Teeth: A Cautionary Tale

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Sit down, children, while I tell you Why You Should Never Ignore A Fallen Out Filling.

I was sitting in church with my entire extended family on Memorial Day weekend 2011. Toward the end of service, I felt a sharp pain in my mouth and realized that a filling had fallen out. The pain subsided pretty quickly, and I found a gum-type temporary filling at Walgreen’s to use until I was able to get to the dentist. I made an appointment for the next week, and while they were doing the x-rays (at the dental clinic,) they rushed in to tell me that I was no longer covered under my dad’s dental insurance. (Thanks, dad! He had dropped me from his coverage to have $5 more in his check every month.) I couldn’t afford it, so I paid $60 for the x-rays and had Sixx drive me home, sobbing because I didn’t know how I would afford to have it fixed. I was working two internships and two part-time jobs, trying to pay rent for the first time while living with him.

They had told me that it would be $80 for the filling. And me, dumb as I was, could never find the money, or the time when I did have the money, to get it fixed. This was the same summer of the shooting, and after that, everything became about getting my life back to normal. This should have included getting my teeth back to normal, but it didn’t.

To be honest, over the next year and a half, I did feel it start to wear away a little. But it was never painful, so I ignored it. After I got my new job, I knew I would have dental insurance in January 2013, so I soldiered on and hoped for the best until last October, when I felt a definitive crack after biting into a piece of steak. I finally gave in after five days of panic and found a dentist who could take a new patient for an emergency appointment. Initially, he gave me hope: it would be large, but a filling could be placed. He started to look closer and found that when the first dentist put in the filling, he didn’t seal it off right (which is why it fell out) and the tooth had continued to decay over the four or so years it was in place – the decay had gone into the roots and nerve, so I needed a root canal. That day I had a gross debridement, a temporary filling put in, and we made a plan to (hopefully) make it until my insurance kicked in to have the root canal done.

On January 2, the pain became so bad that I couldn’t wait for my insurance cards any longer and made an appointment to (I thought) finish the procedure. I cried as she told me the next available appointment was February 19 and asked to be put on a cancellation list. (The receptionist called me with an opening 20 minutes later. Thank God.) Below is the full time and cost table I have wasted on saving this One. Stupid. Tooth.

What It Should Have Cost: June 5, 2011: $140 for x-rays and filling

What It Has Cost Me So Far: October 25: Gross debridement and temporary filling, $249
October 30: Brief check after a complete meltdown that temp filling was melting, $0 (+1,000 embarrassment)
December 13: Comprehensive exam, $233
January 2: Initial root canal appointment, $250
February 19: Root canal completion, $123*
March 19: Initial crown appointment, $293**
April 19: Crown completion, $293**
Total: $1,441. That number makes my skin crawl a little.

*These figures are before the insurance claim is processed, so could go up.
** Estimated.

None of this includes the other fillings I now need for cavities I let get out of hand when I wasn’t getting yearly checkups (which could be $50-$100 each, and I need at least four.) AND to top it off, they only cover $1500/year, and the root canal alone they paid $902 on (meaning the crown cost will go up.)

Let this be a lesson to you: DO NOT IGNORE YOUR TEETH! Not having dental insurance is no excuse. Routine yearly exams, and even fillings sans insurance, turn out to be much, MUCH cheaper than if something were to go wrong. Now promise me – repeat after me: “Desi, I will not ignore my teeth.” Fantastic! Thank you!