Not entirely sold on everything he'd proposed - especially the part that involved replacing the silver fillings - I decided to seek a second opinion. I made an appointment with another dentist in the same practice. Today, in a consultation for which she did not charge me, she spent 20 minutes peering into my mouth and reviewing my x-rays. Her determination: while I do need one crown, the other one is, at this point, unnecessary. Moreover, the old fillings are in good shape, and there's no need to fix something that isn't broken. She then helped me prioritize which remaining issues to address first and which ones we can tackle in a few months. Clearly, she will be the person I trust with my teeth from here on out.
New total treatment plan cost: $1703. It's still expensive and still financially painful, but it's $1832 less than the first proposed plan.
I spoke with the office manager about the best way to pay for these procedures, since my insurance won't cover it. She suggested Care Credit, but although it sounds like a pretty above-board option, I have no intention of going back into credit card debt. When I explained this to her, she assured me the dentist will allow me to pay off the balance in a couple of installments. I think we'll be able to make that work.
I'm glad I didn't assume that the first guy was the All Knowing, Never-to-be-Questioned God of Dentistry. I'm glad I sought the advice of another expert. This is the first time I've asked for a second opinion, but it won't be the last. From here on out, I will take a more proactive approach to my health care. Doing so could be beneficial to my well-being and to my wallet.