I went to a Dental One Associates office on the southside of Atlanta today.
And my reason for doing so was unfortunately unrelated to a bi-annual cleaning or any other such frivolity that ensures that the number of dental offices per capita almost always correlates directly with community income per capita--at least in this country.
I endured an hour and a half of the obligatory Al Jarreau music and general discomfort for two reasons:
1. I’m too far away from the Mexican border to get to a reasonably priced dental office—especially given my limited time considerations
2. My lower jaw is throbbing to the point that it feels like it is about to fall off, and at this point, I sort of wish it just would.
I spent hours Monday price-shopping dentists located within a thirty mile radius from where I live. Even though I was 100-percent sure that my should-have-been-extracted-five-years-ago wisdom teeth were the cause of my oral pain, not one dentist's office I talked to would allow me to skip the cleaning/screening and go straight to the surgery consultation/x-rays.
Until today, I had not been a dentist's patient in over two years. I do not have dental insurance or health insurance. My employer does not offer dental coverage and the individual dental plans I compared all smelled like scams. I don’t have health insurance because I cannot qualify for coverage through my (small) employer’s HMO nor can I obtain a private individual plan due to a minor and asymptomatic heart abnormality.
As a Navy vet who recently served in "combat" (we got hazard pay, so to the VA it counts--even though I never left the ship), I do qualify for some VA medical benefits. However, I am not eligible for VA dental coverage. Few veterans are.
I chose Dental One Associates because they offered the best deal. A savings plan that I purchased for $85 cut the price of today’s screening, x-rays and cleaning to just $70 additional dollars. I also received a script for Amoxicillan. I was right--the area around my lower right wisdom tooth is badly infected. Luckily, area grocer Publix fills generic Amoxicillan prescriptions for free (take that Wal-Mart and your $4 drugs!).
Monday I have a consultation with the Dental One oral surgeon that will be followed by wisdom teeth removal some time later next week—at least according to my new dentist.
Even with the 20-percent discount guaranteed by the savings plan, I am expecting to pay about $1200 all told for this little bout with my jaw. That translates to roughly 5-percent of my pre-tax annual income, or a little more than two months rent.
The surgeon will definitely take out my bottom two WTs, and perhaps the one holdover on the top.
I had one wisdom tooth removed five years ago when I was living under a completely socialized healthcare system. The top left WT was wrestled from my mouth after it became infected and I sat on a waiting list for over a month. The U.S. Navy dentist who performed the procedure numbed the infected area with novacaine and then failed to remove the other three problematic molars because of time considerations. No anesthetics besides novacaine were used during the procedure.
So there you have it, modern American medicine and socialized healthcare: the best of both worlds right here in one mouth!
(Don't worry, I'm still buying gifts for family and friends this Christmas. And truthfully, with the way my mouth feels right now, I am incredibly thankful to have access to a dentist at all; so please don't take this post the wrong way.)