Posts Tagged ‘Payment Plans’

A Personal Story: NH School Nurse Sees Problems in Kid’s Teeth – Norwich

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Sylvia is in her 60s, lives in Norwich, Vermont, and works as a school nurse in New Hampshire. “We see a lot of kids coming in with just completely rotted out teeth.” She explains that it’s sometimes difficult to persuade parents in low-income families to participate in free dental care programs. “It’s really hard to convince that group that not only are they eligible, but that it isn’t a hand-out . . . Sometimes they’re afraid to get linked into the system, because a lot of these [dental care] groups say, well, we’ll give it to you for free but then there’s always some cost, even if the cost is, we need to see you four times a year so you need to get here. That’s a huge cost to a lot of people who are figuring out every day any place they can get to where they could possibly work for a day.”

Sylvia believes providing dental care through the schools is the best way to ensure access. There used to be a dental van that provided care to students at her school, but it has stopped. She remembers it being very successful. “The whole thing came here and the kids were already at school, so there wasn’t any cost [to the parents] . . . I don’t know what un-did that program . . . I don’t know whether they were asked by the state to stop, or whether something happened and there was some kind of a lawsuit.”

The van will be back, but as Sylvia understands it, only to provide cleanings and education. While she thinks that’s valuable, she also thinks it’s not enough: “If we’re seeing a fair number of kids coming with already serious problems, we’ve got to have treatment.”


A Personal Story: Cutting Back on Food to Pay for Teeth – Marion, Lebanon

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Marion is 84 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. “I’ve worn dentures since I was in my 20s.” Marion’s dentures were so worn down that her dentist recommended she get new ones. She didn’t have the money to pay for them, so her dentist told her about a credit card loan program that was especially for dental and health care costs. “I paid $150 a month for a year. He did give me a senior discount of $600, which brought it down so that the actual cost that I had to pay was $1,800. But that’s still a lot of money when you’re on Social Security … I had to cut back on my food and buy just the bare necessities. If something wore out I couldn’t replace it.”

A Personal Story: Cost Overshadows Everything – Anne and Evan, Lebanon

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Anne is 60 and has an 18 year old adopted son, Evan, with Downs Syndrome. Anne explains that people with Downs Syndrome have short, spindly fragile teeth that break a lot. She’s determined that her son be able to keep his teeth in the best condition possible: “His smile is his passport to the world.” Evan’s local dentist retired and that dentist’s replacement left, so Anne now has to drive from Lebanon, New Hampshire, to Burlington for dental care for Evan. Because of Evan’s Downs Syndrome, he needs to have all dental work done under anesthesia, and even routine care is complicated. He recently had an x-ray, fillings, extractions and sealants, and Anne just got the bill for $4,000. Usually Evan’s maintenance work costs $1,700, and is not covered by insurance. “It should be done every six months, but I don’t have $1,700 every six months.” Anne put the dental work on her Visa card. “On one card alone I have a $22,500 balance and almost all of it’s this.”

Anne needs to have a knee replaced. She has trouble walking, falls a lot, and she says, “the pain is excruciating.” Anne says that the cost of Evan’s dental care prevents her from having the money to get her knee replaced. “The ripple effect of this is so huge, I can hardly talk about this without crying. I can’t walk. Sometimes I order groceries in. There was no handicapped parking space tonight … I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”

A Personal Story: Take from Peter to Pay Paul – Jim, Lebanon

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Jim is 74 and lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Jim doesn’t like to go to the dentist, but he does because sometimes he has to. He finds it quite expensive. He doesn’t get cleanings, but does go for extractions. “I wait until I need one out and then I have it out. I had like seven filled when I was in grammar school. It took all these years and I’m slowly losing them one by one. Other than that I’ve got most of them.”

Jim can tell when one of his teeth needs to come out because he gets a tooth ache that he can control with Oragel. When that stops working, he knows he needs the extraction. “If it starts swelling then I know it’s got to be taken out.” Jim calls his dentist, and can usually get in for an appointment right away. An extraction costs around $170. “I pay him when I can, but then it shorts some other person. Take from Peter to pay Paul. Sometimes I have to borrow the money. I have a brother that I can borrow from, I don’t have to pay him interest, so I do it that way.”

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: 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: Teeth are a Good Investment – Susan, Chelsea

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Susan and her husband Phil and their family live in Chelsea, Vermont, and have had dental insurance through her teaching job for the past eighteen years. Although they’ve never had high incomes, Susan and Phil and their children always made sure to get regular dental care: “I’ve always felt like taking care of your teeth was a priority, even when we felt like we had no money.” The dental insurance they had paid for cleanings and most of the cost of the two crowns Susan had to have. One of the crowns was five years ago and the other was two years ago, and Susan was able to pay off what the insurance did not cover in two or three payments on a payment plan. Susan and Phil’s two children are both grown now and no longer covered on the family dental insurance plan. They both pay out-of-pocket for their cleanings, but still make sure to get their teeth cleaned at least once a year. “Our whole family has just put a really big emphasis on healthy teeth…it seems like a good investment.”

A Personal Story: Paying the Rest of My Life – Janet and Sondra, Enfield

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Janet is 53, lives in Enfield, New Hampshire, and has never had dental insurance. She has a top plate denture years ago which her mother bought for her. She only has her front bottom teeth, the back ones are gone, and she knows that those front ones are slowly rotting away. She just can’t afford to get to a dentist to fix them. “It’s only a matter of time before someone goes very wrong.” Janet’s daughter, Sondra, 37, is disabled and has no dental insurance. Recently, she had to have teeth pulled and a partial bridge, which was going to cost $3,000. The only way she was able to do it was by taking out a loan which her uncle co-signed for her. One of the side effects of a medication Sondra takes is that it weakens her teeth, so Janet is worried for her daughter’s future dental needs. “And I don’t make enough money to help her.” Sondra said to Janet recently: “I’ll be paying for my teeth for the rest of my life, mom.”

A Personal Story: Can It Wait? – Beth, Strafford

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Beth is 49, lives in Strafford, Vermont, and has a job in health care. She feels fortunate that she and her family have dental insurance and have always gone to the dentist regularly. She and her husband have started needing to get their teeth crowned, as their old fillings deteriorate: “As a matter of fact, I felt a little twinge of something yesterday.” Because their insurance covers half the cost, Beth and her husband take turns getting their teeth crowned in order to afford their dental work. Then they use a payment plan with a monthly payment to pay off the work.

Still, Beth and her husband tend to put off dental work as long as they possibly can. Whenever the dentist tells her there is more work to be done, Beth says, “I ask, ‘Do I have to do it now?’ because there are always other pressing needs.” Beth knows it can be dangerous to delay care: “An abcess can kill you if it goes to your brain…some things happen really fast.” But, she admits, even with dental insurance, most people can’t afford to do all their necessary dental work at once.

A Personal Story: Weighing Priorities – Rob, Thetford

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Rob is a self-employed builder and painter in Thetford, Vermont. A few years ago he needed a crown done but couldn’t afford it. He was able to work out a deal with his dentist where they exchanged services: the dentist put on the crown, and Rob did work for the dentist.

Rob is trying hard not to take on debt and is careful about deciding to get dental work done: “There’s no way I can afford to come in and spend a couple thousand dollars on my teeth right away. So I have to weigh things and decide how pertinent (the dental work) is at the time. Is it an emergency? Do I need to have it done?”

Rob’s daughter needed braces and was at the age where she had to have the work done. Unfortunately, he had to take on debt for that work and now pays a set amount each month: “Can I afford it? It’s really hard-everything’s hard right now because of the economy being the way that it is. But somehow, money seems to get there for it.” In the summer the payments are easier because that’s the season where Rob tends to have more work, in the winter it’s hard to predict what will happen. “You have to make priorities, and priorities are food, shelter, stuff like that. There’s a lot of people that have to look at that piece right now.”