At some point after leaving home and starting to live on my own I realized I had no memory of ever being to a dentist. So naturally the thought of seeing a one made me a little squeamish. I asked my mom and she told me that growing up they took me to the dentist regularly but I never liked going, which sounds like an understatement considering I must have completely blocked those memories out.
As an adult, the first time I visited a dentist was after I moved to San Francisco. I’d just landed my first corporate job, my first to come with dental insurance. The only reason I even went to a dentist was because of a conversation I overheard. A coworker had just discovered she had 9 cavities after a recent dentist visit, her first in more than 5 years. I wondered, if she had 9 cavities, how many did I have? So there I was sitting in the dentist chair, holding on tightly to the arm rests, holding my breath while two strangers poked around in my mouth. I remember thinking, what’s taking them so long, they already have the x-ray, what are they still looking for? After a while they both exited the room. I thought the worst was over, then a different lady came in, she was going to discuss my dental treatment plan. Why do I need a dental treatment plan? Needless to say, I had more than 9 cavities and also needed a deep cleaning. This was when I first experienced a wallet-ache. The charges exceeded my annual benefit maximum, and I had to pay a large amount out of pocket.
Unfortunately, dental insurance hasn’t changed much since my first visit back in 2002. But nowadays there are a number of ways to make dental care more affordable. One tool for finding affordable dental care is Fair Health, a nonprofit corporation that was created as part of a 2009 settlement between then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and insurers. As reported in Kaiser Health News, Fair Health provides a free website to help consumers find “a reliable estimate of prices” in their area. Their “database is regularly updated and contains medical and dental claims from insurers and third-party administrators covering 126 million people.”
After taking almost a year to completely pay my dental bill, my perspective on dental insurance changed, and now it’s changing again. I think about the money I would have saved if similar sites were available back then. But I guess what I lack in money today I make up for with a desire to make the most out of what money I have, by continually trying to find ways to make both medical and dental care more affordable.