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Dental Emergency: Blessing in Disguise???


If you’re a long-term reader, I’ve discussed the issue of dental work ad nauseum (1, 2, 3, 4 times where I’ve dedicated an entire post to the topic; probably several more times where I’ve mentioned it in reference to monthly budgeting). Long story short, hubs’ has a lot of dental issues. A lot! I’ve now been blogging here 18 months and I think he’s had 2 or 3 emergency root canals during that time. He has lots of other dental needs, too, but he’s got some dental anxiety issues (not to mention it’s -ahem- challenging to get him to take a day off to go to the dentist. Gotta love him!). So he’s mostly been operating on an emergency dental situation basis. Very reactive instead of proactive.

Yes, this is a terrible way of handling things.

Yes, it’s more expensive this way.

Yes, dental health is extremely important and can influence health in other ways, too.

He knows all this, but is a grown man and cannot be forced into something against his will. I know, I’ve tried. ; )

Anywho….we’ve got our latest dental emergency, folks!

A few nights ago at dinner hubs bit into something; his eyes got wide and his face grew pale. My first guess was that a crown had fallen out (he’s had that happen before).


His tooth fell out. But not his whole tooth. The majority-but not all-of a tooth. A back molar he’d had a root canal and crown put on about 4 years ago. The one that was repaired in Mexico (I’ve mentioned it here). So there’s no way he can go back and make the dentist fix it. No warranties or anything like that.

Now, while this is enough to ruin anyone’s day, I am choosing to look at this as a blessing in disguise. I’ve had a terrible time trying to get hubby back to the dentist. This little issue (ahem – having a tooth fall out!!!) has forced him back to the dentist. Only, now we’ve got dental insurance (YAYAYAYAYAY for the new job!) Hubs has already gone to a new in-network dentist and had x-rays done (something he’s been opposed to in the past) and had a plan drawn up for how to handle his dental issues. The dentist will work in quadrants in his mouth and we’ve already pre-paid for his first quadrant (which will include filling 2 cavities, 2 extractions – one for this tooth and one for a wisdom tooth he’d never had removed, and completing a bone graft for a future tooth implant). Total cost out of pocket is $665. For a little comparison, when I paid to get a filling last year (before insurance), I paid $171. Through insurance, our cost for a filling is only $26 per tooth! Wahoo! What a savings!

Our dental insurance does have an annual per-person maximum that they’ll cover so we’re trying to be strategic about things. But, luckily, they go by calendar year (not actual year; like, July through July since that’s when we got the insurance). So we’ll likely max out their coverage on hubs by December and then be able to start over again in 2016.

Ultimately, this is going to cost us a lot of money. Thousands of dollars. BUT we’ll FINALLY be getting ahead of hubs’ dental problems. Instead of always operating on a reactionary basis (aka:  getting a root canal once a cavity has gone untreated for so long that the whole thing is rotting away), we’ll be able to start rectifying hubs’ many dental issues and getting on top of them before they turn into major catastrophic dental emergencies!

And, fortunately, we had $700 in our dental/health/vision savings account. I just wrote a check for $665 to pre-pay this first quadrant of work. But at least it was money we already had earmarked specifically for this purpose (so it does NOT impact this month’s budget). But instead of saving only a hundred bucks a month or so toward dental, we’ll certainly need to increase those savings on the short-term. Hopefully this means much better oral and overall health on the long-term!

Do you have a partner whose stubborn about going to the dentist? What have you done to help ease their anxiety?


  • Reply Gail |

    I was the one with the anxiety about going. And I just bit the bullet one year and went in. Had been years since I had gone and I cried the whole time they did x-rays. They were just so nice about it (I had emailed and told them about my fear). They had A LOT to do. And since I was nervous, they schedule it for two days. ALL DAY. Deep cleanings, prepping teeth for crowns and root canals etc. They actually gave me some kind of anti-anxiety drug that I took an hour before my appointment. And they gave me appropriate dose as needed. To this day, I only remember them keeping me hydrated. Nothing about the appointment! And the most beneficial… they are still my dentist 15 years later, and I’m an actual regular at the office. I’m not scared to go anymore… cause it can’t be worse than what I’ve already done! See if they will prescribe something for your hubby to take for the appointment… really was the best thing.

    • Reply Ashley |

      They told hubs they’d prescribe him something but he refuses to take anything. His Dad has struggled with dependency on various prescription drugs his whole life (and he is not involved in our lives at all), so hubs is VERY adverse to taking anxiety meds due to the family history of dependency.

    • Reply Jen from Boston |

      But…. I haven’t ever heard of anyone becoming addicted to anti-anxiety meds. It’s the narcotics you need to watch out for. As long as the dentist is prescribing anit-anxiety meds and NOT a narcotic like valium he should be OK.

      • Reply Ashley |

        Uhhhhh, yeah. People are addicted to anti-anxiety meds all the time (Xanax! The street terms are “bars” or “footballs.” There’s a whole illegal market for it and people go to multiple therapists, etc. to get scripts). Sooooo, yeah. They’re addictive.

        • Reply Jen from Boston |

          I had no idea. I wonder if it’s similar to narcotic addiction where you have withdrawal symptoms or if it’s mostly habit forming – you get so used to it you don’t want to stop, but your body’s chemistry doesn’t change to the point where you need the drug to function.

          • Ashley |

            Not sure of the chemistry involved. I do know that certain anxiety meds (like Xanax) are considered controlled substances, though. So the government recognizes them as being potentially addictive and/or likely to be abused.

  • Reply scarr |

    I, too, was the one with the anxiety. I had not had dental insurance for 10 years and when I finally got it through my husband’s work, I was terrified of going. Prior to the lapse in insurance, I regularly went for cleaning twice a year and never had a cavity, the only dental work was braces.

    When I FINALLY went to the dentist this summer, I had 1 cavity and was made aware that my wisdom teeth need are starting to be a bit of an issue, so I have to get them removed. I’m a little annoyed with myself for waiting so long (I’ve had the dental insurance for a few years now and have always avoided going). I was most worried that I would have a million cavities and then be judged for being stupid. Which, in reality, is a stupid thought.

    Good luck to your husband, he can get through this 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      I think those feelings are more common than we all think! But, hey, 1 cavity after not routinely going to the dentist in 10 years is pretty good!!!

  • Reply Walnut |

    This was a big item on your ‘year of being an adult’ plan, so it’s great that you guys will be able to take care of a bunch of work. Speaking of that plan, you should update us on where you are with your goals.

    When it comes to funding the rest of the work, I would also consider looking at your other sinking funds. Outside of the ones tied to annual/semi-annual bills, it might make sense to raid some of that cash before allocating budget categories.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes! I’ve had this on my list to write an update about the “Year of Becoming An Adult.” I think things kept getting sidelined for awhile as everything was put on the backburner while we tried to triage the situation with my Dad. But we’re finally starting to make some progress again. I’ll try to get a post written sometime soon!

  • Reply anon |

    I would definitely talk to the dentist about a sedation or relaxer, if your husband would agree to it. It’s awesome to work on his dental issues (go insurance!), but I would hate for him to only get through one or two quadrants…

  • Reply TENN |

    I forget if you addressed getting a flexible spending account. It would be a good way to save for these expenses tax free.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes, I’ll have to think about this. I’d considered an FSA but opted to go with the regular PPO insurance due to a few different reasons. Mostly because I was trying to look ahead and thinking that we might utilize our coverage more this year than normal, so it would be beneficial to keep a PPO for now.

      • Reply Jen from Boston |

        Where I work you can have both a PPO and an FSA. The tricky thing about an FSA is you have to use it or lose it. You can work with the dentist to budget how much your husband’s treatment will cost next year and use the FSA just for that.

        • Reply Brooke |

          HSA = Health Savings Account — This is an account for medical expenses under the High Deductive Insurance Plan that is an alternative to a PPO plan.

          FSA = Flexible Spending Account — This is an account that takes account money pre-tax to pay for out of pocket medical and dental expenses. See more here: https://www.healthcare.gov/flexible-spending-accounts/

          You should be able to have a FSA with your PPO plan. Up to 2,550 can be contributed per year through paycheck deductions. It is use it or lost it except for a $500 rollover amount. Think of it like a discount by whatever your effective Federal tax bracket is!

          Hope this is helpful!

          • Brooke |

            Sorry about that! The plans are called High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) that go with the Health Savings Account.

        • Reply Ashley |

          They won’t let us have both. They let me have a FSA for childcare, but NOT for medical/health care. I had to pick one or the other. But this is a good option for next year!

          • Brooke |

            Got it! At least you do have access to an FSA, just can’t use it for both!

  • Reply Joe |

    Trying to get at the root causes (no pun intended), how are brushing/flossing habits and techniques? My dental health improved remarkably when I started flossing regularly and using a Sonicare toothbrush. (I floss first and then brush.)
    Actually, now I can’t even fall asleep if I haven’t flossed…
    Throw in a fluoride rinse (like ACT) and that should improve things quite a bit.

    A few other things I do that I think do help (but these are not so scientific):

    If drinking coffee and having sweets, drink some of the coffee first before eating the sweets. The coffee forms a thin film on the teeth that makes it harder for the sugar to stick.

    Cut down/eliminate any soda and sweets less than 2 hrs before bed time!

    Drink water after ingesting sugar.

    Perhaps counterintuitively, make sure you don’t brush your teeth immediately after drinking soda; the acidity of the soda makes your teeth vulnerable to further enamel decay from the brushing action. Wait a little bit and drink water or eat something to re-balance the pH first.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, thanks for all the tips! Hubs’ personal hygiene is pretty on-point (perhaps counter-intuitive considering his reluctance to see the dentist). He brushes and flosses regularly and uses mouthwash at least semi-regularly. Most of his problems he’s had for YEARS, so it’s not due to poor hygiene in recent years, but moreso just a lifetime of neglect (he never had dental insurance as a kid growing up, either).

    • Reply Jen from Boston |

      A salt and baking soda rinse also helps. The salt kills the bacteria. It also helps to gargle with it if you think you’re getting a sore throat.

      His dental issues may also be genetic. Some people, like myself, simply have weak enamel.

  • Reply Marie |

    It seems ridiculous to me that a full grown adult is so scared/anxious/loathing of the dentist that they would avoid it to the point of their teeth falling out. The choice is simple: go to the dentist, or ruin the ONE set of teeth that you get in this lifetime. You get ONE. It is a no brainer.
    Everyone hates it and everyone knows it is uncomfortable, but you get on with it. Just like Pap tests or prostate exams. Like visits to the lawyers office during a divorce or to a mechanic when your engine blows — these are tasks that no one wants to do but you do it because you are a responsible adult.
    We are so lucky to live in a country where these medical exams are offered to us (some at low to no cost!) yet we refuse to go because it is scary/annoying/anxiety-inducing. Please. Your husband is a father who needs to role model good oral health for his daughters — is that not motivation enough? Does the burden of costing his family thousands of extra dollars to fix problems that were left to fester because of his stubbornness not feel heavy on his shoulders?? It’s time to pull his socks up and act like an adult. Go to the dentist. Go to the doctor. Stop making into a huge issue when it can be so simple.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I Lol-ed at this because I totally agree! I probably wouldn’t put it so bluntly, but I’m 100% with you on your core message. The issue is hubs just doesn’t agree. He is of the opinion that it’s more important for him to work, make money, and pay our bills than to take time off to do these things (dentist, doctor, etc.) I’m on your side. I’ve talked about how important his health is, urged him to think about implications for his family if x, y, z thing were to happen, and the example he’s setting for his kids. He agrees on the surface, but ultimately decides that working is more important.
      Of course, that’s before this most recent dental crisis occurred. I’m really hopeful that he’ll follow through this time. He’s been so resistant to getting x-rays done, but now those are already complete and its just a matter of getting the work scheduled and completed. He’s already in it – on antibiotics for the tooth, waiting to go have the first quadrant done, etc. I can’t see the future, but I can only hope that this time he’s on board. I think once your teeth start falling out it’s a bit of a wake up call!!!

    • Reply Jen from Boston |

      But that’s the thing about phobias and anxieties – they’re completely irrational. The primitive animal part of our brain takes over.

  • Reply debthaven |

    I can sympathize on your husband about the upcoming extended dental work. I was never phobic about the dentist, me and my kids went to see one regularly … unfortunately, it turns out he totally sucked. I only found out when my DD was in California on an internship. She went to a friend’s dad who fixed her tooth and told her, when you get back home (we’re in Europe) PLEASE TELL YOUR MOM TO FIND ANOTHER DENTIST!!!

    Which I did, immediately.

    About the payment plan: my kids were fine thank goodness but I had a TON of overdue work to do: crowns, wisdom teeth, a root canal, deep scaling. My dentist started out as a friend-of-a-friend but then became a friend. He was FANTASTIC about the billing. Our insurance operates on the calendar year too.

    In April 2014 he started a ton of work. We hit my insurance limit by Oct. He kept going, but didn’t charge me for Nov or Dec, since I had already hit my limit for the year. Instead, he billed me for that work in January. I finished in February.

    I’m about to go back this fall for the rest. He told me to come back in Oct so that he could finish. By the time the last crowns come in it will be Nov. Again, he will bill me in Jan.

    I hope that your husband can find somebody as kind, reassuring and easy to work with as I have.

    It’s all the more frustrating that here I was for all these years, stupidly assuming my dentist was good, or at least OK.

  • Reply Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore |

    Yikes! This scared me a little bit when you said his tooth fell out. I have TERRIBLE teeth and I hate going to the dentist too, but I do always go for my checkups and cleanings. I don’t want this to happen to me.

  • Reply hannah |

    So I don’t remember if you addressed this before or not, but I wanted to make sure it was said – have you guys looked into the reason for all these dental problems?
    I mean, maybe he had poor dental care as a child and it’s snowballed, but is it possible there is another underlying problem like a vitamin deficiency or something similiar?
    Some people have problems absorbing certain vitamins for one reason or another and this can manifest in many ways. Just something to consider.
    I’m glad he is finally getting it taken care of!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi Hannah! When he had his medical mystery illness (end of 2013) he was given an extreme battery of tests to determine what was wrong and nothing was found. So he was never explicitly tested for a cause of dental health issues, but I think if there was anything major it would have been uncovered at that time. I really think in his case it stems back to a lifetime of poor dental hygiene. He’s very good about hygiene now but never had visits and dental health stressed as a child. Also, he’s been tobacco-free for 3 years now (he quit cold turkey literally the day the girls were born), but prior to that he’d been a tobacco-user for over a decade. He smoked AND dipped, which as I’m sure you know, is horribly detrimental to dental health. I think a LOT of his issues stem back to these two things: (1) not visiting the dentist routinely for cleaning/care, and (2) extended period of tobacco use.

So, what do you think ?