Just in case some of you are looking for an issue worthy of creating petitions and holding media circus events about — lay down your “Frenchie Davis Forever, Antonella Barba Never” and “Down With Norbit” placards for a minute and read this heartbreaking article from the Washington Post.
“A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.
If his mother had been insured.
If his family had not lost its Medicaid.
If Medicaid dentists weren’t so hard to find.
If his mother hadn’t been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth. By the time Deamonte’s own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George’s County boy died.
Deamonte’s death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.”
Every time I look at that picture of that poor little boy, sitting next to his mother, head bowed to reveal the massive scars from his brain surgery, tears of frustration well up in my eyes. I don’t mean to get all political on you guys, but I sincerely hope that in 2008, Americans vote on important issues like health care and education, rather than intentionally divisive non-issues like gay marriage. Because this situation is all kinds of effed-up.
I pray that Deamonte Driver didn’t die in vain. His story really resonated with me, and it brings me to an issue I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now.
So, for my regular readers who may have been thinking “man, Afrobella hasn’t been as on point recently,” here’s why.
On Superbowl Sunday, I broke a tooth on a piece of white chocolate. Strangely enough, although I could see and feel that my tooth had broken in half, it didn’t hurt. Initially, I thought a filling may have fallen out or something. It turns out, two dentists and three consultations later, I had a root canal that had never been finished off with a crown, and that’s the tooth that broke. Now here’s the embarrassing confession: I hadn’t been to the dentist in more than six years.
There were so many reasons to avoid going; lack of insurance when I was a student, a lifelong fear of dentists, and of course, the cost. Dentists are crazy expensive. That’s why they usually drive nice cars and live in nice houses. And besides, my teeth didn’t hurt so they must be fine, right? Right?
Wrong. My anti-dentite attitude had kept me away for far too long. I managed to find a “reasonable” dentist who I felt “comfortable” with, and we had two consultations. One where she looked at my teeth, one where she met with my husband and I to discuss payment. Even if insurance kicks in, our bill will still be more than $4000. It includes quadrant-by-quadrant Novocaine cleanings, root canal repair, two crowns, impacted wisdom teeth, fillings… you name it.
I’ve gone through all of the stages of dentistry sticker shock — vehement denial, tearful regret, and now I’m at unhappy acceptance. I did this to myself, and knowing that makes me both angry and sad. I care so much about looking pretty and getting my face done, and my teeth are white and straight so I assumed that they were doing great. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was surprised when I did an informal poll of our friends, how many of them hadn’t been to a dentist in at least as much time as I had. So I present this to you dear readers as a kind of PSA. If you haven’t been to the dentist in more than a year, make an appointment.
After getting slapped with a bill like that, I’m so obsessed with dental hygiene, it’s laughable. I’ve become one of those ladies who has to brush their teeth after every meal, and in terms of flossing, the product junkie in me has kicked in big time.
Now I’m like Dr. Teeth. Just kidding.
I used to use the Oral B Cross Action Power Battery Toothbrush, and I still love the way the vibrating brush made my teeth feel ever-so-smooth. But the dental hygenist says that the round-and-round motion does little for keeping your gums clean, and preventing the early stages of periodontal disease. They switched me to a simple soft brush (kind of like the Oral B Advantage).
When it comes to floss, I prefer to spend a little more for a brand-name variety. The Publix brand I was using would unravel and leave little threads caught between my teeth. I like the Crest Glide Deep Clean Dental Floss, and that was working great for me. But the real problems are my back teeth.
This thing is awesome. Just work the floss between your back teeth, pull it back out, wash it off, then toss the used floss when you’re done. It leaves the spaces between my teeth feeling minty fresh.
My dentist told me I needed a Waterpik, so I went ahead and bought the $6 Power Flosser. It isn’t a great product, and doesn’t adequately get between my teeth. What did I expect for six dollars?
A follow-up dental appointment revealed that they need me to buy the WaterPik Personal Oral Cleaning System, which comes with an oral irrigator and tongue cleaner. So I’ll be getting that nifty piece of hardware pretty soon. The reviews on drugstore.com aren’t great, so I’ll do a review after I try that bad boy out.
The worst part of all my dental drama isn’t the cost, it’s realizing that my problems were all preventable. Unlike Deamonte’s mother, I’m lucky enough to have a job with insurance. My hesitation was entirely my own fault, and now — literally — I’m paying the price. So don’t be like me. If you’ve been putting off any kind of doctor’s appointment, I say today’s a great day to make that first phone call.