Tag Archives: Dentists

Open Wide So I Can Extract Your Savings Account

ImageNow that we’ve solved the problems with America’s medical care so beautifully, it’s time to turn our attention to the biggest health care circus in town, dental insurance and dentistry in general. David and I were setting up appointments for spending out the last of this year’s benefits and calculating how much to put aside in my flex spending plan for next year, when I thought that it might be a good idea to see exactly how much I was paying in premiums in order to get a paltry $1,000 each in benefits each year. It turns out that I am paying $540.00 annually for both of us. That’s more than a quarter of the benefit! I swear, I spent more out-of-pocket on my last crown ($1200) than I did when I gave birth and stayed in the hospital for five days ($36). Gone are the good old days when you could walk down to the corner dentist and pay him with a chicken.

When I was a child, I had a long-term illness that wreaked havoc on my permanent teeth, so I spent most of my childhood in a dentist’s chair. It’s not my favorite place to be, so I spend lots of time brushing and even flossing, since my hygienist sister shamed me into it almost 30 years ago. No one could tell that by looking in my mouth, of course, and I’m sure most dentists think of me as a slacker. I comfort myself that dentists all over the world are not so judgmental. David Sedaris relates in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls that his French dentist laughingly asked him why in the world a man his age would be considering braces, and he replied that perhaps it was because he could floss his teeth with his bathrobe belt. She scoffed that surely he could find better things to do with his time than flossing.*

This past year of “care” at my dentist’s office has been less than stellar. I think the average age of the staff is about 16, and, no doubt, they all go to the gym and spa together after work. At my last complete exam, the tiny little blond hygienist had the personality of a cardboard cutout and could not seem to make any conversation that did not come directly from the manual of How to Talk to Your Patients. Although I told her exactly what I wanted, she silently went about her work and, at the end, presented me with a $4,000 treatment plan that I was supposed to sign. “But,” I protested, “I really do want to replace that filling that fell out!” She looked offended at my dismissal of her masterpiece, but agreed to set up an appointment.

Earlier in the year, I had a new crown put in to replace a temporary crown that I’d had for… um, ever. I mentioned that I had been having trouble with the last crown that I’d received there, and the new dentist, who resembles a tall version of Joey on Friends—which does not inspire confidence— looked at the computer screen and told me that I did not have a crown on that tooth. I had to convince him to turn around and look into my mouth, at which he nearly jumped and exclaimed, “Oh, you do have a crown there!” He then proceeded to cheerfully take $1,200 for putting in the next one. At least I didn’t need a root canal this time, for another $1,000.

ImageWhy does dental care cost so much? I admit that I yell at the television when those ads come on celebrating the fact that a local group of dentists spends one day a year fixing the teeth of homeless people for free. Sure, that’s great, and I am all for it. But, I yell, “That’s because you spend 364 days a year robbing the rest of us blind!” We use one third of our annual benefit on a normal cleaning and exam. We’re supposed to go twice, but then we can’t get anything actually fixed. It’s not that I don’t think American dentistry is the best in the world. It is. After all, we could have the British system, with results shown here.

What to do? Surely we can hire some crackerjack programmers to set up a great system to keep track of every molar in the nation. If it got too complicated, the entire flowchart could point to dentures if the patient is above 60. Citizens might not be too thrilled with that, but then the denture lobby would get involved, and it would all go smoothly from there.  Even white teeth and healthy pink gums for all. In the meantime, I think I’ll have to set my flex spending plan to max and just assume that we won’t pay the electric bills next year.


*Very loosely paraphrased with apologies to Mr. Sedaris.

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What an Eventful Week!

We’ve been up to all kinds of things lately— good, bad, and terrifying—so I thought I’d do a bit of a roundup.

Monday was the ALA Youth Media Awards (Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and so on), so my former colleague, Danielle, and her four-month-old, Harper, came to see me at work so that we could watch the webcast together. Since it was Harper’s first awards season, her tastes were not quite as refined as Danielle’s and mine, but we all cheered and booed appropriately nonetheless. Harper particularly enjoyed any opportunities to grin and show off her first two teeth. As far as the awards go, I think our Mock Newbery and Mock Printz clubs at the libraries did a better job. John Green was thoroughly dissed, and some of the choices were rather obscure, but we were generally happy.

Tuesday was a truly rugged dentist’s appointment. I was in the chair for three hours having a temporary, much-too-old crown removed and replaced with a lovely new one. At one point, I was shocked to find that the burning smell that was worrying me was coming from my mouth. My dentist looks like a movie star, and his assistant is a down-home girl. When I came in, she was already deep into a tractor show on the History Channel. In my three-hour stint, I learned how to pull a tractor, the history and workings of a Lamborghini, and that your father’s Woody Woodpecker toy is worth something at the Antiques Road Show. I also found out that there are people who are so deranged that they will allow themselves to be closed into a car that is then sealed into a plastic bag and pumped full of teargas. This is to find out whether the car is truly airtight. I guess if you die, your car wins.

David spent Tuesday repairing his brakes, which went out on his trip back from a home showing one hour away. He drove home the whole way without brakes. I knew that the Lord woke me up to pray for him for a reason the night before this trip. He is alive and well! And has brakes. And a contract on the house.

This morning, I went to my doctor, whom I love even though she gave me a flu shot. My cholesterol is 164! Bad cholesterol is way down, triglycerides at 94. We are happy. Still testing at-risk for diabetes, but not diabetic. She approves the low-carb diet and exercise, and believes that my diabetes is being reversed. This was a much better morning than yesterday.

After my four adult nonfiction books, I went on to read a new children’s bio called Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, by Sy Montgomery. If you don’t know Temple Grandin, you should. She is an inspiration. She was born before anyone knew anything about autism, and her wealthy father was so distressed that his daughter was less than perfect that he wanted her to be committed to an institution. Her mother was extremely courageous and fought even her doctor by keeping Temple at home, hiring speech therapists and psychologists, and then getting her into a mainstream school. Today, Temple Grandin has a Ph.D. in animal behavior and has designed the more humane procedures now used in over 50% of meat-packing plants. She did this at a time when no one cared about animal cruelty, no one believed anything a woman had to say, and no one had ever dealt with an autistic adult before. The book is terrific for kids, especially kids with autism, and is a great introduction for adults. The HBO movie of her life, which she talks about in the book, starred Claire Danes and won a pile of awards.  That was my introduction to her life, and you would love it. Temple herself has had a great deal of participation in both of these projects and is very interested in helping everyone to understand autism and animal husbandry. She is the only person to have won awards from both PETA and the American Meat Institute.

David and I have now torn through seasons one and two of Parenthood, which my sister lent us on DVD. Season 3, disc 1 arrived from Netflix today. If you have not been watching Parenthood, allow me to introduce you to your new friends, the Braverman family: four grown siblings, two sisters and two brothers. They all have kids, and they and their parents all live near each other (which is convenient for filming). It all sounds just too twee, but it’s not. Some are control freaks, some are free spirits, two are married, two not. There are teenagers, so that’s another layer of stress and complications. Sometimes they all get along, but there are all sorts of plots and subplots to pull them apart and bring them back together. If you have siblings or parents or kids, you will see yourself in at least one or two of them. David and I find ourselves talking about them as if they were our crazy relatives and we can’t believe some of the choices they’ve made. Totally absorbing. It’s in its fourth season live right now.

One of the elements of Parenthood that I really appreciate is the fabulous music. Lucy Schwartz does the theme song, which I love and can sing to you by heart. Even more so, I have become a big fan of Ray LaMontagne, whose song “Let It Be Me” played during a particularly touching scene. I jumped up and found a website that lists every song on every episode, then went to Grooveshark and played this one in full. I was a sobbing fool. All of his songs are bluesy and mellow, so if I played him and Norah Jones back to back while driving, I would probably fall asleep at the wheel. However, if you like that sort of thing, give him a listen!

I guess that’s it! We’re trying to get our taxes filed tomorrow, since real estate is sorta slack in midwinter. So, back to the calculator for me!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Diabetes, Life's Travails- Big and Small