Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dental Care

So it looks like I am getting my second root canal next week due to a filling that went too deep. It is, sadly, one of my front top teeth (which makes the "just pull it" option unappealing).

There has been a lot of talk of health care, per se, at sites like the Incidental Economist and Marginal Revolution. But I am finding dental care to be shockingly expensive even with good dental insurance and a reasonable salary. Having experienced severe tooth pain (repeatedly), I wonder what happens to people who cannot afford care.

I will also say that free market options are limited when you are in blinding pain with a tooth abscess. One is willing to pay almost anything to make the pain stop and worry about things like rent later. Certainly it is a poor time for comparison shopping. Nor does the fact that many patients pay for most of their care seem to do anything to control prices.

These episodes have made me increasingly tough on my dental hygiene (flossing, brushing, ultrasonic toothbrush, prescription tooth paste). But I fear that some aspect of my diet or lifestyle still seems to be out of whack because dental decay appears to be accelerating at an alarming pace.

But it does make me wonder why dental care is treated differently than, for example, back pain.


  1. uninsured or underinsured individuals have few options (almost none). here in a large midwestern city, publicly insured (medicaid) or uninsured individuals have to go to the free clinics and waiting lists are often close to 1,000. really the only way you can get to the top of that list is by having literally weeping wounds in your mouth and almost unbearable pain (like your tooth abscess example).

    its a shame, because theres plenty of non-dentists (dental hygienists) that could help but dental professional groups are strongly against that. having 1-2 (part-time) dentists serving a population of several hundred thousand (the case here) screams for the need for change in the way we deliver dental care.

  2. @Carl: I could not agree more. I am horrified to hear just how bad it is to be uninsured and unable to pay for dental work in your area. I am almost afriad to look into the local conditions here (I am in the South-East).

  3. Be thorough in your dental care, for sure, but watch out for your technique so you´re not getting "tough" on your gums. Gum grafts are also expensive! I speak from experience.

  4. @ Elizabeth: thanks for the tip! That does sound very painful. The Ultrasound toothbrush is surprisingly gentle and yet reputed to be very effective.