I thought I should write this post because sometimes it feels like we are a nation divided–those who have had to suffer through dental work and those that blissfully go through life having no idea what a root canal is. Those same people don’t really care what the dental insurance limit is per year because they just get the standard two cleanings.

For the rest of us, we know the difference in pain and cost of a filling, a root canal, a gum graft, a crown, a bridge, an implant, and a partial denture.  Dental insurance has hardly moved from its annual maximum from 25 years ago (different by health plan) $1,000-$1,500. Yes, they’ll cover 80% of that $1,000 root canal, and you’ll have $200 left over to put towards that crown that always comes after the root canal. Crowns? They cost around $900-1,200. I’ll never forget the day I found out I had to have an implant ($5,000) and someone came up to me to whine about a filling.  Why an implant? After 15 years, some of my root canals started to fail; when it fails, you need to have the rest of the tooth removed. Options for taking care of that empty space are:

  • Do nothing, work around it.
  • Get a bridge (two crowns on either side of the empty space) $1,200
  • Get an implant for around $5,000 and months of waiting

There are many reasons for dental problems: lack of access to dental care, poor dental hygiene, born without tooth enamel, grind/clench teeth at night, trauma to the teeth in an accident (car, sports, falling), and the big one–genetics.  When you lose teeth in the back, it doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal because you can’t really see it.  What you soon realize is that those are your critical teeth for the life-sustaining ability to chew food.

After a recent bridge failure, I’ve decided to try a different procedure developed by Nobel Biocare. It’s very expensive, but after reviewing the options with my oral surgeon, we agreed it was the best longterm option since I have more root canals that will fail.  I had the means to borrow to fund this–the equivalent to buying a new car for the next 5 years.  It will be a long and painful process, but it has to be done.

Let’s be honest – your smile is a big part of how you are perceived. I’ve seen studies that show people with crooked or missing teeth frequently miss out on getting hired or promoted.  When only half the population has some form of dental insurance, we expect everyone to have perfect teeth? If someone doesn’t smile at you, don’t assume it’s you (I mean, it could be…but maybe not). I’ve been complimented on my smile and told my teeth look great–as they curiously wonder about all my trips to the dentist. They had no idea what was going on below the gum.

What would you do if you were playing softball after work and had three front teeth knocked out?  You may have insurance, but it’s probably not going to pay the full $15,000 for three dental implants and bone grafting (which is a year-long process). How self conscious would you be when you went to smile or eat?

I was diagnosed in/around 2000 with a vitamin D deficiency. I took a prescription to boost it up, and now take over the counter vitamin D. Who knows how many years I had this deficiency that contributed to all of my dental problems?

Things I would do differently: wear the mouthguard my dentist recommended, brush and floss my teeth after every meal, avoid chewy candy (Starburst, Tootsie Rolls, etc.), and address problems early.