Case Study: One Tooth

How Much for Just One Tooth?

Over my life, my oral hygiene has not been the best, and thanks to it, I have had extensive dental work done on most of the teeth in my mouth. I have learned to regret my poor oral hygiene habits of my youth (and the amount of sugary treats that I have eaten), but I will concentrate on a single bicuspid in my upper right jaw.

This tooth has had extensive work done on it. First it was filled due to it having a cavity, this must have cost upwards of $80 worth of work, which my parents insurance most likely covered. I most likely made the dentist’s life a living heck whilst this procedure was done (I am sure I am on a “patient from hell” list with the Canadian Dental Association).

Around my 30th birthday, I was eating a hard candy and I heard a snapping noise in my mouth, however I ignored it since nothing seemed to fall out of my mouth (I learned later that I cracked that tooth with that candy).

Teeth

A Questionable Smile

A year or so later, I started getting swelling in my upper right jaw, and it was decided that the tooth beside the bicuspid was the culprit, so a root canal was done on that tooth (it turns out that this was the wrong tooth), and that cost about $300 or so in procedures (remember this wasn’t even on that tooth).

I noticed the swelling dropped, but the pain continued in my jaw, and when I returned to my dentist a few months later he did a very unscientific test by turning around his observation mirror around and tapping teeth in my upper jaw and when he hit the bicuspid in question I jumped out of the chair and screeched in pain. This is where we came to the decision, we may have hit the wrong tooth, another root canal was scheduled, $300 more was spent, but this time on the right tooth.

We then needed to think about a crown for this bicuspid, another $900 later (only half covered under my insurance), a brand spanking new crown appeared on this mummified tooth.

Story over, you might think? Nope, the crown was a little tall, and I managed to knock it off chewing some gum, and thus the crown had to be attached again (about $120 more spent). You must be done, right? Nope, I knocked the crown out again (another $120) and this time I was told that if it was knocked out again, there was nothing else to be done.

Another year passed, the crown became dislodged after it being “loose” for a long time, another $100 spent not reattaching it (and in fact not giving back to me the crown, I should have been allowed to keep it as a souvenir).

Now I had a whole in my jaw with some mummified roots under it. That needed to be removed, and that cost another $600 to remove this past month.

Final Cost?

So, thanks to my bad oral hygiene as a youth, I ended up spending over $2000 to end up with a hole in my jaw where a tooth once was, and remember this is only 1 tooth (and not counting cleanings as well). Oh, and if you thought that was the end of the story, nope, because now I have to have  a prosthesis put in place as well (possibly up to another $1000 (at least)).

Good oral hygiene for your kids and in your youth pays dividends later in life (OK, maybe not dividends, but does not create debt or expenses later in life).

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Dentistry, in your financial plan?

How are your teeth? Mine are not in great shape and I have had a history of bad teeth, and it hasn’t got much better as I got older. Currently I have 4 Crowns in my mouth and at least 3 teeth that I would guess will soon become crowns.

Crowns are a wonderful thing that for some reason is viewed as a Prosthetic for most insurance plans, and thus are rarely covered more than 50% by most Dental plans (and in some cases not at all). What does this mean, financially?

Each crown with installation has been about $1000 each (that does not seem completely out of whack with what I have heard from other folks, so I don’t blame my dentist for this charge). This means I have been out of pocket almost $2000 so far for the crowns that I have had put in, and that is a LARGE chunk of change, as I had not planned on these expenses, but I will be in the future.

Do I have other options? Yes, I could have the teeth extracted, but then I must get either dentures or a real prosthetic, both of which are not covered much under most dental plans.

Other interesting dentistry related expenses might be Orthodontic work, for you (adults are getting braces more and more) or for your kids. This is usually only covered 50% by most dental plans. A lot of times if both parents are working they can get almost all of this work done, but for us lucky single income families we only get about 1/2 of the expense covered (unless it is for a medical condition like a cleft pallet, in which case it is mostly covered under Medicare (and rightfully so)).

That ability to cover both 1/2’s of a coverage shortfall that dual income families (that both have benefits plans) is yet another advantage that dual income families have over single income families.

My kids wonder why I keep bugging them to brush their teeth? For your financial future, that’s why!!!

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I paid $900 for what? (rant)

Well, that was the question that resonated in my head after leaving my dentist yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I needed to have a crown put on the root canal, because the tooth was in bad shape, but holy cow $900.00 !

Now here is the financial part of it, out of that only about $450 to $500 will be “covered” by my “insurance company”, and I am out of pocket for the rest, because I am getting a porcelain crown (my insurance covers a lot more of a metal one), but the porcelain one has a life-time guarantee? Very confusing.

I have always found what is covered by insurance plans (especially dental) very arbitrary, and I wondered who makes these decisions? Evidently at my company (a large high tech firm) since the company “self insures” (i.e. Sun Life runs the program but the money comes directly from my company) the company decides what is covered (I was surprised when I figured that one out), so my company decides, but I don’t have any chance to appeal this either {grumble}

The other problem is that since my wife does not have an insurance program, I have been told that the other half which is not covered by my “insurance company” might be covered by her “insurance company”, but I will never know. Remember my favorite rant about dual income families getting unfair advantages over single income families (I should Divorce My Wife?) add this to the list. {grumble}

Now this rant is not ragging on my dentist (he does a great job dealing with a paranoid lunatic like me) but I am not happy about the arbitrary nature of how “what is covered in insurance plans” is decided (especially in big companies).

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