Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Toothy Tale

I have had pain in my teeth for so long, I can't remember them not in pain and full of holes. I haven't have proper dental insurance since we lived in Wisconsin. When we came back to California, the dentist we had was awful. No one spoke English in the whole office. The office smelled of mildew. And it was dirty.

Anyway, the insurance ran out soon after we got here anyway. My previous employer didn't offer dental insurance. So it was a few years before I started my current job, which offers insurance. Then due to a minor paperwork snafu, my dental insurance didn't actually start until I had been there a year. (I had medical and vision insurance the whole time.)

So last year, as soon as my dental insurance kicked in, I went to the dentist. I got the list from the insurance and picked one close to the house. I made the appointment. I went there. I had an exam and some x-rays done. It cost me $80. The next day, I had a cleaning and one filling. I paid $179. They told me I needed a lot more work. I needed two root canals and crowns. That would be $1079 each. I needed my wisdom teeth out as well. That would be another $300. And this was all after the insurance paid their part. Wow.

I was shocked at how little my insurance covered. I had already paid $260 for so little. But my teeth hurt so much. The dentist didn't take payments so I tried to save up. But, as some of you may know, last year was a bad year for the PT Loser Cruiser. First, I had to replace the wheel bearings, the wheel hubs, and the brakes. Then I blew a head gasket. That had to be fixed. The whole cooling system had to be replaced and the turbo had to be repaired. The there were the tires. Then there were the various little parts for the truck. I never could scrape together enough money to fix my teeth.

Then at the end of last year, I received a bill from the dentist. I had not been back since the cleaning. But there was a new bill for another $180. What?

I talked to the dentist's office. They said it was because the insurance didn't cover some stuff. I was livid. I got online to check into this through the dental insurance website. According to the website, all of that should be covered. As a matter of fact, the exam, x-rays, and cleaning were all fully covered. I then called the insurance company to confirm. Yep, all of that was covered and paid by the insurance. I shouldn't have had to pay much at all.

Well, I certainly wasn't going back to that dentist. But my teeth hurt so much. So I started looking into new dentists. I needed one that took my insurance, for real this time. I also wanted one that perhaps took payments. I know I needed extended work and I couldn't afford it right away.

I decided to try Western Dental. I wasn't sure if I was going to like them. It is a chain of dental offices. I was worried that would mean high prices and low quality. But I was desperate. I wanted to eat again.

So I went for my appointment on Thursday for x-rays and the exam. I double checked with the receptionist about 12 times to make sure my insurance covered it. It did.

Now, I don't do x-rays very well. They gag me. But the girl who did mine was so nice about it and so patient. I was already impressed. Next the dentist came to examine me. He said I needed the same things the other dentist had said last year, plus some more fillings. And a cleaning. It sounded expensive. He told me he would have the girl check the insurance for what they would cover and work out payments for the rest if we could work it into my budget.

Well, she comes back and tells me the total I will owe for everything is about $1000. And that I can make payments of about $100 a month, no money down, and first payment due in February. If I agree, they can start right that minute on my treatments.


Yes really.

So they did. Without expecting it, on Thursday, I had two root canals and a filling done. My teeth were finally getting fixed. They put a temporary crown on. But later that night, it came off. So Friday, I went back and told them. They got me back right away to fix it. And since I was already there, they figured they would finish my fillings. So Friday, without even an appointment, I got 3 more fillings and my temporary crown fixed. On Monday, I am having the crown done on the other side. (It was pretty bad and required a specialist.) Also, I am having a cleaning. I already have an appointment to have the permanent crown put on when it arrives. The dentists, the dental assistants, the office personnel were all so friendly and helpful. It was amazing.

I made appointments for the girls to go for check ups and cleanings on Monday.

Finally, a dentist I trust. And best of all, my teeth feel so much better.


  1. oh girl! reading about your tale had me cringing. I hate having to go to the dentist. I had a similar thing happen to me and by the time I was able to get insurance, I had to have lots of work done. ugh. Most of all I was so scared I wouldn't find anyone I'd trust but I like where I am right now. I actually drive a bit out of my way to go there but..I can't stand the thought of switching because I trust them so much more. Hooray for finally finding someone great and affordable.
    So what happened with the $180 the other place said you owed?

  2. I don't know. I called and yelled and suggested they call my insurance. I never heard from them again. Hopefully I don't find it showing up on my credit report. I will go ballistic.

  3. Thanks for sharing your dentist story. I learned many things with this post.

    It's not good to visit a dentist's office that's dirty. The office of our family dentist who is practicing Fayetteville family dentistry is clean and tidy. I'm glad we have dental insurance too.

  4. You will be okay! Definitely go to the dentist when you have problems like this ASAP you don't want things like this to linger and become worse


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