A Personal Story: One at a Time – Dottie, Strafford

Dottie and her husband Stan live in Strafford, Vermont, and have no dental insurance. Dottie is currently scheduled to have three cleanings a year, because she is on the edge of periodontal disease. She can afford to pay for her cleanings, but in the last ten years she has also had five crowns and two root canals which were more difficult to find the money for. One year she had two crowns and a root canal, Stan had a crown, and the couple’s total dental bill that year was $8,500. Fortunately their dentist offered them a loan at 0% interest if it could be paid within the year, which they did, but it wiped out their savings. They thought, “Well we’ve paid off our dentist but we have no money. It’s crazy…Luckily nothing else happened that we needed to access some quick cash.”

Currently Dottie has a mouth full of old fillings, all of which will eventually need to be crowned. She thinks she should probably get her teeth done one at a time, one a year, but she knows she’ll have a hard time paying for a second crown if one of her other teeth happens to break.

Dottie has considered a local free dental clinic but isn’t sure if she’d qualify because her family’s income wavers between qualifying for VHAP and not. She has also heard that you can go to Boston and let Tufts medical students practice putting crowns in, which seems like a good option for her when she considers the number of crowns she still needs. Dottie has a friend who opted to have a tooth extracted rather than pay $2,500 for a crown and root canal that was recommended by her dentist. “Now she has this hole back there and I’m like, yeah, but aren’t all of your teeth going to shift?… That’s like, whoa, you start pulling out your teeth because you can’t afford to fix them? I mean, I suppose that’s what we all do in the end, and we end up with false teeth.”

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