I was fourteen years old when eight fillings were put in my mouth, all molars. My baby teeth were all decayed, but fell out by the time I was ten. I had done the damage to my second set. I don't know how my parents paid for the fillings; Dad didn't get dental insurance from his job, so they paid in cash. My third brother should have had braces, and my oldest brother has had dental problems his whole life. Dad didn't have a cavity in his head, but he later developed a habit of chewing tabacco, like Skoal. My brothers and their sons have the same bad habit. Alcoholism doesn't help, either. I remember watching a TV program called Britain's Worst Teeth, and America's teeth are in a downward spiral. We can no longer compete with Sweden. Our collective addiction to sugar and worse things, like meth, doesn't help, but we simply can't afford to go to the dentist. Most working people are lucky to be offered affordable health insurance from their employers, so dental and vision are becoming a luxury.
I could go into all of the reasons why most people are uninsured, but I'm sure you already know those reasons. I hadn't seen a dentist since 2001, when I was told I would need a cap put on an upper right molar, which consisted of more filling than tooth. I had insurance then, I should have had the cap put on. But I wasn't in any pain, so I put it off. Then, one day, I had no job and no insurance, but my teeth were okay. My smile looks fine from the front, all of the damage is in the back. I remained okay until two years ago, when I cracked a bottom molar while eating crunchy cereal. I was able to get the piece of tooth out of my mouth while spitting out milk and cereal. I wasn't in any pain, so I ignored it. A year or so later, a part of the filling in the same tooth fell out, and I spat that out, too.
The average dental visit in my area, with only X-rays and a dental cleaning, can cost up to three hundred dollars. With insurance, you pay around twenty dollars, depending on your policy. A filling and cap cost over a thousand dollars. A simple filling around a hundred. With no insurance, these numbers are Hellish to think about. I kept putting off buying dental insurance because I thought I wouldn't be able to afford a decent policy. My mother, who is retired, gets a reasonable policy through Humana, but I thought only seniors could get cheaper insurance.
I brush twice a day and floss. I am not the best flosser. My maternal grandmother put her teeth in a jar by the time she was fifty and my mom has been determined to hang on to her own teeth. My aunt, who is almost eighty years old, is considering having her surviving teeth pulled and getting dentures like Grandma. I used to work with a guy who was only in his mid-thirties, but he looked so much older when he wouldn't put his dentures in his mouth. Alcoholism had destroyed his teeth, but he could never get used to wearing dentures. He would take his 'teeth' out of his mouth and put the set of dentures in his pocket. Grandma would keep hers in the bathroom after she went to bed. I would enjoy looking at them through the jar, but I was told not to touch. My middle brother, the devilish one, would shake the jar and watch the teeth move around.
Over the last two years I could feel a cavity coming. Sometimes the tooth felt sensitive but no pain. I could chew. I was just okay until last Monday.
Damn cereal again. This time, a chunk of tooth from the upper molar that needed a cap eleven years ago. I had a mouth full of cereal when I realized I was chewing something hard. I ran my tongue over the molar and a piece of tooth was missing, the filling exposed. I had swallowed the piece of tooth, but I was all right. I wasn't in pain, so I finished my breakfast.
Mom called her dentist's office and asked about Care Credit, which she had used in the past. She was told I could go on the web to apply for a Care Credit account. Another credit card at almost 30% interest through GE Moneybank. I need more credit card debt like I need another cracked tooth. I applied anyway, and was accepted for $1,100.00 worth of credit.
I made an appointment with Mom's dentist. I was a new patient, my previous dentist may have retired or would tell me to go to Hell after eleven years. But Mom's dentist was happy to take me after being accepted for Care Credit.
I went to my appointment the next day very early. After X-rays and a through exam, I was given the bad news. I stayed for a cleaning, the hygienist less than thrilled to take me on at the last minute, scraping the tartar off teeth that hadn't seen a hygienist for eleven years. Good thing she was wearing one of those masks. I listened to relaxing music and a Disney nature movie on the TV.
I lucked out. No gum disease. My wisdom teeth were fine. My visit that day was around three hundred dollars. I could have used my Care Credit limit, but chose to keep that for the cap, so I used my Visa card. I would learn later that I only had one hundred and fifty dollars available on my Visa(oops), but that card mysteriously went through.
I bought dental insurance that day, finding a very reasonable policy through Humana. I should have done it sooner, but I could ignore my dental problems when I only had one messed-up tooth. But, with three, my back was against the wall. Now, I have a maxed-out Visa and all of my dental appointments moved to after October first, when my insurance kicks in. I had neglected my teeth long enough. My mother mentioned that all I needed next was health insurance.
I'm not sick. I feel fine. ;)