A Personal Story: Dipping Into Retirement for Teeth – Danielle, West Hartford


Danielle and her husband are both self-employed and living in West Hartford, Vermont. The only dental insurance available to them pays for cleanings but doesn’t cover the bigger work that she needs to get done. Whenever she goes to the dentist, the dentist will usually find something big and give Danielle a proposal of how and when the work should be done. It usually involves more than one tooth and costs two to three thousand dollars. “It’s a little overwhelming,” says Danielle. She usually puts the work on a payment plan with zero percent interest, but “it still feels like you’re going into debt for your teeth.” At times she has cashed in her retirement money to pay for dental work.

Over the past ten years, Danielle guesses she has spent over ten thousand dollars on dental work. In fact, there was one tooth alone that probably cost that much: She had a root canal, another procedure, ended up having the tooth pulled, two bridges made, and finally ended up with an implant with a crown. At one point, her sister remarked to her: “You can get dentures a lot cheaper.”

Right now Danielle’s husband has a cracked tooth that he has delayed work on for the past year. He’s mindful of it when he eats, but it will probably cost four thousand dollars for an implant if the tooth breaks off. Danielle’s husband also needs to get hearing aids, and they have decided that his hearing is more important than the tooth at the moment. But it’s a difficult decision: “How do you choose between hearing aids and a cracked tooth?”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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