Tag Archives: pain

My $5,000 Tooth

I have a toothache.  And I shouldn’t.  Even my dentist told me I shouldn’t.  But I do and it hurts.  Probably more like a “gum ache” if I had to specifically categorize it.

But I am mostly pissed because I have spent over $5,000 on this tooth and this is how it treats me.

This story goes w-w-a-a-a-y-y-y-y back to early 2002.  I had a toothache and went to a dentist I picked from the four listed in the yellow pages of the small Kentucky town where we lived.  Imagine my surprise when Ned from my Sunday school class walked in.

“I didn’t know you were a dentist.” I told him. (Inside I was thinking “Thank God I’m not here for a pap smear”)

And that was the beginning of the first very expensive crown on the tooth.  Which proceeded to fall off three times. The third time he replaced it, Ned told me he couldn’t help me if it happened again.  Which it did.  Luckily for him, I had moved to Las Vegas by that time and since it didn’t bother me I just ignored it.  Although I did keep the crown.  Damn thing cost me almost $2,000.

Spring forward ten years and finally getting some good dental care (after about 8 years of neglect.  We all know how I am about my health.)  This specific tooth in question came up again and I told my new dentist to just pull the damn thing out.  But Dr G. said “No, we can fix it and I promise the crown won’t come off.”

So I believed him and we started the process.  Except now I needed a root canal and had to be referred to a specialist. (Dr G. tried three times, bless his heart, he just couldn’t make “it” happen – whatever “it” is to perform a root canal.  I know he explained it; I just didn’t listen).

Root canal finished, crown installed and I have to say that Dr G. was right and the new crown he put on did stay put.

Back to the toothache.  Dr G. wasn’t available so Dr Matt saw me instead. Matt told me with a root canal and a crown, there was literally nothing there left to hurt.  But he figured it must have something to do with the gum.  He prescribed antibiotics, a mouthwash with antibiotics in it and most importantly, Vicodin.

The Vicodin cost me $9.25.  I think I have discovered the answer to rising health care costs.


$26 Processing Fee

It all started with a visit to the Urgent Care Center.  My now adult daughter, Christina, had a horrible toothache – one that resulted in many trips to the bathroom with a small flashlight to check the status of exactly how bad the pain was.  Over the counter pain meds did nothing and of course this happened over the weekend with the pain becoming worse and worse.  Finally, Sunday evening she said she could not go another night in such pain and begged me to go with her to the Urgent Care Center. I was a bit hopeful that she wouldn’t be able to find one open at 7:00 pm on a Sunday but as usual, Google came to the rescue. 

And as we both already knew, the problem was her wisdom tooth.  It was impacted (whatever that means; assume impacted = pain = get them out) and after two hours, Christina happily skipped out from the clinic with a prescription for Vicodin.

Fast forward a few weeks:  Wisdom teeth successfully extracted (she only had three; how weird is that?) and problem solved.   Until we got the bill from the Urgent Care Center.

Total Visit Cost:  $149.00

Paid Co-Payment:  $75.00

Balance Due:  $74.00

Of course as soon as Christina received the bill, she immediately handed it to me.

“You need to deal with this.”

Because everyone knows a 21-year-old is not going to.

A quick call to the Urgent Care billing office informed me that our insurance denied payment due to the diagnosis being “dental related” and our insurance only covered medical not dental.  (Ironically, we also have dental insurance but the Urgent Care does not bill dental insurance.  Even more ironic is that fact that our well known commercial insurance company grossed over $10.86 BILLION in profit last year but don’t get me started on that soap box…)

So my next step was to call our insurance company. Now, I know in advance that they are only going to speak to “the patient.”  Of which I also knew “the patient” had a rat’s ass of interest in trying to get this bill paid.  So I called and when asked for identifying information I quickly provided Christina’s stats.  As the conversation went on, I felt like I was being way too smart on this phone call pretending to be a young adult.  So I quickly threw in a couple of “Really? I don’t know what a covered benefit is,” and “Like, I don’t know how to appeal,” and my favorite: “I was just in a lot of pain, couldn’t the doctor just say that and you pay the bill?”

I handed the bill back to Christina and informed her she would be responsible to pay it.  And just as quickly she responded with “Okay, but then I’ll have to short you and dad $50 over my next two paychecks to pay you back for my car repair.”

I must have missed the $26 processing fee.