Take Care and Stay Prepared

I wish it was that easy...

Today was a really tough day.

It started at 2am when the boy got up and was sitting on the side of the bed and started shaking and crying.

After some prodding I eventually found out why: He had a tooth that had split and was in a ton of pain. He was afraid to take more ibuprofen (even though he really hadn’t taken a lot) and he couldn’t sleep. This had apparently been going on for a day and he hadn’t told me but it was just getting worse. After another dose of ibuprofen he got back to sleep for about two hours. At 4:45am he woke up again. In pain. Crying.

I was on the internet trying to find 24-hour dentists. Turns out, no dentist wants to work at 4:45am. The boy confided in me that he was deathly afraid of dentists. So much so that he hasn’t been in years. This will come back in to play…

After another dose of pain pills he was back asleep until 8:30am. I had him call work and say he wasn’t coming in. I did the same (thankfully I don’t teach any classes on Thursday!). I then called one of the dentists online that offered “Emergency Dentistry”. It was close to my apartment. So I dropped him off, went home and took out the dog, then went back to get him.

When I got there they ushered me back in to the room that he was in. He was sitting there with a box of Kleenexs sobbing. It was heart-breaking. When I got there he put it head on my chest and just cried. I’ve never seen a grown man cry like this before. In pain, but also embarrassed.

Embarrassed, I soon found out, because this wasn’t just a one tooth issue. This was a whole mouth issue. He had taken such poor care of his teeth because of his fear of dentists that 8 need to be extracted because they were dead with decay. 8 teeth unsalvageable because of years and years of neglect. The dentists showed me his mouth where his back teeth were and I nearly threw up the decay was so intense.

How he was able to go this long with the state of his mouth is beyond me. How I didn’t notice it is also pretty amazing…

She prescribed him an antibiotic for the infection in the tooth where the pain was originating and a one for vicadin to handle the pain. And left us with referrals for oral surgeons.

We went immediately to the pharmacy and got his prescriptions filled. Ten minutes after taking the vicodin he could function. The pain was there, but dulled.

Now, all this time he was thinking that he didn’t have dental coverage through his work. So he thought he was going to have to pay for the extractions out of pocket.

So we went back to his house and I started calling the surgeons we’d been referred to, to get quotes and availability.

It was starting to look like he’d be paying around $4,000 to get all of this done. And the soonest anyone would see him was next week.

Then he called his insurance to see if medical would cover oral surgery. It does in network. $1,000 deductable and 70% coverage.  Much better than $4,000 out of pocket which he didn’t have. They gave him a “list” of in-network oral surgeons. I put “list” in quotations because it was one doctor long.

We called. They could see him tomorrow for a consultation and depending on how bad it was they would do the extraction then or wait for Monday (once they see his mouth, I’m sure that decision will be easy).

I then had him call Human Resources to confirm that he didn’t have dental insurance. The HR person called back. Sure enough he does. *WHEW* So we called the insurance company and the oral surgeon that is in network for the medical insurance is also in network for the dental insurance. The dental insurance is $50 deductible and then covers 80% of the cost for extractions. Now we’re getting to somewhere manageable price-wise.

Also, they cover his trip to the dentist this morning, so he’ll get reimbursed all but the deductible for that. He was feeling very relieved at this point about the cost factor.

He’s getting this taken care of, but this still will leave him with a mouth that is 8 teeth short. And when he gets this fixed I can only imagine that if 8 are decayed to the point of no salvation than the rest probably need a whole lot of work.

I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t understand how someone can ignore such a problem for so long. How could he have let his fear of the dentist rob him of his teeth? How could he believe that ignoring these issues wouldn’t end up in this very result?

I’m left with a few lessons from this experience:

1. Prevention is always cheaper than repair. Had he had his regular check ups and cleanings and flossed, ect. None of this would have happened.

2. In the choice between fight or flight: choose fight. His fear response made him run away from his problem. This made it worse. Had he faced his fears when they first arose the situation would not have escalated to such a point. With your body, you answer has to always be fight.

3. Emergencies do happen. Thankfully the boy has an emergency fund that was stocked with $1,500. He can afford his deductibles and this initial procedure. There will be more work down the line which I will insist that he does, but at least he can afford to get this work done. I’m glad he won’t have to rely on credit to get this work done.

4. Take care of yourself. You only get one life, one body, one chance. You don’t want to be ashamed  at the end of the day by your lack of inaction. This is about more than teeth – I think we all know that.

5. Know your benefits and make sure you stay in contact with your insurance. Not knowing that he had dental  insurance could have cost him a lot of money. Calling to find an in-network dentist and to approve the procedure before hand I think is a great thing to do. I’ve never gotten anything done from insurance that I haven’t called before hand (unless it is routine like a yearly pap smear or I have a cold). I don’t want to end up stuck with a bill that I can’t pay.

I will be there for him, make sure he gets through this okay. I think this will bring up some serious conversation between us once he’s healed about the implications of this situation. I will probably have to enforce some tough, supportive love in this case. Because he needs someone by his side to make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again and that the rest of his mouth is cared for. And eventually I hope that he’ll be able to get implant replacements to fix his smile. Thankfully none of the teeth to be removed are in the front but are all molars. Still, the boy needs some teeth!

Also, I scheduled my teeth cleaning. It’s been a year. And wow, there was no greater motivation that what I saw today.

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7 Responses to Take Care and Stay Prepared

  1. Oh, this is horrifying. I also hate the dentist and finally went in April for the first time in 5 years. Luckily my teeth were OK (I’ve been sort of anal about brushing & flossing since I knew not going to the dentist was a bad thing), but I’d been procrastinating on scheduling my next cleaning, and I think I just found some motivation!

    Go easy on him. You can laugh, but going to the dentist is really stressful for people with the phobia – I burst into tears after my cleaning!

  2. If you find something that helps with dental phobia, please tell us about it. My husband is on a 5 year cycle of ignoring his teeth until he is in so much pain that he needs thousands of dollars of work, all because he is afraid of the dentist. I say cycle because he’s about to do this for the third time since I’ve met him. I find it quite bizarre, but apparently he had a sadistic dentist as a child, and he just can’t get over it.

  3. eemusings says:

    Hooooo boy. So glad he had in surance and it is working out.

    T and I recently had checkups and I plan to arrange for us ot get cleanings and fillings early next year. (There’s just too much to deal with at this time of year…have to sort out the car and get it warrantable, book his chiro, shop for Christmas presents, arrange leave, freelance work etc.) Bring on the new year!

  4. LBC Teacher says:

    Wow, that sounds awful! I am going to floss tonight after hearing that story…and maybe make my bf read this one and ask him about the last time he’s gone to the dentist!

  5. Pingback: Ignorance. «

  6. Pingback: Obliviousness – The Art of Self Delusion «

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