got from our father growing up. During his 20s, my father neglected his oral hygiene and dentist visits. Even though he tried to take care of them after that, he ended up having to get them all out and replaced with permanent dentures.

It was a painful surgery, involving posts being drilled into his jaw. Apparently regular dentures wouldn’t work right with his mouth, so he didn’t have other good options. Watching him go through that “scared us straight” on brushing and flossing. I’d much rather put in a little time and get regular dentist checkups than ever go through that. Plus, it wasn’t covered by insurance and I remember being astounded by how much it cost.

While grinding my teeth probably doesn’t put me at risk for anything that bad, it already means I sometimes wake up with pain in my temporomandibular joint (“TMJ” or jaw joint). In my senior year of high school, it was so bad that I actually had to give my jaw rest for a week. Grinding is likely to lead to teeth chipping and cracking down the road (and all the expense of getting them fixed or replaced). It can also wear down the protective enamel and leave the teeth super-sensitive to temperature.

All in all, bad. Even if I’m not doing it every night, it’s quite likely to cost me down the road.

With our insurance, the custom mouth guards will cost about $100 each. I’m going to take the money from the part of Micah’s salary that we put towards my grad school fund. That way it won’t hurt our debt repayment or take money out of our budget or regular savings. We could also do the “boil and bite” ones from CVS, but I believe these guards last longer and fit better. I’d rather get quality.

It’d be more frugal just to stop grinding our teeth, and it’s definitely made me think about ways I can avoid stress, especially before bed. But unfortunately there’s no way to just turn off the grinding and I don’t want to put pressure on myself to find one before any damage gets done (which would ironically probably lead to more grinding…).

The dentist noted while we were there that he sees more and more people in their twenties who grind their teeth. I’m not surprised—economy, general pressure to succeed, war, uncertain future… I guess it’s a good time to be in mouth guards.


caro April 26, 2010 at 9:25 am

My dentist is a specialist in TMJ pain and tells me that the biggest reason for grinding is not having the proper bite. When your bite is not correct, you tend to slide your teeth around to find the proper bite, especially in your sleep. Stress increases the frequency, but not the root cause. Even with a regular $400 bite guard, you may end up with TMJ pain because while the guard protects your teeth, it does not necessarily fix your bite…so your teeth are still sliding around and grinding.

He says that I can mostly eliminate my grinding by fixing my bite with braces. However, I’m not ready to spend the money on braces (again) or go through that pain, so I use a special bite guard created to fix my bite. I LOVE it because no more tension headaches or jaw pain. But it is more expensive and requires special equipment to customize it (including this cool electrode type contraption that he uses to measure my bite during the fitting). I don’t even know how many dentists do this sort of thing.

However, if your bite guards are not making a dent in your TMJ pain, I would be happy to see if he can look up a dentist in your area that uses the same sort of technology as mine.

Mrs. Micah April 26, 2010 at 9:27 am

Thanks, Caro. I’ve had braces too and I think my bite is pretty good…but if I keep having this pain and the guard doesn’t help I’ll get in touch!

Vicki April 26, 2010 at 11:11 am

Doing deep breathing at night increases your O2 and lowers the stress hormone levels. This might also help a bit.
.-= Vicki´s last blog ..“The Devil Has More Faith in the Power of Prayer Than Most Christians Do” -Sabrina Justison =-.

kt April 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

i have a friend of mine that gnashes his teeth so loudly that it can wake you up from dead sleep. I am currently adopting a ”grind-teeth-free lifestyle” buy relying on God for everything and putting all my MANY burdens on Him. i dont want to be toothless and full of ulcers at 28. i almost lost something very important to me by letting the pressures of life get to me and i dont want to go down that road again.
.-= kt´s last blog ..Why I don’t envy super investors and neither should you =-.

WR April 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I think there are many great examples of spending money on your health that are actually extremely frugal investments:

1. Wife & I are training for a 1/2 marathon, we go to a specialy shoe store and get professionally fitted in shoes. The shoes are $125.00 a pop. Now, I am not the type of person who spends a lot on shoes or clothes. I consider this a health investment.

2. Teeth Grinding can be a stress reaction. Going to see a therapist or counselor might be a valid ‘health’ expense. Maybe you have skeletons that need to be cleaned out of the old closet 🙂

3. A gym membership, mountain bike, kayak and even a fishing pole & license can have enormous long term health benefits.

good article!

.-= WR´s last blog ..Go Big or Go Home! =-.

Mrs. Money April 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I grind too- terribly! I got a mouth guard and um, it’s cracked. :/ I guess I ground too hard? It still works, though!

I feel better knowing you do the same thing, oddly enough. 🙂

It is definitely worth the money!
.-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Creating Multiple Income Streams =-.

Dad April 26, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Good thoughts. A couple of extra points. Wearing down the enamel doesn’t only lead to temperature sensitivity. The enamel is said to be the strongest resistance to decay and when worn away the dentin underneath is more prone to decay. I don’t know that for sure but you can ask. The second point is that I’ve heard that if it is causing TMJ pain, that can become a serious condition in itself and if you can relieve it it may save you issues on that front. Last, you might be able to reduce your grinding by letting yourself relax before going to bed, but I wouldn’t rely on that until you prove it. Some people grind their teeth no matter what. So appropriate treatment such as the guards is worth it to protect your mouth. If you can relax better and not need it later, so much the better.

Speaking of which, since you are under a lot of tension, it is worth trying to find ways to deal with it. Tension can have all kinds of issues related to it. I’ve heard some people say that meditation on the Psalms helps. I haven’t pursued that enough to know. But it might be worth a try.

Carrie April 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Hey Mrs. Micah! My BF and his Dad both have TMJ. My BF just broke out his older retainer from high school and that has helped. His Dad ended up buying a mouthguard used for sports that he says also helps. I’m not sure about the sports one, but you never know! But like you said, it’s worth it to get the custom mouthguards if that’s what helps!

ChrisFM April 29, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Hey Micah!

I recently did a post that was sort of related to this, in that it’s easier to do keep up with dental care early on than to pay out the wazoo later. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

ChrisFM April 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Err, make that Mrs. Micah.


Mrs. Micah April 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Haha, no worries, Chris. 🙂

coconuts81 May 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm

This is yet another reason why I love your blog. Too many other personal finance blogs out there are full of authors espousing holier-than-thou attitudes of how they saved X amount on this or that. You offer some the most well-written, sound, practical financial advice I’ve ever read without sounding condescending, along with real-life events (such as the above) that everyone can relate to. Keep up the great work!:-)

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