When I was little kid, like maybe 9 or 101, I smashed up my front teeth. I was out playing with my friend Kelly in a park and her brother and his friend were chasing us. I was running behind Kelly and had looked back to see if the boys were gaining on us, but didn’t realize that Kelly ran towards, and then ducked under, the metal bar of a jungle gym. I turned my head back around just in time to run full-speed, teeth first into the metal bar. Two handfuls of blood2, a trip to the emergency room, and a late night excursion to the on call dentist’s office later, it was determined that nothing could be done to save my teeth – and so it was off to the endodontist for three root canals.
Now, before this, I had reasonably straight teeth. After the smashy smashy, though, not so much. Unfortunately, braces are expensive and my family didn’t have the money for them, and so I’ve gone through life with bashed in teeth. In particular, one of my canines is a bit too far forward, and the one to the right of that canine, a bit too far back. It looks pretty icky in real life and even moreso in photos (as the shadow cast by the flash makes the tooth that is too far back look like it’s missing!). I’ve mentioned before that you’d be hard pressed to find a photo of me smiling with my mouth opened – I just don’t do it because I know it will turn out awful. I like to think that my tight-lipped grin gives me a mischievous look, but really, it’s just self-consciousness.
Anyway, I finally decided to bite the bullet3 and go for an orthodontist consultation. I got a recommendation from my coworker Jeanette; both Jeanette and her sister, who is a dental hygienist, went to this orthodontist and (a) Jeanette has nice teeth and (b) I figure her sister knows her stuff4. Unlike my dentist, whose favourite line seems to be “are you happy with this smile?” (which she says with a grimace), the ortho said that though we’d need to move the teeth very slowly (i.e., over 1.5 years) due to the fact that the three front ones are FUBARed and we don’t want to traumatize them further with quick movement, and then I’d need some “restorative” dentistry to pretty up the front ones, she’s confident that she could give me “a Hollywood smile.” Of course, there is a chance that the front ones could fall out (!) and then I’d need implants5. But, honestly, I was thinking about it and (a) I like that she was honest about the possibilities and (b) these teeth have been dead for a really, really long time. Like, they were alive for 9 or 10 years and they’ve been dead 23 or 24 years!
So, the last item in question is the cost. The total bill, should I decide to go through with this, is $7,000. Ouch. My benefits plan should cover $3,000 of that6, which means I need to cough up $4,000. The receptionist was quick to mention that they have a “payment plan” and I was just as quick to reject it. I have enough debt with the student loans and I don’t believe in taking on debt for things that aren’t necessities7. Fortunately, I’m teaching a course this term and while I was considering putting all the money I made from that onto my student loans, I’m now thinking I might want to use $4000 of it for braces. I mean, I’m paying off my student loans at a quicker rate than the normal schedule and I would like to get rid of them, but I’m also aware that since it will take 1.5 years of braces time, I really should do it sooner rather than later. Like, I don’t want to be 40 before I get them! So maybe some of the extra money to braces, some of the extra money to student loans. As Jen said in the comments of the my real estate posting “I can have anything I want (within reason […]), just not all at once.”
Anyway, I’m asking my dental benefits peeps for a pre-authorization, mostly because I don’t trust anyone (they told me on the phone “oh yeah, it will be covered,” but I want it confirmed in writing. I’m not risking being on the hook for the whole $7,000!), which gives me a little while to make my final decision.
- for some reason I had it in my head that I was 12 when this happened, but then when I was thinking about it today, that didn’t seem right, so I called my parents and asked them and they said I was 9 or 10 at the time [↩]
- funnily enough, we were out playing at a park because we’d all gone with Kelly’s dad to the local arena where he had a hockey game and there was a park next to the arena. You’d think if anyone was going to screw up their teeth in that scenario, it would be the one playing hockey! [↩]
- pun intended! [↩]
- and it turns out that the ortho in question is the new president of the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists (of the American Board of Orthodontists), so I figure she must be pretty good [↩]
- I always did want to be a cyborg [↩]
- that’s my lifetime max for ortho [↩]
- i.e., my education I considered a necessity, whereas the ability to smile with my mouth open is more of a luxury. I’ve spent 23+ years with mangled teeth, it’s clearly not an emergency that I get them fixed [↩]