Posts Tagged ‘Cracked Teeth’

A Personal Story: No Dentist in 10 Years – Sam, White River Junction

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Sam is 44 and lives in White River Junction, Vermont. It has been over ten years since he has seen a dentist. He just moved to the area in January, and he does not know where to start looking. He gets $700 a month from disability and does not know whether dental care is covered for him. He has teeth he knows need attention, because he can see that they’re decaying. In the past when this has happened, they have been painful and needed to be pulled. He’s also got one that is crooked and one that is chipped. Since Sam has lost nine or ten teeth already, he suspects he will need dentures at some point. He’s planning on asking his doctor later this week when he goes to the hospital for heart surgery if they know of any dentists he could see.

A Personal Story: No Money to Pay – Roger, West Lebanon

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Roger lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. He is 52 and needs work done on all of his top teeth. His bottom teeth are good but his top teeth are all broken. He needs about seven of them extracted. Roger was at the dentist a month ago, but they said they couldn’t help him because he doesn’t have any money to pay. “What do you have to do?” he wonders. Although he is currently not in any pain, he sometimes gets headaches and wonders if it’s because of his broken teeth.

A Personal Story: Dentist Won’t Take Me Back – Naomi, White River Junction

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Naomi is 23 and pregnant. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont, and has dental work she needs done. The last time she saw a dentist was about six months ago, when she got three cavities filled and two teeth pulled. “They told me they weren’t going to see me again because I don’t take care of my teeth…. I take care of my teeth, but my teeth are the way they are because … no one taught me proper hygiene.” Naomi is missing a front tooth and the rest of her teeth have shifted as a result. She needs more fillings and has a tooth that is cracked in half. She is in some pain but feels that she can deal with it.

Naomi got the number for the local free clinic yesterday, but hasn’t tried yet to make an appointment.

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Insurance Doesn’t Help Much – John, Lebanon

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

John, 41, lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and has two cracked teeth that need crowns. He has dental insurance but it does not cover very much of the work. The estimated out of pocket cost for John is about $1,000 per crown. He has a regular dentist, but has to wait until he has the money to get the work done. “The dentists that I’ve seen, they have a set fee that they charge. There is no write-off the way there is for health insurance.” John explains that with doctors and hospitals, if insurance covers 80% of the charge, they call that good enough, but dentists don’t work that way. Whatever dental charge insurance doesn’t cover, the patient must make up the difference. This is what makes dental work so unaffordable. It’s a frustrating situation. “I’ve got dental insurance, it just isn’t very useful.”

A Personal Story: Kids Ok, What About Mom? – Lyza, White River Junction

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Lyza, 27 years old with 4 kids, lives in White River Junction, Vermont, and she does not have a dentist that she sees regularly. The last time she was at the dentist was about eight months ago. At the time she had three teeth she needed to have pulled, and she used her annual allotment of money from Medicaid for that. Unfortunately, Lyza has significant work she still needs done: “I’ve got two front teeth that are broken and kind of chipping away.” Since it’s a new year, Lyza has money from Medicaid she can use for dental work, “But now trying to find a dentist that doesn’t just want to pull them out on me is a different story…. I asked [my dentist] if he could repair them, because they were just starting to get bad, but not as bad as they are now, and he didn’t really give me an answer…. He was just interested in yanking them out.”

Lyza’s kids have all been able to see the dentist and have their dental work completely covered by Medicaid. Even her six year old, who had extensive work he needed done at the hospital, was completely covered. “It’s just basically trying to find a dentist for myself that’s ridiculous. Because of my age, they won’t take me. And if it’s not my age, it’s my Medicaid.”

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: Dipping Into Retirement for Teeth – Danielle, West Hartford

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

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.

A Personal Story: Extraction the Only Option – Phil, Vershire

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

In 1997, Phil was self employed and making good money. He had a tooth that needed a root canal and a crown, and he paid $1,200 to get the work done. After five or six years, the tooth went bad and Phil needed to get it fixed. However this time he was unemployed and “basically homeless”, and he could not find anyone willing to do the work. Fortunately, Phil lives in Vermont and had VHAP and went to the local free clinic where he got a voucher for an extraction. “It was really messed up because it was really hurting for awhile and I was babying it and babying it, until it finally finished cracking apart and I went in there. It was really awful, I really had a horrible toothache for like two weeks. Getting them to see me was just almost impossible.” But Phil finally convinced them to move up his appointment, and he had the tooth extracted. “That was one of the best things that ever really happened.”

But it’s frustrating for Phil, because he used to have health and dental insurance coverage through his job, and dentists were also more affordable. Now he feels like his only option is the clinic where he can only be seen for an extraction. “If there’s no real problem with your teeth, they’re not going to do much of anything. You basically have to wait until they’re extractable, which is really awful, and then just have all your teeth pulled out…That’s how our system is working now…Just like it was ages ago…from the 13-1400s until now. If you can’t afford whatever it costs to have someone look at your teeth and get the dental work done, they wait until they’re extractable and then, boom, out they go.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: I’d Like to Save Them – Patricia, Charlestown

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Patricia, a 53-year old resident of Charlestown, New Hampshire, is disabled and lives on a fixed income. She had an accident in early 2011 that has necessitated major dental work which she can’t afford. In addition to breaking a tooth, she needs to address issues on other molars. Medicaid has offered to pull the broken tooth – they won’t cover caps or other work. But Patricia only has two molars left in her mouth.

She said “I’d like to save them, not lose them. If I have to keep pulling them out, eventually I’ll end up with dentures, which are also expensive and are not covered. They’ll pull them all out for you, but they won’t replace them!”