Monday, November 14, 2011

Dental Problems --Column from Sunday's Paper

As I often do with my columns, I take subjects about which I've written and embellish them into a column.

There should be some kind of natural law that says, "No dental work after the age of 60." I mean having root canals, teeth pulled, or any procedure that causes your mouth to smoke like a brush fire should be banned.

But sadly, that is not the case. I woke up one night this past week with a bit of a toothache. That's odd I thought to myself. I had a checkup recently and they found no problems. But the fact remained, my jaw was hurting a little.

I got up and drank some buttermilk and cornbread and tossed down a couple Advil and the next morning it seemed like an unpleasant dream. Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - Toothache turns into a major problem

Then a few nights later, the same thing happened again, so I made a appointment to see my dentist.

She tapped on my teeth like she was playing a xylophone but none of them hurt. She then took some X-rays. After close inspection, she took a tiny needle-like implement shaped like a scythe, and gouged under one of my bridges.

Hmmm she mused, "How long has this bridge been in?" I told her I got it when Carter was in the White House. She failed to see the humor in my quip.

I doubt she was born when Carter was president, I though to myself. She looked really young, but then most people look younger to me these days. But I digress.

After studying the X-ray she saw two potential problems. She recommended I go to an endodontist. I saw the endodontist on Monday and he looked younger than my regular dentist, so I didn't bother hitting him with the "Carter was in the White House" gag.
After more X-rays, he said my back tooth which had a crown, needed a root canal.

He came out with a needle as big as a bicycle hand pump and shot me full of Novocain. After a few minutes, he asked if my jaw felt numb. I sounded like I'd drank too much tequila when I drooled, "It wheels murty nung."

Then he put what sounded like a wood chipper or perhaps a stump grinder in my mouth to get through the crown and down to the roots. When he finished up, I stopped to settle the bill at the front desk.

My portion after the insurance, was enough to buy a nice flatscreen TV. Then today it was back to my regular dentist to finish the job.

It seems the old bridge had to come off, one of the jaw teeth was badly decayed and had to come out, then she would fit me with a new bridge in a month or so when everything healed up.

She had one of the women who worked in bookkeeping to come in and break the bad news about what this work would cost, above what the insurance would pay. She spoke like a grief counselor as she explained all the charges.

"So, do you want to have the work done," she asked. What I wanted to say is, "No, I think I'll live the rest of my natural life in excruciating pain." But instead I whipped out my debit card and she scurried off as if she'd won the lottery.

I could almost hear her say "Woo hoo, now we can ALL go to the beach this weekend." Obviously I'm having fun with my tooth-worker friends.

They were all very professional and they can't help the fact that insurance pays so little. But I got to thinking. What do people do that don't have insurance, or the money to pay what the insurance company doesn't pay?

I'd be willing to bet there are a lot of people these days that go without treatment because they can't pay.

 I am grateful that we've been in a position to pay for problems when they arise — but WE won't be going to the beach this weekend. 


  1. Just curious? Did the endodontist tell you before or after the work how much money you owed? I had a root canal a couple months ago and had no idea I'd owe an additional $350 until I was standing at the counter holding an ice pack on my face. All I could do was whip out a credit card at that point. And I said the same thing, how many people suffer in pain because they can't whip out a credit card?

  2. Very nasty all ways, pain in jaw, pain in pocket. Sometimes it is just scary. Hope your teeth have settled down. Wonder how the high school did?
    - Joy

  3. I laughed a lot at this until you came to the money part. We have good insurance from my hubby's work, but before that job we didn't go. Lucky there were no emergencies. I have a relative who pulled out her own tooth because she didn't have any money.

  4. Rick - I hate to break it to you - but I used to manage a dental office back when Carter was president; and the doctor DID go to the beach off the misery of those poor patients each week.

    As the office manager, all I ever got was ink smudges from making out all his deposit slips!

    The lesson in all this is found in one word - FLOSS !!!

  5. Sad story regarding the lack of coverage for health care. A co-worker of my husband had his brother-in-law die because he needed to go to the dentist but couldn't afford to. He didn't share his problems with family and ended up dying from sepsis. We need to get this health care stuff fixed.
    Glad you got your treatment and are on the road to good health.


  6. I'm off to the dentist next week. I have a crack in a crown. I'm lucky enough to have a National Health dentist which means I can go without worrying.

  7. I live in an area where a NHS (National Health Service) dentist are like gold dust. Most - all? - dentists where I live have opted out of the NHS and gone private.

    I pray that the above never happens to medical care in general here in the UK although providing free health care for all seems to really annoy a few eager to destroy this most amazing of social and most humane of systems.

    Ok, I shall stop ranting. Your dental work sounds sooooooooo painful - needles in teeth and gums were never meant to be! Yikes! Take care

  8. It's a sad fact of life in this country that many, many people go without the care they need. If we're such a wealthy, advanced nation, then why don't we provide for our citizens?


  9. Anonymous6:16 AM

    Sorry you've had such misery to undergo...hopefully everything is fixed now and you will have no more problems.
    The cost of dental work is atrocious. The hubby is going in a couple of weeks for some bridge work and has been advised of his share of the payment. Almost as painful as the tooth.

  10. Yikes. I didn't realize it, but I'd left off the first two paragraphs of my column at the front.
    NOTE TO SELF: do a recheck of the post after I post.

  11. Always one problem or another. Seems like they are mounting lately....or maybe it's because Winter is around the corner too?!
    Sorry about your luck!!

  12. Amen I couldn't have said it better! sandie

  13. I've always been SO grateful that we've been able to safeguard our health (and teeth) with insurance and paychecks. I full well know how fortunate I've been and that everyone isn't as lucky. Teeth and good health are nice to have at the end of the day.

  14. Hi Rick...Funny column and oh so true. I hate going to the dentist because of the financial hardship it usually entails. But I also feel it's imperative to keep natural teeth. I'd sure hate to get dentures. Take care. Oh, by the way, I am your newest Follower. Susan

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