Do I fix my broken tooth for $1200 now or can I wait a month and fix it in Thailand?
December 12, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Do get my broken back molar fixed now or 5 weeks later when I'm in Thailand? If now, where can I find an affordable dentist in NYC that is not NYU dental school?

I grind my teeth a lot, and last night when I was chewing gum a HUGE HUNK of my back left molar came out with it. It was totally freaky, but there is absolutely no pain in that area. It feels a tiny bit sensitive when I drink cold things, but nothing that qualifies as an emergency. I've been careful to brush it many times a day and to chew on the other side of my mouth.

This is a long shot, but I'm honeymooning in Thailand in early February. Since I'm trying to save all my money for the trip, and since Thailand has a great reputation as a cheap, reliable dental tourism spot, I'm tempted to do minimal treatments here, where it's super expensive and I have no dental insurance, and wait til I get to Bangkok. The process there is at least a thousand dollars cheaper. However, I worry this will take several trips to the dentist, and we're only going to be in Bangkok for 2-3 days in the beginning and maybe 1 more day at the end of the trip.

If I must do it here, I need to find a dentist who offers decent payment plans and reasonable costs. I've been grinding my teeth over money issues recently, as I've bought a new computer for my new grad school life, so money is tight.

The NYU dental school is a serious back up plan because I'd have to make at least 3 trips to the offices. I'm paid hourly, and taking off even an afternoon is really hard to swing, so I wind up losing money in both directions in these circumstances.
posted by Viola to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This happened to me, and while I don't know whether or not you should get the work done in Thailand, here's my story which might help you figure it out, and which I hope helps you, because I wish someone had told me this when my molar broke:

First of all, do you have a mouth guard? You NEED one. If you don't get one, you will break more teeth, and you will need more crowns.

When I found out I was grinding my teeth I got a temporary cheap mouth guard from a pharmacy as the dentist I saw recommended. My teeth grinding started because of general school and life stress. A few months later my molar broke (I was eating soup when that happened, and I was using the cheap mouth guard religiously, but had a one-night mishap where I forgot to put it in).

I then went to another dentist, who put in a temporary filling (which I've now had close to a year) in the molar. I was then given a mouth guard (that cost me ~500 dollars, special fitted for my teeth). The grinding didn't stop, and I was saving up for the crown procedure (and waiting to start my new job which has dental insurance). In the mean time I was grinding the 500 dollar mouth guard away. I went to another dentist, complaining about my headaches, jaw pain, and my dizziness and the fact that my 500 dollar mouth guard was developing holes from the excessive grinding. He referred me to a orthodontic/jaw specialist. The specialist told me I have a class III misalignment and that I need braces (but my misalignment is not very noticeable, for various reasons, which is why past dentists never said anything about it). In the mean time, he told me NOT to get the crown work done, because after the braces procedure, my teeth will be aligned differently, and so the crown should be done then.

Here's the important part: my specialist was extremely surprised that I broke a molar because of teeth grinding, and says that the cause of this was because of my teeth misalignment. If I weren't getting braces to fix my teeth alignment, I would have eventually broken more teeth because of my misalignment. The grinding just exacerbated the fact that the teeth don't sit properly on each other and caused the molar to break.

I guess my point is, please check this entire thing out before deciding where to pay for your crown. Go to an orthodontist and ensure that you do not have a misalignment in your teeth, you might end up like me - needing braces to ensure that in the future, you don't lose all your teeth. Most people who grind their teeth don't end up breaking molars (especially if they are young - I'm in my early 20s), it could be a sign of something more serious, like in my case.

Hopefully this information is useful, because this whole thing took me forever to figure out, and was causing me a lot of anxiety. I now have braces, and have a special braces-friendly mouth guard, and I figured out that when I exercise a lot, I stop grinding my teeth. I still have to get the crown done on my molar, but that will be done when the braces come off.

And finally, note that you might have complications with the work you get in Thailand (as with any dental work) and might have to get the crown re-done again, in the future. Something to keep in mind. My mom has a crown that constantly gives her problems and returns to the dentist quite frequently due to that. I also still haven't gotten the crown done, and it's been nearly a year. I have that temporary filling which has not caused me any issues, and which cost around 200 dollars (and as an FYI, there are different types of temporary fillings - I'm not sure what this one is called, but when you look at my molar, you couldn't really tell that a huge chunk of it is missing. The day I broke my molar I went to an emergency dentist who put in a 50-dollar filling in my tooth that fell out a day later). You could do that and wait until you can save up for the full crown. But seriously, go get an evaluation from a dentist and an orthodontist - those should be free.
posted by carmel at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't speak specifically to your crown, but I can report that I had a non-emergency dental situation and I waited until a trip to Thailand, and I'm glad I did.

It's cheapest to go to a for-Thais dentist but easier to go to one of the dentists that speaks English and markets themselves to expats and medical tourists. I chose the latter and had good care and am happy with the results. They were happy to schedule the work around my schedule.

I intended to get just a bridge, but when I saw their prices I also decided to have old veneers replaced and got a second bridge for cosmetic reasons. So I got one 3-unit porcelain bridge, a Maryland bridge, and composite veneer on 4 front teeth, plus a cleaning, for $1982 in late 2009. As far as I can tell, I saved about $2800 compared to having the work done in my US city. I've had no trouble with any of the work.

So you might get an evaluation in the US, and then depending on what's recommended, have the work done in Thailand. When you call for an evaluation, you might want to ask if it's free. I was surprised to be charged $50 for a 10-minute "How much would you charge for a bridge?" visit.
posted by ceiba at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2011

Five weeks is an awfully long time to wait... I would be worried that infection might set in. You could end up with a far larger problem on your hands than if you had it taken care of sooner. I particularly worry because it's a back tooth, which makes it difficult for you to visually evaluate its condition.

And I can totally see where you're coming from, as a pretty broke-ass person, myself. But do you really want to go through a bunch of dental work on your honeymoon?
posted by ErikaB at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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