Archive for June, 2011

New Membership Option for Dental Discounts

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

There’s a new website which offers members discounts at participating dentists.

Brighter.com, which launched in May 2011 in all states except Florida, Montana, and Vermont, gives subscribers access to a network of over 25,000 dentists who offer members discounts on cleanings, crowns, implants, root canals, whitening treatments, and other procedures. Savings range from 20% to 60% off the price an uninsured patient would be charged.

The website shows dentists’ location, prices for a wide array of services – including cosmetic procedures, and consumer feedback and reviews of providers.

Read the whole story.

A Personal Story: Daily Dental Pain – Travis, White River Junction

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Travis is a resident of White River Junction, Vermont. Travis lived with daily dental pain for years because he couldn’t afford care. He had a dental abscess that caused his entire face to swell up. He scraped up money to visit a dentist and get a filling, but when the same tooth cracked in half the very next day he couldn’t afford to go back and instead lived with a jagged, broken tooth. Finally, a few years ago, he managed to find the money for his remaining teeth to be extracted; he just needed to “yank ‘em all out”, as he told me. Then he drove almost two hours away in order to get temporary dentures at a price he could afford. Those “temporary” dentures, which were never fitted for permanent comfort, have lasted him for over 5 years – and because he can’t afford to have them re-lined or adjusted for a better fit, they’ll have to last him a lot longer.

A Personal Story: Vet not Set – Michael, Wilder

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Michael is homeless; these days, he lives in a tent in Wilder, Vermont. He’s a veteran; he receives medical care through the VA, and also has Medicaid. “People think that if you’ve got Medicare and Medicaid, you must be all set with your teeth,” he told me recently. “But it’s just not true.” Accessing affordable dental treatment is not an immediately critical need for him; so far, he’s been pretty lucky with his teeth. But he says it’s only a matter of time, and he’s worried about what he’s going to do when he needs significant dental care. “It’s just another thing to worry about,” he says. “I really wish it wasn’t.”

A Personal Story: Dental Health a Luxury? – Milena, Woodstock

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Milena lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story:

I spent over 5 years working for a small non-profit organization that offered its employees a range of benefits, including access to medical and dental insurance. The organization’s policy was to pay 50% of health insurance coverage for all employees, but if you wanted to opt-in to the dental insurance you were on your own; as a small organization, they just couldn’t afford the cost. The smart, prudent thing to do would have been to get myself dental insurance – but there was absolutely no way I could afford it. I would have practically had no paycheck left; it would have been a real luxury. It’s not a dramatic story, but I think it’s an important one; I just don’t think that a safety net ensuring your dental health should ever be a luxury.

A Personal Story: Just Can’t Do It – Robert, Hartford

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Robert lives in Hartford, Vermont. He got his first partial denture years ago, when he was living in Michigan. But it never really fit right. “I can eat better without it than I can with it,” he says. Now, in addition to needing his first denture to be fixed, he also needs a second partial denture. He went to the local branch of a big commercial practice to get help because they advertised that their first exam is free. But he couldn’t afford anything that came after the first exam, and now he owes them money–and still needs help. Robert’s situation is complicated by multiple significant medical issues including diabetes, which causes dry mouth, leaves him much more vulnerable to gum disease, and makes maintaining a healthy diet critically important to his overall health – something that is hard to do without functioning teeth.  He’s been unemployed for over two years; he’s now trying to improve his prospects by attending classes at CCV, the local community college. With a special-needs child to care for, he and his wife are faced with expenses that make teeth a low priority. “I care about myself, “ Robert says. “But when it comes to the money, I just can’t do it.”

A Personal Story: Preventive Care – Roger, West Lebanon

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Roger lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. His story is pretty simple, really; he’d just like to get his teeth checked. It’s been a long time since he’s been to a dentist. He’s not in any pain, he hasn’t got any loose teeth or any obvious, glaring dental problems. He’d just like to stay healthy, and he knows that checkups are pretty important. Problem is, he just can’t afford it. Roger lives on his social security income; he’s got Medicare, but that’s no help when it comes to dental expenses. He rides his bike all over town, he’s a regular at community dinners, and he does everything he can think of to make his budget stretch from month to month. But he hasn’t got $100 to spare for a dental exam, or $50, or anything close to it. “I just can’t afford it,” he says. “It’s that simple.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Affordable Dentures? – Barbara, West Lebanon

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Barbara lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. She got her dentures about a year ago, from the local branch of a big commercial practice that regularly offers new denture coupons and discounts in their advertisements. She took advantage of a special offer that the practice was running and got her dentures inexpensively. But a year later, Barbara’s dentures don’t fit right. “They feel like wax,” she says. “I don’t like wearing them.” She’d like to have them re-lined so that they’re comfortable, but without a discount or special offer she can’t afford to go back to the practice where she got the dentures. “I don’t even really know where to start”, she says of trying to find an affordable way to get her dentures fixed. So she gets by without fixing them, one uncomfortable day after another.

A Personal Story: Access to Care – Jane, White River Junction

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Jane lives in White River Junction, Vermont. This is her story:

I am an uninsured American, and my family makes just enough money so that we do not qualify for Medicaid. Although I’ve made it through most of my life without visiting a dentist for regular appointments, about a year ago I developed a throbbing pain in the lower left side of my mouth. I tried going to an Emergency Department at my local hospital, but all they were able to do was offer me aspirin and give me a referral to a dentist whom I could not afford to visit.

It took me almost 4 months to get an appointment at a dental clinic, but there I was able to have the tooth removed and a prosthetic one put in its place. Now I am no longer living with the pain of that tooth, but I still think about how excruciating it was to not only have a dental problem but also to suffer with it while I waited to receive care.

A Personal Story: Access to and Quality of Care – Helen, Woodstock

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Helen lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story:

When I moved to Vermont 13 years ago, I was starting a new business as an independent consultant, and I wasn’t able to afford health insurance, much less dental insurance. I chose a dentist from the phone book and started to get yearly checkups and do whatever work needed to be done, as I had the money to do it. When I started to feel a dull, aching pain in my upper jaw around an area where I’d had a root canal prior to arriving in VT, I mentioned it to my new dentist. She didn’t see anything and ultimately made me feel that I was imagining the discomfort. The pain was beginning to affect my life – it was causing headaches and destroying my concentration. I decided to change dentists and learned that, indeed, I was not imagining my discomfort – I had an infection at the site of my former root canal. In addition, the work of my first dentist in VT had been incomplete and non-lasting. I now had over $10,000 of work to do to fix what she had done and to address the dental issues she had neglected to address. I didn’t have that kind of money. Luckily, my new dentist worked out a financial plan with me and I also learned that if I took care of all of the work within one year, I would not only have a happier, healthier mouth, I could also report the expense on my tax return and receive some tax relief. I saved and put some of the work on my credit card and was able, ultimately, to fix everything in that single year.

I feel fortunate to have made it through that time – much lighter in my pocket, but with my health in check. I have an increased confidence in my ability to gauge if something is “wrong” with me or not, and I made an important decision to make sure my health care professionals listen to me. If only I’d had dental insurance.