Archive for March 9th, 2012

A Personal Story: Broken Teeth & Unemployed – Zack, Claremont

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Zach is 23 and lives in Claremont, New Hampshire. He is currently unemployed and without dental insurance. “I have some of the older style fillings that are in my mouth that have fallen out. I have broken teeth… I have tried to get help for them. I’ve been to the ER a couple of times because of the pain… I’ve tried calling different dental places and they either want cash up front or they need insurance. A lot of them don’t do sliding scale or anything like that, it’s like a flat rate and you need to have that money when you walk in. I just don’t have that money, I’m unemployed.”

Zach says that the initial visit for a broken tooth costs over $300 just for the x-rays and an exam. Then, to have the tooth extracted it costs over $400. “That’s just one tooth and I have three that need to be taken out right not, and that’s not even counting the fillings.”

Zach had a tooth break three months ago. The pain got worse and worse. “I was losing my hearing, I couldn’t smell or breathe through one of my nostrils because the infection had gone up in my face…. You explain this to the dentist’s office and they’re like, sorry, we can’t help you out, you’d better try going to the ER.” He went to the emergency room but, “they basically just gave me pain medication and antibiotics and sent me on my way.”

Zach was able to get his one tooth pulled through some grant money, but he still has two more broken teeth that need to be addressed. He has tried going to the local dental clinic, but the dentist who was volunteering there was sick the day of his appointment, and now Zach has to wait another three months for an appointment. He’s worried he doesn’t have that long–his dental needs are so acute that they need to be addressed now. “I just think it’s crazy how hard it is to get into a dentist’s office and have them help you out. If I broke my arm or something they’d fix it right away, but if I break a tooth, you sit and suffer with it… it’s one of the most painful things to go through.”

A Personal Story: My Mouth My Body – Tracy, Lyme

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Tracy is 51 years old and lives in Lyme, New Hampshire. Here is her story:

“A number of years ago I fell while rollerblading.  I landed with my full weight on my chin, crushing 5 teeth.  Thankfully I did not break my jaw or get a concussion.  But my mouth was literally in shards.  I was taken to the emergency room at DHMC where they did stitch up the gash in my chin.  But they were unsure of the rest of my mouth.  There is an oral surgeon at Hitchcock but he was in surgery and could not see me.  So I was sent to my dentist who then referred me to an oral surgery center.  Two days later I was finally able to see the oral surgeon.  The teeth needed to be extricated and I then needed bone implanted to repair damage to make enough room for the process to begin replacing the lost teeth with implants.  The entire process took 3 years.  I now have most of the work completed but for a cracked tooth that will eventually need to be replaced.

Cost: Approximately $22,000.  Here is the rub.  According to my Health Insurance provider, all of it could/would have been covered had I had surgery within 24 hrs of the accident.  Which was impossible because there were no surgeons available.

Apparently one’s mouth is not considered to be a part of one’s body.

I am self-employed, and at the time was just barely able to pay for health insurance, let alone any dental.  I have since taken a job as a part time special education aide to receive medical and dental insurance.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Overseas Dental Care – Roy, Lyme

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Roy lives in Lyme, NH, and has four kids between the ages of 14 and 23. He is divorced from his wife, and while he does not have dental insurance, his ex-wife and kids do, through her job. She recently went to see a new dentist, and since the family owes several hundred dollars for that visit, she is reluctant to go back. Roy hopes to be able to pay off that bill soon, but until he can, his ex-wife is hesitant to schedule another visit for herself or for their oldest child, who has been recently complaining about a toothache.

Three of Roy’s children spent a year abroad with relatives and had extensive dental work done while they were out of the country at a fraction of the cost. Roy’s daughter got braces put on while overseas, but when she saw a local orthodontist for adjustments, the local orthodontist wanted to replace them entirely. Although Roy objected, the work was still done and Roy now owes two or three thousand dollars.

Roy anticipates some of his family members needing more dental work done: his son, who just got his braces removed, has a tooth that is out of position, which is estimated to take $7,000 to fix. Roy thinks the best option is to go out of the country again for it. Although it seems like the flight alone would be expensive, Roy finds that the amount they save on dental bills pays for the trip. Roy himself had a crown replaced overseas and paid $400 for a procedure that would have cost $2,000 over here. “I wonder what dentistry is going to be like fifty years from now. The only thing I know is that it’s going to be very different. We’ve got a lot of problems with the way the system works right now and I’m sure everybody in the industry feels the pressure of it.”