Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Going to the Dentist December 12, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 1:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve got a weird past when it comes to going to the dentist.  I went plenty of times when I was a kid, and I even went every once in a while when I was home from college.  But once I was officially on my own (insurance and housing-wise), I completely failed.  I think it was a combination of laziness, confusion about dental/health insurance, trying to find a dentist, and scheduling.  To be honest, I didn’t go to the dentist until right after I had lost my last job.  They were still covering my medical and dental insurance for a month, and since I had all the time in the world, my schedule was wide open for a visit to the dentist.  That was in 2008.  I had gotten used to getting email or postcard reminders from my old dentists, so I assumed I was now going to be on a mailing list for every 6 months.  Wrong.  Apparently if you don’t schedule an appointment when you’re there, they don’t assume you’ll be back.  And since I really didn’t know that at the time, I was mildly oblivious.  Flash forward to 2010.  I finally remind myself to go to the dentist.  Set up an appointment and go.  When I arrive at the front desk to check in, they do the usual paperwork, then inform me that I owe them copays/balances from 2008.  I didn’t think I owed anything, and they never contacted me or sent me to collections or anything.  I would have paid up front back in 2008 had I known.  Who knows if I actually owed them, but I paid off my balance in full.  Interestingly, they also forgot about me in the waiting room.  I feel like this dentist office isn’t really big on following up on people…or at least not on new patients.  Seemed like most patients were regulars.

At any rate, when all was said and done, my dentist told me that I should probably get one of my wisdom teeth removed.  He gave me  a referral and my x-rays and sent me on my merry way.  Of course, again, me being lazy/not a fan of calling for appointments, I didn’t follow up until a few weeks ago.  But I had no clue how much this would all cost, and what my insurance would cover, or what exactly the surgery would entail.  So they actually were able to squeeze me in the Saturday right after I called them for a consult to figure out what to do.

When my name was called in the waiting room, they led me to a small room where they made me watch an “educational video” that was part advertisement, part educational, and part scary.  The video basically said, “you should probably get all of your wisdom teeth out ASAP, just in case, because the older you get, the worse things could get, and the probability that your wisdom teeth will cause trouble is pretty high”.  So, besides getting a bit squeamish, it also got me a bit worried…are all my teeth going to fall out and I’m going to have horrible diseases if I don’t get this taken care of right away?  The oral surgeon came in, looked at my x-ray really quickly, eyed my mouth, prodded around briefly with his gloved hands, and declared that I should get all four wisdom teeth removed.  Great.  How much is that going to cost me?

Well, when I checked out, they told me they’d run the numbers to see how much my surgery would cost and how much my insurance would cover.

Here’s where all the personal finance stuff really comes into play.  While waiting to hear about what my insurance would cover, I had a lot of questions:  Do I hold off a few more months, wait until the new calendar year for a better dental plan to kick in?  I could get a better dental plan, plus I could calculate how much to put into an FSA to cover the cost beyond what the insurance might cover.  But is this being pennywise, pound foolish?  Will holding off for a few more months mean my mouth gets all messed up and I have even more expensive problems to deal with in the future?

The good news?  All those worries were for naught.  Turns out, my health insurance would cover everything (except a copay).  So that meant $30 for the whole surgery.  WHAT?  I had to sign a form when I got my surgery that said that I agree to pay the copay, and it showed me how much it would have cost.  $2,100.  Another reason I’m glad I have health insurance.

I got the surgery this past Thursday, all 4 wisdom teeth were taken out, and have been eating pudding and applesauce ever since.  It hurts, but I know it’s important that I got this taken care of.

So, this is quite a long post.  I’m impressed if you got all the way to the bottom.  But now my question for you:  Did you ever get your wisdom teeth out?  Have you ever made a health decision based on cost, rather than on the advice of a doctor?

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8 Responses to “Going to the Dentist”

  1. SS4BC Says:

    I got mine taken out and it ended up being like $200 with my insurance because they didn’t cover anything but local anesthesia and I wanted some nitrous oxide (so glad I did that).

    I think I make decisions all the time that are financial over health. Some are small, like not going to the eye doctor every year when I should or going to the dentist every 9 months instead of 6. Some are larger like choosing to self medicate a sickness instead of going to a physician, until it gets really bad. Especially now that I have a $2,000 deductible, I’m going to be a lot more selective of when I got to the doctor.

    • Stephanie Says:

      I think I also avoid going to the doctors, but I guess it’s not just financial. It takes forever to get an appointment, and it’s so hard to schedule, that you’re well by the time you get an appointment. Plus usually when I go, they say, “you’ve got a cold, rest and have plenty of fluids”, so I’ve found the visits to be annoying.

      As for the deductible, I think I found that having a low deductible on my plan (even with a slightly higher overall cost) is beneficial to my health because it will encourage me to go. I know myself, and I know that’s the only way I’d take good care of myself.

      • This is true for a first time visit, but if you have an established doctor, it doesn’t take very long for you to get it. Sometimes they can fit you in on that day. It’s the first time visit that takes awhile, so they have to schedule extra time for you. If you just want to know if you have a cold or the flu, it won’t take the doctor 5 minutes to set you up with some tests.

        I think most doctors are sensitive to cost issues, and they won’t push something if you really don’t need it and your insurance doesn’t cover it. Of course, with dentists you have to watch out. There’s a lot of things that could be taken care of but may not need to be, or things you can wait and see if they get worse. You can always ask what happens if you don’t get the procedure done. Also, if you go to the dentist regularly, they usually don’t mind waiting until the next 6 month appt. to see if it gets worse. But it sounds like getting wisdom teeth out is a good idea for most people

        PS. Was it your health insurance or your dental insurance that covered your surgery?

      • Stephanie Says:

        Maybe I just go to a busy doctor, but it usually is tricky getting an appointment. Plus I guess I can’t get any early or late appointments, so I’d have to skip out of a significant part of the work day, which I’m not really keen on.

        It was in fact my health insurance that covered the surgery. I gave the oral surgeon both my dental and health insurance, and they checked with both insurance companies to see what they would cover. I guess because it was surgery and not simply pulling teeth, my health insurance covered it.

  2. Revanche Says:

    I try to balance them when I can but choose financial over health if I know there aren’t negative long-term ramifications or if the benefit is actually on the side of choosing the financial choice.

    It took me a long time to learn to plan far enough ahead not to choose money over health every time or rather blindly, but watching my mom’s health deteriorate put some sense in me.

  3. Craig Says:

    You can’t only get one wisdom tooth out, you should always at least get all the wisdom teeth on one side of the mouth out because each tooth needs an opposing force.

    Often, as you described above, when you wait, you can cause a bigger issue that is more expensive than if you had gone earlier. That’s why preventive medicine is so important.

  4. Eric Says:

    Last year, right around this time as I got home for break, I got 3 out (my 4th was nonexistent). I just got local anesthesia, took a single dose of meds after the procedure, and never took another. I had an extremely easy recovery- hope yours is going similarly! In terms of cost, you must have some solid coverage, because it cost me a few hundred dollars (though like yours, my actual total was over two grand).

    I also have a similar outlook on doctor appointments. I just perceive them as so much of a hassle at times that I don’t bother with them (though many would argue this is an awful attitude)! I am also temporarily not covered, as I’ve just left school and I’m not sure what my best (and cheapest) options are until I start grad school in the fall. Decisions, decisions.

  5. […] through the year.  I vowed not to do THAT again.  So for 2010, I put $500 in.  But even though I got my wisdom teeth out, I didn’t really have a lot of medical expenses.  Turns out I spent around $300 in 2010. […]


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