Sitting in the doctor’s office the other day..I heard those words no patient ever wants to hear.
“I’m sorry, Doug. Your condition is irreversible.”
He went on to list my short list of options; both are scary to ponder but offer my only hope to end the pain.
Okay, okay..enough with the theatrics; the doctor is my new dentist. (Previous one retired..presumably with a good dental plan.) My irreversible condition is an upper molar which was professionally covered with an expensive crown several years ago..but has decided to become troublesome..like a gremlin sitting on my shoulder with a ball peen hammer banging on my cheek. It was called a “permanent” crown back then..but that wasn’t entirely true. Oh, it still looks okay on the outside and an X-ray showed no gaping holes beneath the surface, but the nerve below molar number one has decided, in my old age, to erupt into convulsions each time anything with a temperature that’s hotter or colder than tepid.. slides by; manifesting its displeasure with a knee-buckling jolt of pain that eventually mellows into an agonizing ache which can then only be moderately tolerated through the use of copious amounts of Ibuprofen.
( At least 16 a day.)
Well, it was bad enough to get me out of the house and into a dentist’s office; no small feat especially since I don’t have dental insurance any more.
That’s when I learned about my options; root canal or extraction.
I once had my wisdom teeth pulled (no jokes please) and don’t remember anything about it since I opted to be put under during the procedure and never felt a thing.
In fact, I used to visit the dentist on a regular basis because I’ve always had pretty good teeth (in spite of the David Letterman-size gap up front and canines that are so long and pointy I could play Dracula without a special dental fitting) and wanted to keep them that way. Plus, my dentist wasn’t fussy about cranking up the Nitrous Oxide to help mask any discomfort I might experience in the chair. The only problem with Nitrous, I found, was holding back the urge to giggle when imagining all the commotion going on in my wide gaping mouth including occasional wisps of smoke coming from the drill as he tore through an old metal filling. Hilarious.
I won’t say my family and I ever looked forward to dental visits but I didn’t worry about them either knowing that whatever needed doing was covered by our plan at work.
The sad reality is, however, once that expires after retirement..you’re pretty much on your own. At least Medicare doesn’t give a fat rat’s patootie about the care and keeping of teeth. That may explain why so many of us geezers are such a misery; our teeth hurt and we don’t have the coin to pay for insurance or money in the bank to see a dentist as often as we need to.
By the way..I went with the root canal. It’s more expensive than pulling but it turns out that particular molar is one of the busiest guys in the chewing line and would be sorely missed..where now it’s just sore. We are lucky in that we have enough in savings to cover it and our family dentist gives a 10% discount to antique people.
I don’t mean to get too political here but it seems if the government would clean up half of the Medicare fraud and abuse exposed by 60 Minutes or PBS in just one year, there would be more than enough in the kitty to fund assistance toward dental and vision care for seniors.
Oh, and the next elected representative who calls Social Security or Medicare (which I and millions of others have paid into our entire working life) “entitlement programs” don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of grey haired folks with bad toothaches storming into your offices prepared to give a lesson on who’s entitled to what.