This may shock you, but I have a confession to make:
I went ten years without visiting a dentist.
Back in December I mentioned briefly that I had been dealing with a dental issue. Well, now it’s over, and I’m a lot poorer dollar-wise. The dentist (Maureen’s dentist) was thorough and did a great job.
Prior to that, I didn’t visit any dentist at all for a decade. Why?
Well, ten years is a long time. So the reasons varied from time to time. I originally stopped going after another botched procedure from a really awful dentist. It turns out that botched procedure was on the same tooth that needed to be worked on this time. I’m confident that this new fix is much better, and will be good for years to come.
And that was my first problem. I have been to many dentists over the years. My count is 11. Of those, only three (this latest one included) were worth a damn. The rest were incompetent, prone to creating great amounts of pain without believing they were doing so, or just crooks who wanted my money but didn’t do anything about my problems. Or some combination of the three. The first good dentist I had, I had to leave because I moved out of the city he is in. The second good one became too busy and pushed me off to the other dentist in his practice, who was the one who performed the bad procedure that caused my present-day issue.
After that last one (the eighth horrible dentist I’ve encountered), I vowed to never again see a dentist unless the need was urgent. Oh, I know that dental hygiene is important for everyone, including People With Diabetes. I’m a diligent brusher, and a maniacally-obsessed flosser and mouth-washer. But the way I looked at it, I was experiencing more problems, and throwing more good money after bad on dental work that either wasn’t helping me or needed to be reworked later, that I figured I would be better off on my own.
So, now that I’ve found another good dentist (only the third in my entire life) who does good work, will I visit more often? Probably not. Only this time, it has more to do with money than anything.
I make a decent middle-income salary. But the sad fact is, like so many other things in our lives these days, there is really only enough money in the budget to take care of one set of teeth in my house, and that’s Maureen’s. The vast majority of our healthcare spending goes toward taking care of my diabetes, and so, when things get to where we realize we can afford something else for one but not both of us, most of the time that money goes for Maureen. It’s disgusting that in our country, healthcare costs are so crazy that someone with an income like mine (who has insurance) still has to make decisions about what medical procedure to pay for, and what to leave out. Even for my teeth. But that’s the way it is. And I shudder to think what someone with less has to decide on.
I’m not proud of how I’ve managed my dental health over the decades. But this is my reality. And the reality is that while I used to rant against dentists, now I’m ranting about the cost of the entire healthcare system. Even if I find someone I trust, there is no conceivable way for me to pay to fix everything in my mouth while still paying for the rest of my and my spouse’s overall healthcare. For now, this is what I have to deal with. I finally have a dentist to go to for urgent care, but not for preventive care.
And yeah, I’m a little pissed off about it.