Posts Tagged ‘Root Canal’

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: All the Rest is Covered – Monica, Woodstock

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

I am a 57-year-old woman living in Vermont who had no dental work done for several years because I made sure my family was taken care of before myself. And when my husband passed away, I absolutely could not afford any dental care. It is very detrimental to my health. I have had severe infections and always been in the situation where I finally went to the dentist because there was nothing else that could be done. I was given antibiotics, which usually didn’t even help. I waited so long it was beyond what could be handled.

I was told several times that I could go in for a root canal and be able to make payments on it. I’d get halfway through and they would say: oh no we can’t take payments. It is a very sad situation. [Dental care] is very important to one’s health – one’s heart health – especially for a woman. It’s unfair and unconscionable that for myself – someone who is on state Medicaid – [dental care] is not included in my Medicaid bill. So I can go in and get all the rest of my body parts taken care of and looked at and yet the infections raging in my teeth have no importance whatsoever. I find that in this day and age it is ignorant to be holding people accountable for their health when you won’t cover the most integral parts that need to be checked.

A Personal Story: No Clemency for Uninsured – Naomi, Thetford

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Naomi lives in Thetford, Vermont. This is her story:

For almost 25 years our family had health insurance that included dental benefits. I had to have a tooth pulled a decade or so ago, after a botched root canal procedure; there is a visible gap, but fixing it was and is not an option: insurance didn’t cover such things and it was – and is – just too expensive.

Our children had good dental care while growing up, then, in college, our elder son put off visits to a dentist; he knew that, at the time, we were unemployed and uninsured and there was no money for what he thought was unnecessary care. After a few years, his teeth started to hurt (he never told Mom and Dad what was going on) and eventually he made an appointment. He had seven cavities; we had to find $2,000 to take care of what was at that point urgent. The dentist who had taken over the practice of our former (trusted, competent, kind) long-term dentist was and is completely inflexible and seemingly heartless about payment. No clemency of any kind for uninsured patients: pay up front is the rule. We now have health insurance, but there is no dental component. I’ve been told that I need fillings; my jaw hurts; but I’m just going to live with it.

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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

Friday, September 30th, 2011

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.”

A Personal Story: Delay Causes Cavities – Tessa, White River Junction

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Tessa, who lives in White River Junction, Vermont, hadn’t been to the dentist in five years because her previous dentist had closed their practice and she didn’t know where else to go. Tessa’s mom helped her find a new dentist about six months ago. Although Tessa had never had a single cavity up until her last visit, “I had eight cavities and two root canals, because we went five or six years without going to the dentist. I had a lot of work to be done. And I had just been pregnant.” Fortunately the work was all paid for by Medicaid. “It was a new thing for me and it sucked, especially the root canals.” Tessa does not have an appointment to go back since her dentist’s office got washed out by the flooding [or Tropical Storm Irene], although she just found out he has a second office up in Barre.

A Personal Story: Stranded from Care – Alicia, South Royalton

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Alicia is a young mother and has Vermont Medicaid for health insurance. She has lost two different dentists because they went out of business without referring her to someone else: “I was just kind of left stranded.” She currently has no dentist, and it’s been four or five years since she has seen somebody. She has a broken tooth that needs either a root canal or extraction, “I can’t swish cold or hot water around in my mouth because it hurts so bad.” Alicia has tried to find another dentist, but always seems to get put on a waiting list: “I think I’ve been on, like, four in the upper valley and I still haven’t heard back . . . It’s irritating and it’s frustrating and it feels like you don’t matter, so why should I keep trying? . . . I just don’t know who to go to anymore.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Don’t Bother with the ER – Caitlin, Norwich

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Caitlin has had a lot of work done on her teeth since childhood. She goes to the dentist regularly to make sure small problems don’t become larger. She has health insurance through Vermont Medicaid, but it does not cover the dental work she needs done, or the medical attention she needed as the result of an abscess that developed when a root canal failed.

Caitlin explains: “I had been to the dentist for a cleaning/exam (but opted not to pay for the standard bitewing x-rays) less than a month prior. The tooth in question had a root canal done and a crown placed quite a few years prior, and was fine for quite awhile. In June ’10 the root canal ‘failed’ and I ended up with an abscess forming under the crown which caused a lot of pressure on the nerves.”

“I made an appointment with the dentist and was given antibiotics and pain meds. The antibiotics, unlike in the past, didn’t reduce the swelling. The pain increased to where eating was difficult which led to constant nausea since neither antibiotics nor pain meds should be taken on an empty stomach. I made another dentist appointment but opted to go to the ER before that date arrived, as I was woozy from not eating and the pain was limiting my mobility.”

Unfortunately, the emergency room doctors could not help Caitlin: “Don’t bother go to the ER with a ‘dental emergency’. They will not help you… I was charged about $150 to be seen by the doctor and another $150 for application of a topical numbing solution which I should have refused, as of course it did nothing to address the nerves under the tooth, and told to call a dentist.”

“The dentist gave me different antibiotics and told me that they could not operate until the swelling decreased. I don’t remember if I was charged for that appointment. Those antibiotics did eventually work and at another appointment they performed the apicoectomy that got me on the road to recovery. $850 was a bargain, believe me. I had to put that charge on my credit card and left the ER bill unpaid. Amazingly, it took them almost a year to send a letter threatening collection and by that time I was able to pay the bill.”

“I went for a standard cleaning/exam visit (and got x-rays this time) a couple of weeks ago, adding another $182 to my credit card. With my dental history, I can justify that expense, but can’t imagine that most Vermonters have $400/year to spend on wellness visits.”

A Personal Story: Savings Wiped Out – Kate, South Strafford

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Kate, 39, is married with two children and living in South Strafford, Vermont. She takes her children to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, she goes once a year, and her husband goes more often: “He’s spent a lot of time at the dentist in the past few years.” Although the kids have dental insurance through Dr. Dynasaur, Kate and her husband pay for their care out of pocket. Kate’s husband had to have a lot of dental work done over the past three years: “It’s a hit. All his root canal stuff was probably a couple thousand dollars. But I feel like if we’d been paying dental insurance for ten years we would have paid that.” She and her husband paid for his dental work from their savings: “It wipes out the savings, and then we don’t fix the barn.”

A Personal Story: It Shouldn’t Be So Hard – Amy, Strafford

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

When Amy moved to Vermont fourteen years ago she had only been to the dentist twice since college. With only one cavity, she considered her teeth relatively healthy. Her story details how difficult it was for her to find satisfactory dental care, and how her oral health suffered as a result.

At the first dentist she tried, Amy had a cavity filled which needed to be repaired the very next year, and her dentist wasn’t comfortable when she brought her children to her appointments with her. The next dentist Amy found really worked well for her: similar health care philosophy, modern machines, short and effective appointments – unfortunately, this dentist had to close her practice for legal reasons. Amy’s third dentist gave her a treatment for her gums that stained her teeth brown, and then suggested they be artificially whitened. When her husband had to miss an appointment, the office cancelled hers as well, and wrote a two page letter of complaint.

At this point, Amy decided that she hated dentists, so she tried someone local who had a good sense of humor. He immediately scheduled her for a root canal. After the root canal, Amy had a three hour appointment to get a crown fitted, with pain that was, “worse than childbirth.” Amy had another root canal with this dentist, but could not bring herself to schedule the crown fitting. The tooth lost its temporary filling and a year and a half later, eventually rotted out. After this experience, Amy called a different dentist recommended by a relative, and has finally found someone she is happy with. But, about her experiences finding good dental care in the Upper Valley, Amy says: “It shouldn’t be so hard.”