Seriously, he looked at me like I had 2 heads

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Ivy says:

This is part story time and part ask the audience. Let me tell you about my teeth, internets. Between my heredity, TMJ, not having dental insurance for most of my adult life, and my love for Dr. Pepper, I have terrible teeth. Several years ago, my TMJ and a couple of bad teeth pushed my pain level to something I couldn’t stand and I went to an oral surgeon and had a ton of teeth removed. Now the only molars I have left on my bottom jaw are bad, and I’ve got to decide what to do. Crap.

Now, I have dental insurance that doesn’t cover much, but some is better than none. And I have some money saved. But to completely fix my teeth with root canals and implants as so many dentists insist on, I don’t have that kind of money. The local dental school has a 5 month waiting list and isn’t even putting people on the waiting list right now. And there is a local dental charity, but we make slightly too much money for it, and we have dental insurance. Rats.

So, with all that said, I gathered my resolve and headed to a local dentist today, determined to make it work- get the dental care I needed and not go into debt for it. The way I figure, I could get partial dentures on the bottom until I can eventually afford implants. You know, not get into debt, do it a piece at a time as I can afford it. That sounds fairly reasonable, right?

Apparently not.

(Click on over to read the rest)

I went in and was talking to the dentist and I explained my situation and told him, “I have some money saved plus what my insurance covers. But I cannot go into debt to repair my teeth.” And he looked at me like I had two heads. He went on to comment how Dave Ramsey would love me, and then said, “If you found out you had termites in your house and you only had $1000 saved, and it cost $5000 to fix, what would you do?”

Well, Home Eccers, if that happened to me, I’d see how much my homeowners insurance would cover, then I’d see how much of it I could DIY, and if I couldn’t DIY it, it would either have to wait until I saved the money or else I’d see if I could trade out work for the work I needed. So I told him that. And again, he looked at me like I had two heads.

To make a long story short (too late!), once again I’ve seen a dentist that I don’t think will work with me on keeping costs down and going with what I have to work with. I understand that implants are cheaper in the long run, but in the short term, I don’t have that kind of money to work with, and I’d like to be able to eat food that’s not soup or oatmeal.

This brings me to the ask the audience portion of today’s post. First, to anyone in the Nashville area- do you know a dentist who would be cool with pulling my 2 bad teeth and fitting me with partial dentures and won’t lecture me on the condition of my teeth and would work with me slowly on the rest of the work I need?

For everyone else: how do you find a dentist that will work with you and you can afford? I’ve tried calling places to ask how much specific things cost, and I get answered with “You’ll have to make an appointment and we’ll tell you how much everything will cost.” Ay yi yi. All I want is a fee schedule so I can determine who has the best price. Why is that so difficult?

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51 thoughts on “Seriously, he looked at me like I had 2 heads”

  1. There are NO dentists taking on patients in the UK & to add to that difficulty I have a severe phobia about dentists. I cannot do more than have a dentist look in my mouth without instruments. I used to have gas or this injection in my arm that knocked me out so the dentist could do the work but the govt here have stopped that. All that is available now is an injection in the mouth. I’m not able to have that.
    So, there is no possibility of me ever having dental work done.

  2. You know why 99.995% of doctors and dentists and the like in the US do NOT give you a fee sheet?


    If we forced them to compete in the free market, costs would go down due to competition and innovation. Instead we want the government to magically pay for it all, and we end up with this half-assed system where everything is too expensive and no one will tell you how much it costs until after you get work done.

    Notice how plastic surgeons cannot get away with this crap. Most of their business is NOT covered by insurance. They have to compete.

    In the old days, doctors had to tell you what they charged. Then we invented “universal” health care and the insurance business. We’ve suffered for it since. Can you imagine an entire country where you can’t find a dentist taking on patients?

    Bet you could find a private dentist in the UK if you had the money though…the free market is the answer, but no one ever wants to hear that. They just want the government to pay, even though the government technically just steals more of our money to pay for everything. But I digress. πŸ™‚

    Locally I found _one_ dentist that is willing to give me a to-the-penny estimate up front and ballpark figures over the phone. Total luck to find them, and they are willing to do piecemeal work and let me set my terms and schedule as regards payment (I have zero dental coverage). Great place, but it wouldn’t help anyone out of the greater New Haven CT area. Progressive Dentistry, if you’re in town. All good people who will work with you on anything. They also specialize in people with fears about dentistry and sensitive teeth. *Very* cool people, from the receptionists to the assistants to the three or four practicing dentists.

    Sorry for the rant, but this is a pet peeve issue of mine. There is no such thing as free health care, and I get a little wound up about the topic. πŸ™‚

  3. You’re already doing the best thing you can .. asking others for recommendations!

    I found my dentist through a recommendation (not in Nashville though, my apologies). He is “out of network” for my insurance so I have to pay more BUT he is willing to give a cost estimate and works with me each year to help me decide how much to put into my FLEX account to cover what insurance will not. I’ve had crowns, MANY fillings, root canals, too many xrays, and other work done. It’s taken YEARS to get my mouth back into shape but that has allowed me to save up before each procedure.

    It is unlikely any dentist will give you an estimate without looking at your teeth first. They don’t want to go through all the trouble of working the numbers if you’re just going to disappear. Depending on how much the appointment costs, you could view it as a fee for their time to work the numbers. I don’t think that is altogether unfair. Allow me to be wishy washy and say I have NO insight on why they can’t say, “An extraction costs x dollars.” Maybe it depends on the intricacy of the procedure which can vary?

    I feel your pain (literally!) My best advice is to find a place that can work with you gradually. You’re unlikely to have to shell out $5000 on day one. It may be $500 for the first steps, then $200 for the second, etc. Keep looking and save like a mad woman NOW! There has got to be a decent dentist with a good staff willing to assist you somewhere! (:

  4. Sweetheart, I love you and totally understand your desire not to go into debt, but you understand the termite analogy, right? You would NEED to go into debt – do anything you had to – to get rid of the termites before they did more damage to your house. It’s the stitch in time saves nine concept, and if it applies to your teeth, PLEASE go into debt for them! It will affect you for the rest of your life – you need to take care of your body! I hope I don’t come off as lecturing you – I just am worried because I know it’s difficult to sink a bunch of money you don’t have into your own health care, but you shouldn’t have to suffer years down the road because you allowed your teeth and/or jaw to become further damaged.

  5. When I lived in Nashville (high school and officially during college), I went to Dr. Griffith. She’s the mom of a girl that I graduated from Overton HS with (we were in band and choir together). She pulled all of my wisdom teeth and has worked with all the rest of my family.

    I have no idea how well she would work with you in terms of fee schedule, etc., but she’s always been willing to work with my family on everything. If you tell her you’re a friend of Melissa Turner who went to school with her daughter Diane, she might be a little more willing to talk. I doubt that recommendation would help with her office staff though, so you’d have to actually be talking to her (unless Diane’s working for her again – can I tell you how strange it is to have someone you graduated high school with fill one of your teeth? While you’re still in college??!!).

    Her office is located near the corner of Nolensville Rd. and Harding Place right across the street from where Harding Mall used to be (it’s a Super Walmart now).

    Hope that helps!

  6. My husband is a dentist (my favorite dentist :D). He would absolutely work with you on a pay schedule. Recently a patient asked him to let him pay a minimal amount each month because of a family crisis- my husband said absolutely yes! Most patients who can’t pay will just let it go and be sent to collections eventually, but when they take the initiative to work it out, my husband is more than willing to make it happen.

    Bottom line- find someone who will do this for you! There are good guys out there, at least in our community.

  7. I no longer live in the Nashville area, but when we were there (3 years ago) we went to a Dr. Mark Warden in the Brentwood area. He was very conservative, and we were able to make payments, not come up with the whole enchilada at once (a must with 8 kids!). I don’t know that he would give you a fee schedule over the phone, but we were pleased with his service in the 2 years that we were there and used him.

  8. My child’s dentist sends a bill to the insurance company for a ridiculous rate. The insurance company says “Hey, this is what we’ll pay”. It’s probably 85% of what she quoted. She takes it and I don’t get a bill for the remainder. Which makes me believe that she pushed for what she could get and was more than happy with the take she got. Sounds a mess.

    Why am I not a dentist?

  9. I am terrified to go to the dentist… I had not gone for about 15 years and then I broke a tooth in 1/2….very painful….so I had no choice….as I was praying for guidence the Lord told me “you have a friend with autism….go to his dentist….if he can handle your friend he can handle you”. Well the guy is the Mercedes of dentist when all I really need is a Toyoto……but it is pain free except for the price. I don’t have dental insurance either so I put what I needed on my credit card to get past the immediate crisis. I told him I don’t want custom made porciline fillings (I’m almost sixty years old I don’t care if people see my silver fillings!!!) I have a complete print out of all of the work I need done and I pick and choose what I will have done as I can pay cash for the treatments. Best wishes to you I know this is a tough situation. Pam, South Bend

  10. My husband learned a tough lesson when he lost a tooth. He was told by one dentist that he didn’t have to get an implant right away. Then we moved to a different state and when he was ready for the implant, a year or so later, it was too late, the bone had deteriorated and would not take the post. This was a very expensive, painful lesson. If you don’t get the post for the implant right away, the bone may not be there when you’re ready.

    And I agree that your teeth are too valuable to let sit. Go into debt and get this done!

    Nashville might be big enough for some sort of barter network. If there is, you could see if there’s a dentist on the list and work out some sort of trade for some of the work.

  11. I often see comments in topics like these referring to “the Government will/can/might/wont/should pay”. Of course, the Government doesn’t have any money of its own, only what it forcibly removes from the population in the name of taxation. Either way, you’re still paying yourself.

  12. In Nashville – Dr. Ron Swang
    He is in the Green Hills area
    I saw him for almost 10 years. The only reason I don’t continue to see him is that I live in M’boro, but I have seriously considered leaving my current “total experience” dentist and driving the 1+ hour each way just for him. And I hate going to the dentist. I think he would be sympathetic and willing to cooperate with you.

    (Email me if you want more info. I’ve been reading your stuff for a while, actually discovered you on NIT in the Brittany days.)

  13. Oh, I empathize with you. I inherited bad teeth too. πŸ™

    When I talked with my former Nashville dentist about frugally fixing my teeth (he also looked at me like i had 2 heads, so perhaps we had the same dentist!), he suggested that i consider Meharry’s Dental clinic where students do the work under close supervision for much smaller costs.

    According to Ms. Cheap at the Tennessean, “Your best bets are Tennessee State University Dental Hygiene Clinic, 963-5791, where they offer free screenings and $10 appointments for cleanings, and Meharry Dental Clinic, 1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Blvd., 327-6669, where they offer services such as fillings, dentures, crowns and bridges at about 30 percent to 50 percent below private practice rates. You should know that since most of the work is done by students, a seemingly simple procedure such as a cleaning can take as many as four appointments. And there might be additional fees for X-rays or other extras. The Interfaith Dental Clinic, 1721 Patterson St., 329-4790, provides services on a sliding scale for working, uninsured families.”

  14. I’ve gone through something similar to this. After two root canals, my insurance wouldn’t cover a permanent crown. Then I went a couple of years without insurance (got a divorce). In the meantime my teeth practically rotted out. Had to have them pulled along with five others (seven total). Then I had to have another root canal. Take it from someone who is practically toothless and only has two teeth that actually meet so I can chew on food, you want to keep as many teeth as you can. Why can’t you do a root canal and then crown it? My dentist now offers the option to let you pay it out. Maybe you can find a dentist around town that will let you set up some type of payment plan. I would call around. Good luck.

  15. You might try again to ask prices but with a slightly different tactic. I pulled the insurance codes for a few procedures my husband and I had recently had off our insurance records. Then I googled to see who my closest dentist were (saves gas!). I called them and asked them to tell me what they would charge for the codes I had. All of them told me but one. So I eliminated that one. Then I went to the cheapest for a cleaning. It was a good fit. They were a family of three brothers who were sons of a dentist father. They inherited his business and office and weren’t trying to take me for a ride. I told them up front about some bad experiences I had recently had and they assured me they didn’t work like that. And they were right.

    I have also had cleanings and things done by students and they work was fine. They took x-rays and cleaned for $7. When they were done they told me I had a problem that needed to be looked at by a dentist and gave me the number to the dental school in town where they also did inexpensive work. So that’s a good route too.

    I hope you get it figured out!

  16. I’m not in Nashville, but I’ve heard that Angie’s List has started to list doctors and dentists. That might be worth a shot!

  17. First: Instead of asking dentists for a rate sheet ahead of time, try asking for a free consultation. I’m not sure how many dentists do them, but all orthodontists do. And they can’t really accurately quote you until they have evaluated you.

    Now, to the real issue: There is bad debt, and there is good debt. Having functional teeth and a smile that makes you happy is absolutely worth going into debt for.

    I speak from personal experience. Not long ago, I went to grad school and took out student loans in part so I could get braces and the jaw surgery I needed to do things right. It was a scary decision, but my braces came off two years ago and I don’t regret it for a minute.

    Shop around for the best deal on credit that you can find. Some ideas: Check with your bank (and others) about a personal loan, refinance your car, get home equity, get a low or no interest credit card, look into credit plans just for dentistry and orthodontia. (The latter are indeed out there, but I found they were basically credit cards in disguise.)

    I spent more on my teeth than on my car, but I’m going to get a lot more use out of my teeth. Your mouth is absolutely vital to your well-being and longevity. Take care of it!

  18. I think it is important not to idolize debt-free living.

    There are some things it’s ok to go into debt for.

    Immediate and real medical needs are one of them.

    Get your teeth taken care of. You are the steward of your teeth as well as your asset/debt ratio sheet.

  19. Now, wait a minute guys. I don’t want you to think I’m “idolizing debt-free living”. First, I’m not living debt-free to begin with, and second, it’s not a matter of “won’t”, but “can’t”.

    We can’t afford another monthly payment. Theoretically, we could if it was very, very small. But with the way prices are going up on everything and the economy is so uncertain, I do not want to commit to another monthly payment I may not be able to afford 6 months from now.

    I really don’t understand why my hopes to be able to do little bits at a time as I can afford it or to trade out work or something that doesn’t require me to get into debt seems so appalling to so many commenters here.

  20. I didnt read every comment .. short attention span, sorry.

    One big reason that doctors/dentists wont work with you is they dont need to. With so many patients in the market, they can pick and choose. Why take your case when they can take someone elses designer caps for the same total cost and get paid up front. Sh!tty but true.

    That being said, there are plenty who WILL do it, once you find them. So keep looking and keep asking. Find someone who’s been going to their dentist for 20+ years .. that’s usually an older man (or woman, but rarely i’ve found) who is sorta like a grandpa, who got into the business not to drive a nice car, but to fix peoples teeth. And he’s the one who wants your mouth healthy, and will work for you.

    I live in Fla, and unfortunately my Grandpa dentist just retired. And the person who he turned his practice over to is a very nice young lady. Who I wont go to. I’ll find another caring Grandpa.

  21. Because this is not painting your house, or fixing termite damage. This is your health. Bad teeth not only look bad, they affect your heart, your immune system, your self esteem. I am not for going into debt if I can work something out either, but this might be a case where you have to. And you sound like you already have a pretty good down payment.

    See if the doctor will take $10 a month. Many will. Then if your situation changes, pay him $20. You’d still be doing it slowly, but you’d have healthy teeth in the mean time.
    Personally, I’d go with the dental school. When I was in beauty school I did peoples hair for a discounted rate. I was just a few months from working for my self. They don’t put dental students on the floor until they are trained in the basics, and they are probably well supervised. At the very least you could get a good list of what needs to be done and they could help you find a good quality dentist that would work with you.

    Figure out what you can absolutely afford to add. Subtract 10% for cushion. Offer the doctor that as a monthly payment.

    He’d rather have your $10-20 a month, and treat you, than treat you and have to write it off as a bad debt.

    Of course, your other solution is to see if Discovery Health is doing a tv show on poor dental health. They’d do it for free, minus your pride. πŸ™‚

  22. I’d like to go to the dental school, believe me. But as I said in the post: “The local dental school has a 5 month waiting list and isn’t even putting people on the waiting list right now. ”

    Discovery Health is not such a bad idea, actually.

  23. I’m going to have to second Ivy on this one. She’s not saying she’s just going to let it go and not fix it, she just wants someone who will work with her on terms that are beneficial for both her & the dentist.

    And the termite example is balderdash! Coming from someone who is currently dealing with that situation, it’s an apples and oranges kind of comparison.

    I have to say I’m disappointed that commenters would actually encourage Ivy to go into debt! Debt is not good! (and fwiw, I’m not a “Dave Ramsey disciple”) Why is it so crazy to want to have this dental work done w/o going into debt over it? Even if Ivy didn’t have other financial obligations to meet each month, if it can be done and done right without going into debt over it then that’s how it should be done.

  24. Damn…I get that a lot too. I’ve had estimates that place my dental work from 15,000 -30,000. And unfortunately I dont’ even have the resources to go into such debt. I have one credit card that I got yesterday (the first in 10 years due to bad credit) and it’s got a limit of 300.

    I’d love to trade off dental work for something or for a dentist who will work with me rather than handing me the two credit companies they work with.

    Until I find one I’m stuck with my bad teeth. *sighs* If you find a good dentist who honestly wants to help and works with people, let me know. πŸ™‚

  25. I agree with Ivy.

    She’s being an adult–facing a difficult problem, being real about its financial consequences, and looking to do the best she can with what she has.

    In the absence of helpful leads, the least we can do is cheer her on!

    Here are some other ideas I had, outside the traditional channels:

    –see if a small dentist will trade a year of after-hours office cleaning for work

    –find a dentist who serves our immigrant population or is himself an immigrant. He will be more accustomed with cash systems than a dentist in Green Hills or Brentwood.

    –Investigate dental clinics in cities where you have friends/family. Perhaps the waiting lists are not as long.

    –Consider losing one debt to cover this one; going one car for a while, etc.

    Good luck Ivy and we are rooting for you!

  26. Ivy, you are on a good track. You ARE going to find a dentist who will work with you — I know it. I’m going to DM you my dentist [Green Hills area] on Twitter. He is AMAZING and funny. I’d be stunned if he isn’t willing to help you map out a gradual work & payment schedule for what you need done.

  27. I was inTV broadcasting for 27 years. We frequently followed folks thru medical or dental procedures. If you are willing to open ourself up to that I would contact your local newspaper or TV station and pitch the idea to them… you solicited advice on your wonderful blog and then your search……usually the media that chooses to do the story would help you find a dentist and the work would be done free to you in exchange for the PR for the dentist. It is certainly worth the effort. Pam, South Bend

  28. You could try my dentist, Dr. Huey Newberry:

    I don’t *know* that he can help, but he is right in the heart of Little Mexico and I’m the only white person I’ve ever seen there, so to tie to Meredith’s suggestion, I have a feeling he’s used to working with cash programs and/or creative solutions.

    If nothing else he seems to be good enough at what he does that he may be able to reduce unnecessary costs — he pulled three of my wisdom teeth, and didn’t have to send me to an oral surgeon, despite the fact that there were barely nubs left for him to grab.

  29. I absolutely love my dentist…Alan Laurain. He is in Nashville, actually close to your part of town. Also, if you are interested in other dental insurance, check into the Farm Bureau. They offer BCBS and it is excellent coverage. It is far better (coverage and cost-wise) than what my husband’s employer offers.

  30. I think you misinterpreted some previous commenters that say your should go into debt. Their intention (as is mine) is concern for your health.

    One tip I learned in the past that helped me (I have lots of problems with my teeth as well), is to see what if anything can possibly be covered by your HEALTH insurance. There is not (typically) a lot that falls into this category (except Oral Surgery), but any help is better than none if you can get it.

    Also, you can look into some independent Dental Insuranace Plans. There are plenty of them. They are not great (seems no dental plans actually are), but if you can get say an additional supplemental policy of $1,500 or $2,000 for say an additional premium of $200 or $300 it would obviously be worth it, because you know you will definitely hit those targets.

    Good luck.

  31. Hey Ivy, you could try Dr. Jimmy Bishop (the son, not the dad) in Murfreesboro. I have gone to him for about 10 years. My insurance has never covered all of my cavity work (I have so many cavities filled I couldn’t even tell you), and I’ve always been able to pay-as-I-go, with about $1 finance charge each month. One time I had nine cavities filled in a two-week period (I swear I brush my teeth, I just have really shitty enamel) and my bill was about $350, even after insurance. I was in college and totally broke, so I paid about $20/month, more when I could, until I paid it off.

    I’d give him a call. He’s super nice, and I’d be surprised if he couldn’t work with you somehow.

  32. Debt is not good — but neither is not being able to eat, chronic pain, a wasted-away jawbone, heart disease, body-wide cellular inflammation or feeling ashamed of your smile.

    The mouth is nearly as vital to one’s overall health and well-being as the brain and the heart.

    I understand not having enough money, but it’s important to realize that a health mouth should be at the very top of one’s priority list.

  33. Hi Ivy!

    Firstly: my sympathies to you. I understand how people can get into this situation with their teeth and place no judgement on you.

    I can see how dentists are business people and are therefore out to make a profit but unfortunatly it is very common today for professionals to not be very willing to work with patients. This might be because of bad past experiences or what ever, but that doesn’t help your situation.

    Here is my idea:

    I live in a rural area. Dentists don’t get much business….. which means they actually ADVERTISE in the local papers that they are perfectly willing to work with all patients, no matter what their ability to pay. They are thrilled to have ANY business rather than none.

    Can you try calling some dentists in the rural surrounding areas? Even if it’s an hour drive — you will still get your teeth fixed. Dentists that are starting a brand new practice from scratch might be interested too. They are not usually brand new dentists — they’ve worked in another practice for awhile but want to venture out on their own.

    Best of luck to you!


  34. I hear you. As you know, I’m in the same predicament you’re in, well actually looking at having to get something done about ALL of mine. And am frightened that I could end up like that little kid that died of subacute bacterial endocarditis.

    When I am able to do anything at all I will probably go to my mom’s dentist up yonder. I think he will be reasonable and do it the way it should be.

    It would mean a couple hours’ trip for you but let me know if you want his name and number. It might be worth it (and goes along with what was just said about rural areas).

  35. I meant no offense and you certainly have my sympathy. I read your post as saying: my teeth are in serious trouble, but I’m not willing to go into debt over them. Sometimes, I think we don’t see the forest for the trees, and sometimes, I think we get so interested in a cause, such as debt-free living, that our better judgment loses out.

    If you absolutely can’t afford one more monthly payment, I recommend you ask a charitable organization (such as your church if you have one, otherwise, I don’t know of one off hand) for help. It seems to me also, should your finances be so poor, that you might qualify for government assistance.

    If that bothers you morally, you could make a personal commitment to pay it back when able, and keep the commitment.

  36. OK, this is just a thought, maybe you could call 1-800-Dentist. They advertise that they can help you find an affordable dentist. Maybe they could also give you some idea of what the things cost. Also call your insurance co. and ask them what they will pay for each of the procedures. They too might have a recommendation of dentists they like to work with?

  37. Another idea, Mexico. SOOOO many people in Sand Diego and LA travel to Mexico for dental work that it is considered normal here. The travel and the work could cost less than the work in the US. Most of all you should know that you are not alone. There is a great article on medical travel in US NEWs and World Reports a few weeks ago.

  38. I’ve been dealing with similar issues since I was in high school. What I do in emergencies (which you have) is talk to EVERYONE I know. Sometimes, just sometimes, someone will have a good connection. Dentists are very difficult to work with because they have the highest debt default rate of any other professional. For some reason, people will pay off their mechanic before paying their dentist. But many dentists, being overall good people, will take care of a friend or even a friend of a friend. I have met two like this, one of whom takes care of people at my workplace just because his brother worked there for many years and introduced him to several impoverished, but trustworthy, patients. Someone you know might just know a similar good soul, but you have to ask.

  39. I totally agree with Jim! I had to have some plastic surgery with my cancer reconstruction. My surgeon actually worked out a discount for me, he was very competitive. My mom on the other hand has bad teeth and no dental. We have spent $1,000s to get her teeth fixed, now we are selling her vehicle to pay for the credit card bill.

    My old dentist was a family friend he took payments all the time, but now nobody does that I know.

    I am praying for you!

  40. Just went to my dentist yesterday (crown and root canal – eek!) and wanted to revisit this topic. I asked about their pricing and explained why I was asking (your post). I specifically asked if they had a standard rate for procedures and was told “mostly yes.”

    Apparently, root canals vary the most b/c it is based on the number of roots and since that varies from molars to incisors it can be more or less. Everything else pretty much has a standard rate, BUT if they need to do additional xrays, etc to check on progress those could be added expenses.

    She said that many dentists are going to fee only, which means the patient is responsible for the full amount up front and is then responsible for getting their insurance company to reimburse them. She recommended looking for recommendations (looks like you’ve got some great ones here!) and also looking for older practices b/c they tend to be more lenient and understanding with their patients.

    The biggest problem I see is not your unwillingness to go into debt (good for you!) but that you state you cannot afford another monthly bill. No matter who you go to, you will have to give them some money on a regular basis. The amount will need to be negotiated, so maybe if you re-review your finances and go in saying .. “I have x dollars I can give you each month, I need y done .. can we work that out?” you’ll find someone willing to give you the time you need.

    Best of luck!!

  41. Ivy, you’ve inspired me to get my teeth fixed! I’ve been putting it off. After a freelance job, I’ve said, “this money is earmarked to get my teeth worked on,” but it was so much easier to put that money in Savings. I checked out BCBS dental insurance — and you know what? They will not pay for any major work for 12 months! Those little **&%!!##!!!
    Best of luck, girl!

  42. Ivy,

    I gave up on the comments about 50% of them ago.

    We sit in the same boat, with this, except I have a dentist who is babying me, right now.

    I was surprised to recently learn that most insurance caps at $1000/year. Mine is slightly higher, and I still will run out of insurance, this year, before I get 1/2 of what I need done, started. Or so it seems.

    I gave up on an abscess. I was able to call around, to the specialists, after being referred out.. endodontics vs oral surgery. I asked them specific cost questions and determined that I will NEVER be able to afford implants.

    I opted to have a tooth removed, again, instead of the specialists root canal.. solely based on cost.

    My dentist has filled me with the “they can shift” fears and has told me that the bridge (basically three crowns, in price, which avg about $600/ea here) is urgently necessary. A helpful receptionist settled some of my fears, with “you can’t do what you can’t do. you aren’t wanting to never fix it.”

    Btw, an abscess is technically a medical problem and some health insurance companies will cover you, when dental insurance won’t.. like for anesthesia. I got this info, from a blog-friend, who works for an insurance company. My coverage wasn’t that way.. but it comes down to how the problem is coded. Sometimes we can’t control THAT. I tried.

    The oral surgeon told me that the office girls are pros at knowing what is covered. The office girl told me that the doctor coded it (and gave me the code) which is what determines the insurance coverage.. really. So its a vicious unending circle, it seems.

    With my abscess, I not only had to see a specialist, for extraction, but I was then faced with the chemistry side of the possibilities of the acidic/alkaline neutrality and the local anesthetic not working! That’s when I was informed, as I was debating decisions, that “not working anesthesia” is not a medical necessity for an alternate form of anesthesia.

    My oral surgeon is also out of my network and wants 100%, up front, while we wait for insurance payments.

    Here’s what I’ve found helpful. Look for a clinic type dentist office that has more than one dentist on staff. They tend to be more flexible in the “do what they need to/can to help you now” (at least from my experience.)

    My running joke, right now, is that dentures ARE financeable. (is that a word?)

    I need about 8+ crowns and I’m living every day with the knowledge that a tooth can break any minute.

    I’ve had one crown, two specialist extractions, and a few fillings so far, this year. I have enough insurance for a few more fillings and the rest is sitting on a wing and a prayer.

    BTW, I was told that the inplants price does not include the follow-up to have the stud crowned. Here we are looking at around $3K a tooth.

    I bet you could get a free consultation at a specialist that does the partial dentures.. exclusively. Specialist services seem to have that feature that the standard dentist hasn’t given me. yet.

    I’m still hopeful??

    Best of luck to you. *hugz* ~Heidi

  43. Oh and yes, its true, that dentists are in great demand and don’t technically need us, as patients..

    But don’t forget that you are the customer. Do your homework and then make the appointments for the services that you want them to render.


  44. This topic hits close to home. My husband and I were hit with unexpected dentist bills this month. Our dentist has given us a 20% cash discount for dental work over the last eight years. (No dental insurance.) Even with the discount we did not have 1,500 lying around. I held a two-day yard sale, sold some dishes and furniture on Craig’s List, and am selling some items on Ebay to raise the needed funds.
    A lot of effort but I would rather go through labor than the pain of a toothache.

  45. I realise that the dentists are the big-bad around here, (and as I’m in the UK with no hope of a NHS dentist anytime soon), but have you considered what the dentist is thinking? My ex is a private dentist, and he’s had many people try to scam him (one even filed false sexual harassment charges against him, only to offer to drop the charges if he’d forget the bill). The reason he won’t work on a piece-by-piece basis (especially for new patients) is that too often those patients promise they’ll be back in a month/when they’ve got the money, and are never seen again, and he’s worried that they’ll turn up a couple of years later, find that the teeth are too bad to have whatever it is they wanted done, then turn around and file a complaint/charges against him.
    Which is not to say that I don’t think some (many) dentists are just out to scam as much money out of the patients/government/insurance companies as possible.
    Do you or your husband know personally/live next to a dentist (or the mother of one). Everyone is more likely to take a chance on someone they know (or who their mother recommends). Other than that, elderly dentists (who remember what it was like living hand-to-mouth) new practices (who need patients) and alternative dentists (don’t laugh, my ex works with a guy who specialises in people with phobias, mouth piercings or who want ‘fangs’, he’s so flexable it’s unbelievable).
    But anyway, the point of this rambling post was that not all dentists who are unwilling to work on a “when I’ve got the money” basis are inherently evil.
    [And yes, my ex does look at my teeth every once in a while without charging me, but he won’t do any work on them.]

  46. I have just spent $6600 for 2 extractions, deep gum cleaning, 2 root canals, 3 crowns, 3 fillings. This is with a sedation dentist. I’m TERRIFIED of dentists. I had to use capital one healthcare financing. It’s worth it to go into debt for this. It’s unfortunately…..but you have to do it. If you keep letting your teeth go, it can damage your heart. And the infection can go into your bloodstream!

  47. If it makes you feel better my Uncle is a dentist and I still can’t afford to go to him…hes in a multi practioner practice and they don’t give family discounts or take payment plans.

  48. I was reading through the original post and your dental dilemmas in Nashville. I am a senior dental student at Meharry dental school and if anyone is interested in coming to the school for dental work email me at I could probably make an appointment for next week or so.

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