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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why you should learn from my mistakes!

Disclaimer: I am writing this post while under the influence of Lortab. I cannot be held responsible for any mistakes I might make while typing this post.

I've known my teeth needed work for years now. No dental insurance plus paycheck-to-paycheck living equals no money for the dentist. About two months ago I broke down and paid a dentist $75 for a consultation (due to a major toothache). His assistant took x-rays, I sat in the chair for about thirty minutes, dentist walked in for about five minutes and made some snide remarks about how much work my teeth were going to need. He had the typical dentist attitude, which made me feel like absolute garbage, and basically summed it all up with, "You can't afford me. Call around to some charity clinics. That'll be seventy-five dollars on your way out." I left with a prescription for Ibuprofen 800, antibiotics, and a printout detailing my estimate: $6,000 to fix my mouth, and it'll take six months of dental appointments to get it done. Oh yeah, and a yellow post-it note with the phone number for a sliding-scale dental clinic I can call.

That $75 appointment set me back so much that the heat in our apartment was turned off. There was just simply no way I could get these problems fixed, so I went back to life as usual, adding ibuprofen & antibiotic to my daily med regimen and hoping for the best.

When I ran out of Ibuprofen 800's, my toothache came back. I whined and complained, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I doubled up on regular Ibuprofen and started alternating with Tylenol for maximum pain relief. It didn't work. Several nights I was awake with a severe toothache and when I wasn't at work I spent the time trying to sleep off the pain. After about a week of this I was unable to chew my food because it hurt too much, so I started drinking Carnation instant breakfast for every meal instead.

I make minimum wage, there are bills to be paid, and I have three children. $6,000 is not just difficult, it's UNREACHABLE. Husband and I don't have credit cards; we don't believe in charging things we can't afford. When there's barely enough money to pay rent as it is, adding a credit card bill on top of it just doesn't make any sense. My teeth have taken a back seat for literally almost ten years now.

Bad teeth are hereditary, but pregnancy also takes a major toll. Three pregnancies and my teeth are pretty much just skeletons at this point.

Monday at work, my toothache came back with a vengeance. It was not just saying, "So, um, I could use some assistance," it was screaming, "YOU WILL GO TO THE DENTIST WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!"

We have Medicaid, which covers medical but not dental, so I finally decided to go to InstaCare Monday after work. I figured they could get me some pain meds and antibiotics while I figured out what to do about the dentist. The trouble with (most) doctors is that they don't seem to understand (care?) being poor. I tell the InstaCare doc that I simply canNOT afford to fix my teeth, but I think I've got an infection now because of it, and I'm in too much pain to sleep or eat or take care of my kids. I tell her I've been taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen, alternating with Tylenol, but it's still not working. She hammers on my tooth with a tongue depressor, I flinch and shrink back. She says, "Oh, yeah... that looks bad..."  Her solution? Ibuprofen 800, antibiotics, and the phone number for an emergency dentist. I tell her I can't afford an emergency dentist, and she says, "It won't cost more than a hundred dollars," with this look on her face like, don't be dramatic.  A hundred dollars is FOURTEEN HOURS of work for me. A hundred dollars is 1/6 my rent. A hundred dollars IS DRAMATIC in my world. And Ibuprofen 800 is useless to me.

Tuesday morning I woke up in agony. One side of my face was swollen like a watermelon, one of the nerves in my face had gone dead (I still can't feel my chin or bottom lip at all), and I couldn't even speak. Joshua called my mom and asked her to come help me (he takes GREAT care of me when I'm sick!) and my mom came to my rescue. She came straight to my house, called around, made me an appointment, took my kids to my sister's house, drove me to the dentist for an emergency extraction. The paycheck I was saving to pay rent had to be cashed to pay the dentist, but there was no other choice. At this point I was losing control and was going to have an infection spreading throughout my body if I didn't deal with it NOW.

The dentist actually ended up extracting two molars, not just one. The offending tooth and the wisdom tooth next to it had to go. The only remaining molar on that side of my mouth is hardly a tooth at all... it's about one-fourth of the molar that used to be there. It needs a post and a cap in order to be saved. I'm 1/4-tooth away from being completely toothless on the right, bottom side of my mouth.

So! Why do I tell you all this embarrassing information? So you, your children, your neighbor, your sister, and everyone else you know can learn from my mistakes!

Mistake #1: 9th grade.

The dentist says, "She has four wisdom teeth. They all need to come out."
My mom says, "OK, let's get your wisdom teeth out."
What did I say? "NOOOOOOOOOO! I don't want to! Wahhhhh!"

Guess what happened? I spent four years in braces, just to waste all my mom's money (and four years of pain) just to have my wisdom teeth crowd my mouth and ruin my new, perfectly-straight teeth. I just paid $100 to have one of them removed... still have three more to go, have to pay for them myself, and I'll have to get braces all over again when I'm forty.
What the HELL was I thinking not getting them out when my mom could pay for it AND take care of me while I recovered?!?!

Mistake #2: Prenatal vitamins. I admit it, OK? I didn't take prenatal vitamins. Pregnancy included near-constant vomiting and nausea for me, so taking a giant vitamin that I was just going to throw up anyway didn't agree with me. My babies didn't really suffer from this mistake of mine, but that's because they stole all the nutrients from MY body to feed THEIRS. This is how pregnancy works, and I am now, at age twenty-seven, losing my teeth because of it. TAKE YOUR PRENATAL VITAMINS. Seriously. I don't care what you have to do, TAKE THEM take them take them. Are we clear? Your teeth NEED THEM because your baby is stealing from you. Got it? K good.

Mistake #3: Gold tooth. When I was growing up my mom paid a lot of money to get me white fillings when I had a cavity. Then, 2007, still no dental insurance, and we live in Kansas. A crown from years before fell off my molar & I went to see a dentist. He said, "I can put a gold tooth in there for ya," and I said, "What, are you kidding me?! I'm not going to have a GOLD TOOTH! Just because ya'll want to look like hillbillies doesn't mean I do too. I'll wait 'till I get back to Utah." I never did get a new crown on that tooth. That's the only remaining molar on that side of my mouth, and it's been worn down to practically nothing because I was too cool for a gold crown in my mouth. If I could go back I would happily accept a gold crown to save the only tooth I'll have left to chew my food.

GO TO THE DENTIST. Go into debt for it. Get a Xanax if you're afraid of the needles or the drill. DO WHAT IT TAKES to take care of your teeth, cause guess what? Eventually you will have to pay for it anyway, and waiting until you're in agony won't stop it from happening.

Also? Once they're gone they are GONE.

10 comments:

  1. Im sooo sorry Aubrey! Sounds so painful! I hope things work out for you guys. Hang in there, beautiful! -Megan

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  2. I hear you. I need 3 root canals, 3 of my molars are chipped and broken and it is just ugly. I feel your pain. I wish I had taken better care of my teeth because I'm paying the price now. Boo. I'm sorry you are too!

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  3. I am terrified of dentists but I go.
    I'm so sorry that this is happening.
    Wish there was something I could do to help.
    So here are some hugs flowing in from Canada xoxo

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  4. I'm like you. I wait till the very last minute and have extractions when necessary. It's so freaking expensive.

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  5. In my opinion, your teeth are part of your body and therefore should be covered by health insurance. They impact your health! Its all such a farce. And besides, dental insurance doesn't cover what you need anyway. It's like a discount, ours is anyway. We just spent a fortune on my hubs cavities and root canal because he didn't routinely see a dentist either...for 10 years.
    Actually heading to the dentist on Thursday. Both kids and I. Thank goodness we pull money out for medical/dental expenses, cause the paycheck-to-paycheck money is already spent!
    I hope you're feeling better!

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  6. I am so sorry this happened to you! I have been following your progress with this on twitter as well and wondered if you would post about it. I also think dental should be a part of medical insurance. I'm in a similar position now as well, no dental ins., serious work needed and freaking out. I'm so glad your mom was able to come in and help with everything. Paycheck to paycheck sucks and it's hard, taking care of our health shouldn't mean the heat gets turned off. Ugh! Hope your recovery is going ok, thank you for posting this!

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  7. I still have my wisdom teeth...I should probably get them removed before they cause more issues than just the unstraightening of my teeth (which has already occurred). I never have had them taken out because they don't cause me any pain oor anything.
    Aubrey, Dr. Bailey would KILL us.

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    Replies
    1. Hahahaha yes, yes he would. However, I still have so much hatred for that man that I don't care.

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  8. I hear you! I need my teeth fixed as well but when they said 10,000 to fix your teeth i freaked! I have had some fixed but no insurance again until august i also have no molars they are all covered with crowns. I have had headaches for the past ten years and i am pretty sure that my teeth are what is causing my headaches! ugh i feel for you I am so tired of being in pain!! grrrr damn dentists! and also mad at myself for not taking care of teeth.

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  9. Good grief! I just read this now (yes, I'm behind!) I knew you had dental work done but yikes! I hope that what you did get done helps and you can do little bits at a time so you're not in pain and it's more affordable. I'm terribly afraid of the dentist - panic attacks, the whole bit. But the one I go to is so nice and caring and doesn't say anything when I cry in his office during cleanings :) I wish I could send you to him!

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