Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:50:47 PM EST
So my friend is telling me about his last visit to the dentist. He's got pretty nice teeth, but needs a few things done, which the dentist is telling him about. And so he asks "well, how much will that cost?" and the dentist says -- with a straight face -- "only twelve thousand dollars."
I'd like to tell you that this is a freak occurrence. That perhaps there's some hidden, overwhelming catastrophe in my friend's mouth or that the dentist is a rip-off artist, but no.
Welcome to The American Way where we routinely pay thousands just to make our teeth stop aching. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't a hidden factor in the mortgage meltdown, with people refinancing just to get this or that fucking tooth fixed so they could think straight for a minute.
I know I've had toothaches I'd trade my first born to fix, although so far it hasn't come to that...
Promoted by Migeru
In my circle of friends and acquaintances, almost no one has dental insurance. So it was no surprise when I took a trip back to my hometown of Los Angeles and was catching up friends, that I was regularly regaled by dental horror stories.
There's my friend who lives with her husband and two children in one of the richest suburbs in the US. They own a popular store and live comfortably. They can't afford either dental insurance or dentists. This isn't a huge problem for them since they can afford to take short trips down to Tijuana, where they pay $35 each for cleanings and stay in a nice hotel for a couple of days for less than it would cost to get their teeth cleaned here. Apparently this is a thriving business and Tijuauna is now full of state-of-the-art dental clinics catering to Americans.
There's my other friend, also not poor. In fact, he's a highly-paid skilled craftsman. But he has no dental either. Just had some fairly major work done by students at the nearby dental school and considers it a complete bargain that he only paid $3,500.
I have another friend, a schoolteacher. Having what's basically a government job, she's a bit less well-paid than the others, but has better benefits, including dental. She's married with two kids. The kids get their cleanings. The adults don't. They can't afford the co-pays and deductibles.
And, of course, I related back how my family can't afford the dentist either and that finally my then husband and I had our teeth cleaned and a few small cavities filled. I hadn't been in 10 years, so I also had a back tooth pulled that I'd broken a few years ago -- in fact, the weekend before my wedding, which should have been a clue.
In any case, I just lived with the jagged edges and it only took a few months before I could drink liquids of extreme temperature again. Long story short, my bankruptcy now includes over $6,000 in dental fees.
People who have good teeth and access to dental care don't realize what a huge problem this is. Your teeth can affect your health, even kill you. And having your teeth look bad is a huge impediment to not only your social life and well-being, but to your ability to be gainfully employed.
Who wants to hire someone with rotten or missing teeth? You can't put that shit out there in front of the public! And what choices do the people have? Do you reveal your teeth or go around never smiling and giving the impression you're antisocial?
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry has a foundation that runs the Give Back a Smile program. This program matches up volunteer dentists with battered women. It's really a great program. All they do is repair these women's teeth, but it restores their dignity and gives them the ability to get jobs, meet people, rebuild their lives where it may not have been possible before.
It gives these women a chance after someone has hit them so hard their teeth get knocked out. It's too bad they don't give the same chance to everybody when life does the same thing.