The Root of the Matter: The Cost of Dental Care vs. The Sad State of Dental Insurance

I’ve never had good teeth. It was just never in the cards for me.

I’ve tried to trace back through time to discover where I went wrong.

We never drank milk in my house as a kid. Maybe that’s it? I still brushed my teeth and tried not to eat too much garbage. As I grew to adulthood and dental problems started trickling in, I really upped my game to try and fend them off.

I never drink soda. I brush my teeth twice a day, floss once a day.

I use ACT mouthwash with fluoride and go straight to bed afterward, just like the bottle tells me to, for maximum effect.

I’m doing it RIGHT. Right? Apparently not. It makes no difference.

I’m not a jealous person, but I’m INCREDIBLY envious of friends who have only had minor things done: a cavity here and there. Or, even for a few, ZERO cavities.

What’s that like?

I’ve never gone into a dentist’s office without a thorough roadmap of the long dental work journey looming in front of me. There’s always a plan because there’s always more work to be done.

It doesn’t matter what I do to try and prevent this. It is what it is.

Cavities.

Root canals.

Crowns.

A seemingly endless parade of dental procedures that are timely and costly are forever following me, like some jerk who won’t stop tail gaiting you just for the fun of it.

So I now have two dental insurances: one through my employer and one is an individual plan. Doesn’t really matter, though, as they both have $1,500 caps, which I maxed out on earlier this year after 2 crowns.

(Please see calendar. It’s only March. And I’m maxed.)

But really, it’s all been pretty manageable for me up until about a month ago.

I had a crown placed on my molar in February, and was actually pretty psyched about it. I was told I only had TWO cavities left! What?! That’s amazing!

I thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Not so much.

Before too long, said crown started bothering me. I thought the bite was probably high, and since I really didn’t care for my dentist (she dropped her instruments a lot and never ever ever stopped talking), so I got a second opinion from a wonderful dentist who spoke a regular amount and seemed to have a better hold on life in general.

Amazing Smart Dentist tells me she doesn’t see anything weird with my tooth under normal x-rays, but says I should probably go to a specialist.

Sounds pretty expensive, right?

I had no idea what I was in for.

Very Nice Specialist Endodontist discovered, thanks to a crazy 3D x-ray machine, that I needed not one, not two, but ALL THREE of my root canals redone.

One had an abscess due to a leaking and cracked crown, one still had a root that was alive (the one under the most recent uncomfortable crown), and even my front tooth, which I had done last year.

I wept openly in his office that day. And when I got the estimate, I wept harder.

Costs:

Root Canal retreatment 1, 2 & 3: $4,799

Replace cracked crown: $1,000

Fix last two teeth (LOL @ “last two”) with simple cavities: $250

Grand Total: $6,049.00

Commence dry heaving.

The best news? Most dentist’s offices don’t offer payment plans. But my teeth are in trouble, so I have to do it. With maxed out benefits, and no options.

So what do I do from here? What do people do without universal dental insurance?

The options are:

  • Apply for CareCredit. Here’s why I won’t be doing that.
  • Open/use a credit card and pay off debt that wasn’t even fun to accumulate.
  • Destroy your savings if you’re lucky enough to be able to do so.

This system is beyond broken.

It shouldn’t eat you out of house and home to have medical care done. And guess what? Dental care IS medical care. An abscessed tooth can kill you if you let it go long enough!

So, what’s a girl to do?

I’m exploring my options, like checking out weird dental plans to see if they can help.

But most of all, I want to start talking about this stuff. Because this just ain’t right.

I know I’m not the only one out there who needs a little help from the tooth fairy.