Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Dental Dilemma

7 August 2018

Does anyone out there know of a good, ethical dentist? I am sure that they abound, however this has been an illusive search for me covering about four years. You see I had a great dentist for 40 years. He up and retired 4-5 years ago. He sold his practice to an unknown practitioner. Just before he left he told me that I needed to see a specialist because one of my pearly whites had died and I needed special consultation. This started the dilemma that plunged me into a dental black hole.

The specialist I was referred to is an old friend. I've known him for about 30 years. I used to call on him and sell him an injectable pain reliever when I was repping for a pharmaceutical company. I made an appointment and got an assessment on the tooth that was in trouble. Before anyone ever fired up a drill I was in the red about two hundred bucks for x-rays and other diagnostics. The conclusion was " Yep, Lee that tooth is dead as a hammer." We need to extract it then look at whether we need to do an implant. Cost of an implant? About $5,000.

However, we need to send you over to another specialist and have him look at it because it looks like it is cracked. He is able to make a a better assessment that I can. Off to see dentist #3. He x-rayed the tooth in question ( not sure why he couldn't look at the other guy's x-rays). Conclusion: Yep, that tooth is dead and needs to be extracted. Well, I asked, can you extract it? Oh no. You will need to go back to dentist #2 to get that done. He is better equipped for the job. Oh, and incidentally, your dentist of 40 years is very out of touch and needed to have retired.  $180 dollars please. That was when I realized how much I loved my old dentist. He was NOT out of touch. He used to teach at the university. My whole family used him. He was a great guy and took care of all of us very efficiently.

In the meantime I had done two things. I procurred some dental insurance. Heretofore, I had always found dental insurance to be a poor investment. Because I had healthy teeth the benefits never added up to the premiums I had to pay. Secondly I began seeing a general dental practitioner. Dentist #4 was the son of a good friend who had just set up practice. Over the course of a year I paid out $900 in dental insurance premiums and they had in turn paid for two cleanings totaling $400. Net loss $500. So the sum total of contributions to the dental folks here in Tallahassee $880. That does not include the $900 in dental insurance premiums. I am in the tank almost $1900. And I still have the dead tooth which no one has done anything about.

Upon seeing dentist #4 with all the incumbent diagnostics fed to him from the specialists he told me that my tooth was sure enough dead and needed to be extracted. I asked him simply and innocently could he please extract it? His reply was oh no, no, no. You need to go back to see dentist #2. He is the best equipped to do the extraction. Incidentally ( no pun intended) this tooth has not caused me the first nano-second of discomfort. At this point, I am getting pretty disgusted and disillusioned about the practice of dentistry at least here in Tallahassee.

I began a search for another dentist. I found one and contacted their office. Sure, they would be glad to see me. I made the appointment in the summer of 2017. They told me they would put me on a waiting list. I finally got an appointment for January of 2018. I also cancelled my dental insurance since it seemed to be the pariah I had always believed it to be. They limited their total coverage to $1500 in a year. That cost me $900. I seldomly was going to require much more than a cleaning year in and year out. Except for this rogue tooth that no one seemed to want to address. It was pretty much of a wash to just self insure. So here am I at dentist #5

My appointment comes. I get a cleaning and an assessment along with a treatment plan. Your tooth is dead and needs to be extracted. What a revelation. Appointment made for extraction and lo and behold it was done. Plans made for a bridge to be put in place. Cost = $2500. I am not happy but at least I finally found someone who would DO SOMETHING !!

Now the bridge is in place and I am pretty satisfied. Still no pain but the dead tooth is gone. The pain comes in the form of a bill for $4,000. Call to dentist #5's office. Hello my treatment plan said the cost was $2500. Oh, we are sorry but you do not have dental insurance. I respond, yes that is correct, I advised you of that on day one. If you do not have insurance then we have to charge you more. I respectfully inquire " What are you talking about ?" Oh you see we offer a discount to patients with dental insurance. I do not comprehend. The treatment plan clearly says $2500. Now this new wrinkle in the convoluted world of dentistry comes into play. A new fight begins.

Now I have to engage Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration and my attorney to determine what kind of a worm hole I have been dropped into now. So now on to dentist #6. I repeat my opening question. Does anyone out there know of a good ethical dentist?