Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't forget to floss!

A few days ago, Trent came down with a toothache. At first it was a mere twinge. "I'll wait," he thought, "and maybe it will go away." He popped a few Tylenol and kept it to himself. But the pain worsened, and when I noticed him wincing, he finally had to admit what was going on.

The dentist took an x-ray and announced that he would need a root canal plus a cap on one of his back teeth. Total estimated cost: $1800. "But I could buy a brand-new Apple laptop with that kind of money," Trent told her. "Isn't there another option?"

The other option was to simply pull the tooth, keep the wound clean, and live on liquids for two days while his gums heal up. Total cost: $108.

You can guess which option he chose. We don't even have $1800 in our emergency fund right now. Currently, he's downing nutrient shakes and water and dousing his mouth with saltwater at regular intervals.

I gripe whenever I have to pay $150 for a visit to the doctor, but in truth, the dentist is always more expensive. Always. They're forever finding another problem, another issue: a cavity, worn-down enamel, a chip, a little bleeding along the gumline. Every problem seems to warrant immediate attention, and every procedure comes complete with paralyzing sticker shock. Who can afford it? Whose emergency account can keep up with it? I don't understand why it has to cost so much when it's clear that the majority of the population can't afford such expensive treatments.

What's most frustrating is that we're pretty careful about our teeth. I brush twice daily, floss twice daily (yes, using the proper method), and rinse twice daily with enamel-restoring mouthwash. I don't drink soda or eat much candy. And yet the dental drama never ends!

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