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?