Saturday, January 17, 2009

in search of the tooth fairy

how the devil did dentists weasel out of being covered by medicare? it makes no sense. my doctor says more bacteria released into our system when we floss our teeth than at any other time. last week, a friend had her dentist yell at her for waiting so long to have an emergency root canal ($1500), her face swollen as a pumpkin. "people die of such things."

yes, i've a mouth full of fillings. two molars lost chips and fillings in the last several months. the problems mount up (and the outrageous expenses). what to do?

there is medical tourism. dental work considerably cheaper in mexico. if you don't believe me, google 'tijuana dentists' or 'mexico dentistry'. their doctors well-trained, many with advanced study in the u.s. the bills run one-third of here.

so, i did as i've suggested, and january 5th i had an appointment with as recommended by the brother of a friend. then fate intervened. i house-sat in berkeley for xmas and new year, intending to drive to san diego on the fourth, a place to stay with a friend all set up. alas, all the museum-walking i did during the holidays lambasted my left knee. i'd decided to return to chico to recover before the drive. and as i walked into a cafe with my friend laurie for one last chai latte, a tendon stretched too far and i almost hit the ground.

luckily, i could still drive. back in chico i hobbled around for a few days. laurie found some alternatives: local dental schools. i knew they'd be cheaper (not cheap), students would take a lot more time, the work would be skillfully done, and yet...

okay, to make a long story short, i made an appointment at the uc dental school in san francisco. the student to which i'd been assigned turned out to be a pleasure. and i enjoyed standing up and seeing all the people being examined in little cubicles around me. she called in a couple of specialists who were nearby, older doctors with hundreds of years of experience between them.

yes, the comprehensive exam cost $47 and every tooth in my head got attention, both from her and the faculty doctors. xrays had been taken the day before ($84) and had brought up new problems. at least i finally knew the condition of my mouth. and yes, the treatments will still cost thousands of dollars, my savings taking a big hit.

many people lined up at the dental school to have the treatments they needed. how can they afford even this? and a number beyond my age. what's going on? how the devil did the dentists get out of it?

on the other hand, the museums were wonderful! you can see the pictures here: