KANSAS CITY, MO (WECT) - Each bit of bad economic news may have you gritting your teeth instead of having them cleaned or filled.
At the Lakewood Dental Center in Lee's Summit, Missouri, more parking spots and chairs have been empty in recent weeks.
Some days, half of the patients cancel, leaving cavities in the schedule.
"They don't feel like they can afford the care at this time, or they want to put off care," said Dr. Matt Neiwald. "We've heard of several dentists having to lay off employees or cut their hours back."
The economy is biting and dental care is low on the list of essentials for many people.
Even people with dental insurance want to avoid co-pays or paying for treatment that's not covered at all.
Patrick Aseme said he's put off cleanings because his insurance won't cover them as often as he needs them.
"He says I should be coming more often, and I may have to do that, and have to pay the rest out of my pocket," said Aseme.
A new study out of Washington state finds up to a 5% drop in visits to the dentist for check-ups among insured patients. Researchers say with the uninsured drop would be even higher.
Dr. Neiwald says there is no wisdom in not getting check-ups and cleanings.
"If there is a need that could have been addressed with a simple restoration or filling -- it can turn into several thousand dollar procedure which could have been prevented by just visiting your dentist," said Neiwald.
He also says you may be able to prevent serious medical problems with your regular check-ups.
Bad gums can increase the chances of heart disease and stroke, and in women, premature births.