Thursday, September 23, 2010

Root Canal Time!

Well, actually it was Tuesday morning. I had part of a filling pop out a few of months ago, and just kinda let it slide. Sure enough, my jaw started to ache, so I asked my wife to schedule an appointment with the Dentist that we're covered under with her medical plan, and went to see him.
What a mess!
It took their assistant FOUR times to get a decent X-ray of the tooth, and then the "Dentist" walks in and calmly says "We'll have to pull that tooth".
Being the curious type, I've always asked a lot of questions at my previous Dentist, who took great delight in explaining what she was doing to a patient who actually understood all the terms, and asked intelligent questions. I just instinctively KNEW the tooth couldn't possibly be that bad, so I asked this new Dentist about the possibilities of getting it *properly* repaired, probably involving a crown at minimum, and a root canal/crown if it really was as bad as he seemed to indicate. "Well....", he started to hem and haw, "I can *probably* call the insurance company to see if it's OK to refer you to a specialist....but I don't know if they'll approve it....".
So? CALL THEM! He seemed a little put off by this, but instructed his office person to call, and low and behold, they approved it immediately.
When I got home, the specialist called me, informed it would be a $100 co-pay to get started, plus anything the insurance wouldn't cover, and I'd have to come in for an examination. Then, I'd go back to the referring Dentist, who would prep the tooth, and then go back to the second dentist would would do the root canal, and fit a temporary crown. After some time, the permanent crown would be ready, and I'd back and have it installed.
The whole process would take about a month. A MONTH!
I immediately called my original Dentist, and they told me to come in for a consultation as soon as I could get there. My dentist looked at it briefly, and then turned me over to her new partner, who took the X-rays (digital images, actually, and ready to view in seconds), and said there was no way that tooth should be pulled, and that, as I suspected, it could be saved. As I was waiting, their office manager called the insurance company, which was the same I've had since 1999 but I'm on a different plan now, and tried to find out how much, if any, of the charges they'd pick up. Nada.....the plan my wife has requires you to go to certain Dentists, and if you don't, it's YOUR bill to pay.
Oh, well......
Seeing as I really trust this Dentist, and the one required by my wife's insurance just kinda-sorta creeped me out, I went ahead and scheduled the entire procedure with them.
One of the reasons I like this dentist is that she's got all the latest whiz-bang equipment (she taught briefly at the USC Dental school after she graduated) like the digital imaging equipment, they have all my records, and they're genuinely nice, caring people who do most excellent work. They've won professional awards, she takes off a few times a year to God-forsaken places to do free Dentistry for the locals, and I just felt much more comfortable (even paying the entire tab out-of-pocket) going there.
One of the neat machines she has now, is a 3D imaging "camera", and the PC software to go with it. As she was prepping the tooth, she'd take images of it, and examine them to see how things were going to fit in relation to my other teeth. When she was done, she "adjusted" the images for a final fit, and then sent the file to the little bench-top CNC machining center in another room. As the second dentist was doing the actual root canal work, the CNC mill went ahead and produced the crown to the dimensions specified in the digital file. After a brief trial fit and some adjust ment, she attached the crown, did the final polishing to fit my bite, and I was done.
Total time? A little over three hours!
Yeah, it cost me about $2k, but I know the job was done properly, I was minimal discomfort the whole time, the crown fits perfectly, and I'll never have to worry about it again.
I look at it this way.....if my Jeep needed a new transmission or transfer case, I'd pay that much to get it fixed properly, and at my age, I'd better take at least as good of care of myself!


  1. WOW! The YF's plan sounds like Obamacare!

    I was just at the dentist today getting X-rays and an exam. Everything looked OK.

    Prior to retiring, I made sure the dentist looked at all the work I've had done and recommend those that ought to be replaced. I had the last restoration a couple of weeks before I retired. Sure glad I did too.

  2. Almost as bad! She has Delta dental, and Delta has 3 levels of coverage. When I was at DirecTV and also at Boeing, I had the "Premium" level, which is where you can go to just about any Dentist you want.
    The YF has the "bottom" level, which covers her spouse and any dependent children. Her son is 33, so I'm the only other one it covers. She can get the Premium coverage, but then it's only for *her*!
    My "real" Dentist would always send me a reminder in September/October to schedule any work I might need so I didn't go 'over budget' with insurance carrier.

  3. I've got a good plan, and I'd have done the same thing you did Jim, it's not worth playing their games... sigh...

  4. Yeah, when I first called my "old" Dentist, I happened to get her directly, as her office manager was out for lunch. As I was talking to her (I knew the tooth number!), she had my records, X-rays, and her notes pulled up on her PC, and instantly knew that tooth had one of my reeealy old filings in it.
    And about half-way through fitting the new crown, she stopped and told me if I _ever_ lost a filling again to contact her immediately. My full, out-of-pocket cost for replacing a filling would have been about $200, not to mention the pain I'd NOT have had!


Keep it civil, please....