April 11, 2007

Denticuli, denticulae

I'm on the metaphorical horns of a dilemna, and yes, they're a bit uncomfortable.

They key fact here is that I have some incredibly fucked-up dentition. This isn't news to me. I can't even remember how many fillings I got in high school. Before that, I had braces for five years to correct a dizzying array of overbites, misalignments and some kind of dropped palate thing. Before that, my baby teeth all had to be extracted because they refused to fall out when my adult teeth started coming in. I'm well familiar with the fact that no amount of conscientious brushing is going to give me a properly-functioning and maintenance-free set of choppers. Still, the present conundrum kind of takes the, if it's not too terrible to use this word while talking about dental health, cake.

See, I still have most of my wisdom teeth. One of the lower ones came out a decade ago in the last flurry of baby-teeth removing, and the other is just, well, chilling. There probably isn't room for it, but it's not clamoring for attention. The top two, on the other hand, are metaphorically hanging around the back of the bar and roughing up other customers. I give them a stern talking-to and they just flip me the bird and go back to knocking over passersby for their wallets. They've already shoved the next teeth over into right angles to where they should be, and now they're starting to come in themselves in the same unworkable position. Today the right-hand one is leaning on my jaw and breathing whiskey breath into its face while the jaw tries to finish its drink and leave. It's annoying, is what I'm saying, and it hurts.

Here's the thing. No, here are several things. The damn things have been fucked up for ten years. The last time my parents took me to a dentist, when I was in high school, the dentist said that either the wisdom teeth should come out or the next molar up should come out and leave room for the wisdom teeth. With full respect for the importance of the issue, a course of action was promptly followed which involved: doing nothing.

Flash forward ten years -- Dianna is 25 going on 26, the teeth are still there and still fucked up, and she has spent fully five years extricating herself from financial involvement with her parents. She has a job, she has her own health insurance. She pays her own everything; this recently meant being flat broke for a while but is working out better now. She has done some financial math and concluded that by the end of the summer she'll have enough money to a) move, b) take her time looking for a job that won't make her crazy, OR c) pay for having her wisdom teeth taken out provided she can find a dentist who'll treat her without insurance. Because, see, while the library will offer her all kinds of arcane insurances -- legal, life, death, dismemberment, and attack by 30-foot spiders -- it will have nothing whatsoever to do with giving her dental insurance. It's horrified by the very idea, frankly, and wishes she wouldn't keep bringing up such vulgar subjects. (Stick to the 30-foot spiders.)

The crux of the problem is this: I have expensive dental issues that came up while my parents were supposed to be seeing to and paying for my dental health. They didn't see to or pay for this, and it now badly needs seeing to and paying for. There's a fairly persuasive argument that says that they should therefore pay for it now. On the other hand, it's been something like five years since I've asked my parents to pay for anything of mine except plane tickets for family emergencies and visits they've requested. I don't like the idea of asking them to shell out a couple of thousand bucks to fix up my teeth. I don't like the idea of the dependence it will re-introduce into my family interactions, the encouragement it will give my parents to think of their youngest child as not yet adult, or the inevitable resulting argument over why I don't have dental insurance and why don't I just let them buy me some.

Thoughts, suggestions? Votes on whose responsibility this is and who should pay for it, which are not necessarily the same thing? Ideas about the usefulness of purchasing individual dental insurance given the relatively high cost of any plan that covers complicated anesthetized extractions? (Katie only: in-depth analyses of the parent-child relationship in this family as it relates to the matter at hand?) Pros and cons of planning to get all of the damn things removed and replaced with gold teef?

Posted by dianna at April 11, 2007 11:37 AM

I say it's your responsibility now, because you obviously are an adult and financially independent.

That said, I too am struggling to be independent of my folks (and live off my boyfriend, yay! votes for women!), though it's not such a big deal for me as I suspect it is for you. But if I needed a medical procedure, or a dental one, I would ask them for sure. Teeth are important. Without them you can only eat beef broth. And it has to be beef, no veggie broth allowed. These are the rules.

So I say, ask them. If they seem like they're going to give you grief later then don't take the money, or do and resign yourself to listening to their grief on the phone while you chew your big eggplant sandwich.

Sorry this is long. I'm trying not to do my work.

Posted by: didofoot at April 11, 2007 11:53 AM

Seems like a reasonable thing to ask your parents for, but I wouldn't suggest using the "it's y'all's responsibility cuz you didn't pay for it before" argument. That seems akin to threatening your parents with a lawsuit, which is, unless I am mistaken, a faux pas in most circumstances.

Posted by: Erik at April 11, 2007 12:21 PM

I know you don't really know me, but here's my opinion:
Go get yourself some dental insurance, and have the wisdom teeth removed. I know several people in your situation/age bracket/whatever who have done the same (i.e. found out that they needed to have their wisdoms pulled and subsequently acquired insurance for that specific procedure.) You'll feel better about yourself if you don't ask your folks, speaking from experience.

I also knew a girl who didn't have insurance, and who had no relatives to foot the bill. She got them pulled at some cheapie place (western dental, I think) and had the worst experience of her life. Also, people down here in San Diego like to go to TJ for cheap dental work, which usually results in them having to pay more in recovery costs later than the actual surgery would have cost in the States. The moral: don't be stingy when it comes to any kind of surgical procedure.

I lucked out when I got mine pulled, as I happened to be double covered thru school and work and didn't have to pay a cent.
Can you wait until you get a job with dental insurance?

Posted by: robyn at April 11, 2007 01:56 PM

Waiting to get a job with dental insurance was my original plan. That won't be until August at the very earliest, though, and while it's likely that after waiting this long another four months won't actually kill me, the sudden onset of dental achiness today is making me nervous.

I think it's funny that of the three commenters so far, the one who appears to have the most direct line into my brain is the one who prefaced her remark with "I know you don't really know me". Getting dental insurance and paying the rest myself seems to put the lowest feasible price on my pride, so I'm leaning toward it. Maybe I'll call my health insurance company and see if they'll let me also enroll in some dental coverage at my own expense.

Posted by: Dianna at April 11, 2007 04:28 PM

i don't have dental insurance, or really, any insurance, but i do know that health insurance usually has an additional dental plan that they'll let you add on for not very much money. so i'd say calling and asking is your best bet. their website would also provide some good info, i'm guessing.

in other news, i got my wisdom teeth all pulled while in high school (due to them growing in upside down and sideways). i tell you now, you will look like a black and blue chipmunk and you will need to lay in a store of delicious soy ice cream. and make arrangements for someone to pick you up at the dentist's after the removal and take you home. trust me when i say that you do not want to deal with getting home on your own under your own steam after this operation. you will have no steam and you will be so drugged that you won't really know where home is.

Posted by: michele at April 11, 2007 05:00 PM

Oh, no, fuck no. No way would I plan to take the bus home from getting my wisdom teeth out. I'm neither that masochistic nor that hardcore.

I was having some trouble with the Kaiser website today, but that might just be my shitty computer at work. I'll try again, or just call.

Posted by: Dianna at April 11, 2007 09:55 PM

Not gold teef, I tole you: teef-shaped rocks from your driveway.

Sorry, I'm kind of tore up from dealing with a traumatizing student issue (kind of a metaphorical aggressively impacted wisdom tooth of my own, I suppose) and can't come up with a real, serious response at the moment, but wanted to keep my hand in. I'll mull it over in my sleep and say something real tomorrow.

Posted by: katie at April 12, 2007 12:29 AM

OK, I never got around to saying something more substantive, but I'm assuming that since you're preparing to eat, um, a whole leg of lamb (?) that you haven't had your teeth removed or anything.

This seems to be a situation that calls for a triage of priorities. Looking into individual dental insurance sounds like a good first step - if it's not ruinous, and will make it possible for you to do this on your own (considering cost of insurance + whatever they won't cover for this kind of surgery?), then that's best case scenario right there. Individual dental insurance, whether you're going to have them cover your tooth extractions or not, also seems like a good thing to get, because then you can go to a dentist, get the yelling over with, and get a real idea of how many teeth, surgeries, dollars, etc, you might really be looking at.

I'm right there with you on the not wanting to ask for money if you can help it. On the other hand, as you've pointed out, this is something that should have been dealt with 10 years ago when you wouldn't have been the one to foot the bill, so it's not really like you're asking to be bailed out or something. One grownup test that might apply here (this is way easier for me to say/see than do, of course), is to ask whether it more establishes your status as a rational, independent adult to let your teeth rot out of your head so you don't have to ask for money, or to ask for the help you need to stay healthy. Also, going to a dentist now and getting a check-up/assessment might give you an idea about what kind of money you'd need to scrape together, so that if you do need to help for some minor subsidizing, you could take the reins in the conversation: not "I need this done, can you give me some money?" but "I need to finally have this done, it's going to cost x dollars, will you be willing to contribute to that?" or "based on what it's going to cost, there's about x dollars I can't cover; can I ask you for that?" You know what I mean?

I don't know if this is helpful, but all I mean is that maybe instead of letting it become one Big Decision About Establishing Your Adult Relationships (and incidentally getting some teeth removed), maybe it would help to break it into steps and gather information. For now, without jumping ahead to the extraction step, what would it take to make a dental check-up/consultation feasible so that you know more?

Posted by: katie at April 16, 2007 10:55 PM

That wasn't at all the input that you asked for from me, sorry. It was all I had, and I felt bad about not weighing in.

Posted by: katie at April 16, 2007 10:56 PM