Arranging massive dental surgery in a hurry, while self-employed
June 9, 2007 1:47 PM   Subscribe

How do I proceed with my unpleasant dental / periodontal situation? I have a 6-element frontal fixed bridge that was installed after an accident in 2002 that is in .. bad shape.

(I know there are many many dental-without-insurance questions here, and I've read every single one of them already, and they helped a lot. But this one involves a huge amount of work and I'm trying to reason out the best way to proceed)

I have utterly failed to jam floss threaders under my bridge every day, or even use a Water-Pik. I haven't been to a dentist in 5 years - I've only brushed and used Listerine a few times a day. It's bleeding nightly and I finally woke up with an abscess/blister behind my front teeth. Can't eat solid food.

The same neglect/infection scenario played out after my (bike) accident, leading to 2 extractions, 2 root canals and a permanent bridge. So I know the symptoms and roughly what to expect, though I obviously didn't learn my lesson.

So, I'm:
1) Taking ibuprofen and swishing warm saltwater
2) Calling a dentist or clinic on Monday for an antibiotic script
3) Frantically investigating dental discount plans
4) Thinking about marrying my fiancee to get on her benefits
5) Looking for a nice dental surgeon here in Northern New Jersey who is flexible with payment plans

I'm terrified about going to a Dental School as most people suggest, because after my accident, I actually tried it (in Miami) - even in just the exam they were clumsy and rough in a noisy environment, and it was extremely uncomfortable. I'm a pretty tough guy, but this was pushing it. I'm hesitant to try again, but at this point I'm open to anything.

So I had ended up going to our family cosmetic/reconstructive dentist, who put me under nitrous and had a silken touch. To the extent that this sort of thing can possibly be "pleasant", it was. But it cost $9,000, and my grandfather helped, bless his soul.

This time around, I'm living with my fiancee. She is willing to get married in court now and have the ceremony later, just to have me under her benefits. I don't want to kiss ANYONE under these conditions, but it probably beats being widowed to sepsis.

From what I've seen, though, dental insurance sucks for large things like this - paying only $1500 or $2000 total, and giving a hard time over pre-existing conditions. There are tons of non-insurance discount plans out there, but it's hard to find neutral viewpoints since they tend to be hard-sells full of fine print. So if anyone has experience with them, that would help a lot.

Basically, I have a few ways to proceed here, and want to plan a smart route with as few compromises as possible. I have a decent income, but not so decent that I could just laugh off $10k on short notice.

Thanks for reading - I will be very grateful for advice.
posted by jake to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can get financing to get dental work done. Ask at the office.
Do you get those convenience checks from credit cards? Many times, those have attractive APRs.
Good luck.
posted by FergieBelle at 2:36 PM on June 9, 2007

Yeah, isn't this exactly why God invented credit cards?
posted by ChasFile at 2:39 PM on June 9, 2007

I had my four wisdom teeth pulled with some crappy discount plan that my employer gives me for like $3.00 a month. Anyway, my teeth were well over $2K and I got a credit card to put it on. I am still paying it off, but luckily my company gave me the money to pay off the credit card bill and I pay them back weekly interest free. Maybe a credit card is a good avenue, especially if you have good credit. Good luck... seriously, I feel for you.

Oh, on the topic of marrying your fiance, this could be good if she has a good plan, however plan to wait a month or so and be prepared for that "pre-existing' crapola they give you. Maybe you can use her insurance AND a credit card?
posted by ForeverDcember at 2:42 PM on June 9, 2007

Response by poster: I forgot to mention. I don't have much credit. Never had car/student loans or anything, so I had to start from zero, and got my first $1000-limit high-APR card a couple of months ago, using it for gear purchases and stuff. So putting it all on cards is probably not an option yet.

Maybe I can work something out personally with the office(s) in question, but if it relies on a credit check I'm probably in trouble.
posted by jake at 2:49 PM on June 9, 2007

what about your girlfriend's credit cards? switch to a card that earns you miles for every dollar you spend, and then at least you might get a honeymoon out of the deal.

fwiw, i'm not a dentist, but assuming the problem is hygeine rather than fit, maybe you don't have to get this thing replaced--maybe you'll just need a good cleaning, antibiotics, and to stay off solid food until it heals (and take better care of yourself going forward).
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:49 PM on June 9, 2007

>I finally woke up with an abscess/blister behind my front teeth

if you have an infection, have it looked at NOW.

I had an infection behind a front tooth with a dead nerve (but no root canal, yet) some years ago, which spread to the surrounding skin a few days later.

Please see a doctor today or tomorrow, don't wait until Monday. If the area around your mouth swells, go to Emergency, stat.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:11 PM on June 9, 2007

I was on a Delta Dental of Minnesota individual (that is, a buy it yourself) plan not too long ago. They had a waiting period before they'd pay for anything big (I think six months), and the max they'd pay in a year was right in the ballpark you describe. They'd only pay towards a bridge once every 5 years.

My dentist office was always kind of curious about the plan, because there have been times that individual plan weren't being offered at all. We had to double check each time to see just what they'd actually pay for.

I looked into the "discount plans" and didn't buy--they just didn't seem solid enough or offer that much of a difference. Regular "dental insurance" at the individual level is mostly about getting back your premiums with a few cost markdowns for being in the plan, it's pretty much a discount/savings plan itself rather than what's popularly thought of as "insurance".

Perio might actually be a little easier to get a dental plan to pay for than actual crowns, bridges, etc.

If you had a little more time to work with, you could try going overseas or south of the border to save money.
posted by gimonca at 5:41 PM on June 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the well wishes and advice so far, guys, I really appreciate it. It was a lot scarier the first time I went through this, but I have friends and family nearby for support, and the Hive Mind for wisdom.

I'm not too macho to draw the line if it starts to spread, but the area is shrinking with constant saltwater. Last time I did this, I kept it in check for 3 months, but it ate away all the bone. God, what a horrifying thought. But now I have the means to take care of it within a week.

I really want to avoid self-paying for an ER visit, and there aren't any 24-7 clinics around here. But I'll play it by ear, conservatively. Thanks again, I'll contribute something to MeFi Music in gratitude.
posted by jake at 6:27 PM on June 9, 2007

While you're getting your scrip for the antibiotics, get a scrip for Xanax for your "dental anxiety". Dope yourself to the gills and go to dental school.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:16 PM on June 9, 2007

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