These chompers ain’t cheap!

Do you think it’s excessive if I fly to London to visit Caroline for my dental care? I HATEthe dentist. I think I’m probably scarred from a childhood of having to have just about every baby tooth pulled, spending too much time in the orthodontist’s chair while wearing braces, and the whole wisdom tooth ordeal.

Early last week I was sitting at my desk at work, enjoying a piece of gum, when all of a sudden I bit down on something crunchy.
Since it was… you know… gum… I was surprised that there was anything crunchy. I took the piece of gum out of my mouth and there was a little white fleck in it. I still didn’t know what it was, but I ran my tongue over my teeth to see if there was anything else there. My front molar on the right hand side felt odd so I looked in the mirror behind my office door. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the white thing in my gum had in fact been part of my tooth.
And that was the easy part.
I’ve paid for dental insurance for the several years I’ve been at my current job, but I have never actually used it. After this experience I think I know why. The first thing I did was take recommendations from my coworkers about dentists they preferred. None of them were accepting new patients. I finally was able to contact the dentist that I signed up with years ago, where technically I was not a new patient and made the next available appointment for several days later.
Evidently I needed a root canal on that tooth. I wish I knew more about dental care than I do because I feel like this guy could say whatever he wants and I would just have to agree to it. With the rest of my medical care, I know how to advocate for myself. I go into every appointment with research, knowledge, and questions. If I don’t agree with the recommended treatment, I am able to discuss it with my doctor and we find a compromise. I feel like any compromise here will leave me toothless.
I paid a reasonable amount of money at the first emergency appointment. At the end of the appointment, the receptionist told me how much the root canal was going to cost. Without using exact numbers, let’s just say it was several hundred dollars. Oh, and she mentioned it had to be paid in full at the next appointment. Thankfully I had recently received my tax return so I could cover the cost. I thought that was the end of the expense.
I went to the follow up appointment today for the actual root canal. I brought the pricing list from the dental insurance company with me because as hard as I tried I just could not figure out how to get the total to the price they had quoted me.
She broke down the pricing for me and… wouldn’t you know that the most expensive item on the bill was not on the pricing list – and if it’s not on the list I get a fabulous 20% off the cost of the service. But that is not all, the hundreds of dollars I paid today was just for the root canal. I still need to pay several (read = SEVERAL) hundred more dollars for a crown on that tooth. But golly gee, that needs to be done over two separate appointments so I can pay half at each appointment.
good teeth :)
And here’s where it just gets ridiculous. I have only had one cavity in my life – in my early teens. Several years after that filling, part of my tooth broke off the filling and, long story short, I needed a root canal. They did NOT do a crown on top of the root canal; I just had a larger filling on it. It is the tooth DIRECTLY next to the new problem tooth. According to this dentist, that tooth also now needs a crown. And when I asked for the pricing breakdown on the crowns, again the most expensive part of the procedure was not on the list.
I am so frustrated. I feel like there is nothing I can do but agree to these procedures. I am calling the dental insurance company tomorrow to make sure the pricing is accurate, but after that I just have to suck it up and pay. I DO NOT have the money for all of this. Not that I don’t WANT to spend the money on it, I don’t have it. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I guess it’s time to break out the emergency credit card to pay off my fancy fake chompers.


  • Be thankful you have dental insurance; a majority of Americans don’t and that root canal and the crowns can cost THOUSANDS (each) if paid for out-of-pocket, meaning your co-pay looks pretty cheap by comparison!

  • Ouch and ouch again. Been there and done that. And yes, root canals and the crown ARE expensive. If you have a flexible spending plan, you can use that to cover the costs that aren’t paid for by insurance. But even if you do have an FSA, there’s a good chance it’s not enough to cover all of that.

  • Dental insurance is a joke past cleanings and fillings.

    I cringe at your experience because I know before too long, I need to do something about implants for two loose baby teeth where the adult teeth were impacted and removed ten years ago. I know it will eat into my savings significantly.

  • I just went thru this at Christmas – I broke a tooth Christmas Eve. My insurance does not cover crowns at all and the stuff that they do cover, I still have to pay 40% of. I opted to just get it pulled. At least my insurance paid 60% of that.

  • We carried dental insurance for years but were paying over $100 per month for it. Then when you needed it there was a deductible plus they only paid a percentage of the procedure. They did pay $1000 towards my kids braces but I had to come up with $4000. I think they paid $400 towards my husband’s root canal but we still had to come up with a big check. So we dropped the insurance about 5 years ago. Of course now my 22 year old needs all 4 wisdom teeth out in the Spring. She went for the inititial appointment during Spring Break. She brought the little folder back with the info for the procedure and they want $1750 up front before the procedure. Yikes.

  • I broke a tooth eating a butterscotch button candy a long time ago. That was the last time I ate a candy like that! I am going for a cleaning today, and feel certain that I will receive good reports. All of my teeth have been “upgraded” and the old metals replaced with new safer stuff and porcelain. Might as well be gold LOL! I don’t see why you can’t negotiate with your dentist, it’s worth a shot Sara.

  • A number of years ago I had just been to the dentist and given a clean bill of healthy teeth. Two weeks later I woke up to the worst pain ever. It turned out I had a chronic infection in my teeth which led to 8 root canals and 8 crowns. Never want to go though that again. Now those crowns are getting old and need to be replaced. It took me years to go back to the dentist because of the 6 months of torture I went through and I mean torture. I now go to a Dental School which has a fears clinic and has been very good for me and they charge me a lot less than a regular dentist and they do a fabulous job. Sure they take twice as long but when they finish the work is very good so I will not complain. It took me long enough to be accepted into the program and there I will stay. Yes dental care costs an arm and a leg and I can testify to that.

  • Hello Sara,

    Ouch! I know and feel your pain. (A short story) I was going to a dentist while I was employed and had decent insurance. He determined that I needed a root canal and crown. The pain was very bad and the bill was over $2700.00. I went to work traveling and at lunch bit down on something hard and broke off part of that tooth. It hurt bad. I went to a local dentist in the small town I was in and he pulled the tooth for $25.00.

    I now know what I am going to do when I walk into a dentists office. The only option I give them past cleaning is pull. No more fillings or canals or crowns. Oh I am 70 and fully retired so I can get away with it. Nice smile.

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