Today’s Peeve was supposed to be about books.

The Peeve about books is going to be preempted until next week. I am instead, going to focus on a Peeve that has been affecting me for the past few weeks. 

This special Peeve is about dentists.

The dental industry has changed over the past few decades.

I remember a time when I could go to the dentist’s office and get (for the most part) everything taken care of in one visit. Unlike the medical industry, the dental industry has never been governed by any federal or global office that I know of. In fact, as far as I know, the dental industry seems to have become an industry all its own. The dental insurance that exists for the dental industry covers very little. If you have major dental work that needs to be done, you better have a house that you can rely on to supply the money you will need to finance all the dental work you will need. Why a house? That house will be used for the first or second mortgage loan that you will use to pay the tens of thousands of dollars that you will need to pay for your dental work. 

Let’s make some comparisons as far as insurance, between the dental industry and the medical industry.​

My wife and I always felt we were more fortunate than other people. We have both medical and dental insurance. Each of us has individual medical and dental insurance that covers the other. So essentially, we both receive double coverage for both medical and dental. I recently went into the hospital for major surgery. The final bill was over $30,000.00. Our insurance took care of all the costs, except for our copay. The secondary insurance took care of not only my copay, but the extra overflow for my medical procedure and two weeks of care in the hospital. Sounds great, right?

Now let’s look at dental. 

My wife has what is considered premiere dental insurance coverage, while I have average dental insurance. Like many people, I avoid dentists like the plague. They are the last-ditch effort in oral care, because of my experience with them in the past 50 years. It was more than the drills going into my mouth, the gag reflex when I have something shoved into my mouth for an x-ray or the newest craze of putting me into semi-conscious stupidity with a pill, while a dentist ravages my teeth and gums with a mini chain saw. Because my wife and I have (literally) two insurance plans to cover our dental expenses, we naively imagined that our combined dental insurance would work like our medical insurance. 

Wrong…think again. 

Per today’s dental industry, my dental insurance will pay for office visits that deal more with preventive dental procedures, rather than dental emergencies. Teeth cleaning, x-rays, etc. are covered with very little copay. What about when I need more extensive dental work? 

Take an implant as an example. 

In my state, the cost for an implant without insurance is $1,500.00 (the lowest estimate), or over $2,000.00 (the highest estimate). This is not counting the additional cost of the office fees, medication and follow-up visits that are necessary for this procedure. A tooth extraction without insurance will cost $500.00. The cost for a crown for me, without insurance, is $758.00. 

My dental visit is generally $50.00 to $100.00, depending on the dentist I go to for help. Service decreases in relation to the dental fee. The one saving grace about dental insurance is that it will renew at the end of the year. So, if you have more than one problem, take care of the worst dental issue(s) that you have and wait it out until next year. So, in the meantime, just suck up your pain until your insurance kicks back in.

A few weeks ago, I went to the dentist for extreme tooth pain that I was experiencing.

I started by filling out about 6 to 7 pages of paperwork that took about 45 minutes to complete. The office director took scans of my identification papers and had me wait to see my dental technician. After being shooed into their inner offices, I was taken to their preliminary x-ray room to have scans taken of my teeth.

Have you seen what many dental offices use nowadays to take x-rays

Look at the size of the digital x-ray equipment that is being placed into this patient’s mouth. If you have a gagging problem, anyone shoving something this big into your mouth is NOT going to help you. I’m speaking from personal experience.

The office will use these huge “collimators” to take those pictures that they need of your mouth. The one thing I must say about the dental industry…they bring the torture machines of the Spanish Inquisition to a whole new level. The receptacle that the dental office uses to take their x-rays barely fits into your mouth. It is large enough to choke a horse. So, after a good 45 minutes wrestling with me to get the x-rays done, my dental technician told me that I undeniably had…problems. My meet with my dentist revealed that I had literally cracked my back molars. They were almost cracked in half. I found out that my problem was probably due to a nasty unconscious habit that I have, while I sleep. People like myself endure a common problem…I grind my teeth at night. I don’t use a night guard, which is a fundamental tool that can be used to prevent my problem. The dentist told me that I would need to have crowns installed on 3 of my teeth. The worst tooth was a back molar, that needed a root canal. The dentist cautioned me that the root canal would eat up a lot of my insurance.

The dentist did not involve himself in root canals, I needed to see an endodontist, instead.

The endodontist was on vacation (of course). Because I needed a root canal (which my dentist did not do), I would have to wait for a few weeks. In the meantime, my dentist had me taking an antibiotic regimen to rid myself of the bacterial infection that had proliferated within my oral tissues. On the day that I visited the endodontist, I filled out more 45-minute paperwork for the endodontist office. After wrestling with the dental technician to take x-rays of my mouth, I finally saw the endodontist, who said that my back molar was the tooth that needed root canal work done. I breathed a silent sigh of relief. Only one tooth. Cool. I would have to return the next week for my work. After noting my tendency to gag, the endodontist suggested that I opt for the semi-conscious surgery (otherwise known as conscious sedation). I agreed. The surgery was scheduled for the following Wednesday.

I remember taking two pills one hour before the scheduled surgery.

My wife drove me to the endodontist that day. Since I had neglected to give her a map, she struggled to get me to the dentist on time. Apparently, I was drooling in my seat and babbling incoherent directions that she found very difficult to follow. Somehow, she managed to get us to the endodontist on time. I DO remember opening the passenger side window to allow the wind to rush through my hair. My wife told me that I reminded her of a dog, sticking its head out the window as the car is moving, to drool on the side of the car in the wind. My wife also asked me if I remembered anything from my procedure. 

To this day, like Sergeant Schultz, I remember nothing. 

My wife did tell me that as I was leaving, I was instructed to leave the chair from the right-hand side. Since my wife was helping me, I corrected her by stating, “You should have said starboard.” My instructions were simple, stick with soft foods. On the night before I was to see my other dentist, I was eating a homemade burrito, which to me implies soft food. On the next to the last bite, I heard and felt my tooth crack, the very tooth that had received the root canal.

The next day, I visited my dentist, ready to have the tooth crowned.

My dentist told me that the tooth that had recently been worked on was cracked in half, totally “unfixable”. In other words, the $1,500.00 worth of coverage that I had received had just been “flushed down the toilet.” To make matters worse, the rest of the insurance would have to be used for an extraction of the tooth, another $500.00 to get rid of the tooth that was now cracked in half and causing intermittent pain in my jaw.​

My visit to the extraction specialist (another dentist) was 45 minutes of paperwork.

I elected for the traditional shots of pseudo Novocain in lieu of the conscious sedation procedure. The x-ray was thankfully very easy with this dentist. All I had to do was to stick a piece of gauze between my front teeth and rest my chin on a platform. I finally went to a dentist office with a painless procedure for taking x-rays. After a lengthy conversation with my dental technician, the dentist came in, talked to me about the extraction procedure, ushered me into an operating chair, administered an anesthetic and pulled my tooth the “old-fashioned way”. The extraction was last week. I have been coddling my pain with Motrin, occasionally easing my night pain with a narcotic.

Lessons learned from my dental experience.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  1. The new dental industry, with its numerous specialists, does not work. The time in between each visit is only conducive to one thing: pain and frustration…lots of frustration.
  2. Each dentist required me to take their x-rays, rather than rely on the x-rays taken at the original dentist that I went to. Each of those x-rays was an additional charge.
  3. I will search for a dentist who operates the “old fashioned way”, by conducting everything all at once, if possible.
  4. Dental insurance offers limited coverage, at best. Find some other dental insurance that offers coverage similar or just like present day medical insurance.

The result of my visits to numerous dentists were based on recommendations and analysis made by a dentist that provided coverage based on my dental insurance. The dental policy coverage for my wife and I have been leeched…the insurance coverage from two different dental insurance companies a big ZERO as far as coverage. As bad as my circumstances were, the one respite I have is that we did not have to pay anything out of pocket…yet. Am I peeved about the dental industry? Hell, yes. 

My father used to have something to say about industries like this God rest his soul: “It’s one hell of a racket”.

Next week: Peeved About Books​

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