Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Trip to the Dentist

Omission: Yesterday I went to the dentist and got my first cleaning in over 6 years.

I know, gross, but this is a bare-all blog.

When I turned 18, my parents' dental insurance no longer covered me.  We squeezed in my wisdom teeth removal and several years later I had a cavity patched out of pocket.  And that was it.  Without insurance and spending most of the last decade as a student, well, you know.  It wasn't a priority.

I did attempt a cleaning in 2008.  At that time, I learned I had TMJ, which is a jaw muscle condition that causes a host of issues.  Mayo gives a good overview.

It was so bad at that time all they could do was X-rays: no cleaning but no cavities.

So we decided once Mike's GI Bill showed up, I needed to get my butt to the dentist.  Like most preventative care, it's all about saving you money in the future.  And dental work always seems to be expensive.  

I, quite thankfully, have dental insurance.  It's through MetLife, it comes out of my paycheck pre-tax, and it costs $26.36 a month.

Overall, the dentist wasn't hideous.  Having my mouth open really made my jaw unhappy and produced an afternoon-long headache, but the technician was super nice and helpful. 

Things I learned from the dentist:
  • I have 2 cavities behind my two front teeth.  They're small but they need fixin'
  • I have a small amount of gum disease near my back molars
  • My TMJ was diagnosed as severe
  • I will thusly need a custom mouthguard, which I agreed to
So the cavities are completely my own fault and I expected as much.  Apparently we're catching them at the beginning so no major problem.  I'm really quite lucky to have my mother's teeth (thanks mom!) as opposed to my father's mouth of metal.  The gum disease is also minor and will go away with better care (ahem, self).

The TMJ, however, has now gotten to the point where it needs to be professionally addressed.  Because I can't get my mouth open very far, it's preventing me from properly taking care of my pearly whites.  Hence why the gum disease is only near the back -- I have difficulties getting the toothbrush/floss back there.

So they're going to set me up with a mouthguard.  I tried the over-the-counter ones but because I'm a clincher (not a grinder), it only caused me to clench more.  These mouthguards are specifically designed for conditions like mine: they only fit on 6 of your bottom and top teeth, allowing your lips to close around it but your back teeth won't touch. 

I'm pretty sure this is me at work when a story isn't going right
 Apparently the device is going to help relax the jaw muscles considerably and give me some breathing room.  I guess I'm just really good at getting used to things that should not be the status quo because I was surprised to learn my TMJ was "severe."  You forget things like sleeping on the side of your face, reading at angles, chewing gum, or eating whole apples shouldn't be a problem.
I think the part of all of this that concerns me the most is: how much is it going to cost?

I've never had dental insurance and this is my first time using MetLife.  My plan says that the cleaning, examination, and X-rays should all be covered 100%.  Apparently one of my cavity fixes will be covered 50%, but I don't think the other one will be.  I have no clue about the mouthguard, but the dentist priced it as $250 without any coverage (note, this isn't bad, most will cost $400 and upwards).

I'll just have to wait until the claim gets processed and I'll let you know what the damage was! 

Parting thoughts:

You should floss before you brush. 

You need to brush for 2 minutes total.

An electric toothbrush, even the el cheapo ones, spank a manual brush any day.

Enamel can't grow back.  So if you have a toothpaste that's supposed to help with that, it's a bunch of malarkey (it can help harden it, but all tootepastes/mouthwashes do that).


  1. I'm glad you are able to address your TMJ stuff. I know someone who let it get so bad, they couldn't open their mouth at all, and it had to be gradually re-opened with tongue depressers. Yikes! I hope the mouthguard doesn't set you back too much--but sometimes you can look at that sort of thing as a health investment. Good luck!

  2. Jennie - this is what I do for a living ;) I'm a dental insurance coordinator. Your second filling should be covered at the 50% too unless you've had work done on the same tooth in the last year or 18 months [depending on the policy - but you said you hadn't so really it should be covered] the mouth guard however is going to be a special appliance but here's what I would atleast try -- see if you can get the office to send in a letter of medical necessity for the mouth guard [explain the situation] Metlife may come back and cover it and to be honest its worth a shot if your paying for the insurance right?

  3. @ d'Artagnan, thanks! Your friend's TMJ sounds super scary. Imagine getting into a car accident and needing go to the hospital with that. Yikes! I hope they're back to normal after that.

    @ Kristen, I had no idea! Thanks for the advice. They've already submitted the paperwork for the mouthguard so hopefully I'll know by this Friday when I go back in if they're going to kick in any for it. I just wish getting medical work was like going to a restaurant: the prices are all right up there so you know what you're getting into :)

    Hope both of you are over your recent health battles!