The Story of the $5,000 Tooth (A Flipper Tale)

I recently had my semi-annual dental checkup with a complete set of x-rays.  The good news is:  I don’t have any cavities.  And I walked away from the appointment feeling pretty good about myself.  But several days later, I got a call from my dentist’s office saying that I needed a “consultation.”  Hearing that word made my heart sink into my stomach because a post check-up consultation usually means something is very wrong.

So several weeks later, I returned to my dentist’s office for the “consultation” appointment.  I was informed that my front left tooth is rapidly disintegrating.  You see, 25 years ago this particular tooth suffered trauma when an overzealous basketball player elbowed me in the mouth during a “friendly” pick-up game.  Soon after that, I needed a root canal.  Now two decades later, I learn that it is not unusual for a tooth that suffered trauma and had a root canal to literally disintegrate.

Despite being pretty attached to this tooth (after all, I’ve had it for about fifty years), I had to detach my ego and make an appointment with a periodontist.  Now the fun begins.  The periodontist said that the tooth had to be pulled, and she would put an implant into my jaw bone (ouch!).  But the first part of the process is to extract the tooth and pack it to make it ready for the implant.  This part costs about $1,000.  Six months later, she will drill the implant into my jawbone (ouch! again), and that will cost $2,200!  I upsettingly asked the periodontist, “Does this mean I will have a hole in the front of my mouth for one year?  You need to understand:  I manage people’s money and can’t look like a goon!”  She replied, “Don’t worry.  Your dentist will build a flipper for you.”   I told her that I really wasn’t concerned with a dolphin right now, but she explained that a flipper is a light plastic piece with a prosthetic tooth.

Since this was a Friday afternoon, I decided to call my dentist on Monday and discuss the flipper.  As luck would have it, the next day I ran into an old friend of mine, and when she smiled…there was a big, black gap in the space her front teeth used to occupy!  Well, I told her my story, and she informed me she was in an accident which caused her to lose her front teeth.  Her dentist made her a flipper which she said was uncomfortable and had to be removed when she ate.  To make matters worse, her flipper fell out over her kitchen sink and was destroyed by her garbage disposal!

Needless to say, I told my dentist:  “No flipper for me!” He agreed and suggested I get a temporary bridge which costs about $600.  What the hell, I figured:  “in for a penny…”  I then asked how much the crown would cost, and he told me “only around $1,700.”   I asked if I could use a Chiclet instead.  He laughed and said, “Hopefully your insurance will cover a portion of it.”  Now if anyone knows anything about dental insurance, it’s stuck in the 1970s.  Most plans only pay a little over $1,000 a year, so my out-of -pocket cost will be just under $4,000!  I’m not sure which is going to hurt more–the bill or the dental work.

Now you may be asking:  “What’s your point, Jeff?  What’s this got to do with money and yoga?”   Honestly, I haven’t the faintest idea, but I better detach myself from the money issue before my tooth falls out.  Oh, yeah, and in my next life, I’m going to be a periodontist.