Drillings and Fillings and Flim-Flam Scams?

Frustrated. Torn. Confused. Angry. Betrayed. Worried. And a whole bunch more adjectives.

I visited the dentist this morning, feeling pretty good about life. We're listing our house this week (great timing, I know. ::snicker::), Dr. D is super busy with his zillion and one projects, which stresses him out but makes him far easier to live with than if he is, heaven forbid, bored. (Neither of us tolerate boredom well, nor do the kids, big surprise there.) So when the hygienist said, "You're not slated for x-rays this time," I thought GREAT! No x-rays mean no major problems. I've had my fill of dental problems. More than.

Flashback to about this time last year. Head-splitting pain in my tooth that required an emergency root canal (on a tooth that had been capped just over five years previous. Curious how it went south so soon after the warranty expired, eh? The specialist said the crown was leaking. I don't think they're supposed to do that.). The root job and the subsequent new crown used up all my alloted funds for dental for the year. So flash forward to my regular appointment that August (that I'd pay for out of pocket). X-rays showed a desperately needed filling and - what's this? - another crown. The filling should have been a crown, too, said Mr. Dentist, but he'd try to slide it by as just a filling.

Yes, he would! I wasn't paying for yet another crown! The largest troubler at that time was the problem being filled. Three years earlier I'd had a filling pop out. I was pregnant with Fish at the time, so the dentist didn't want to do any major work if he could help it. It was a superficial cavity, clean, and if I brushed well, it could last until I had Fish. I went in mere weeks after Fish was born. "Oh, it's doing fine. Let's give you a little time to recover from this baby!" Every visit after, I'd ask, "Shouldn't we re-fill that tooth?" "It's looking ok, we'll keep an eye on it. I think we can wait until next visit." We played this game for THREE YEARS! I'm not going to insist on a filling when the dentist, the expert, tells me it's not needed. But then, when I had zero funds left in my insurance account, the "insignificant, clean, doing fine" spot on my tooth suddenly needs to be taken care of. Now. And should be a crown, but he'll try and fill it and we'll hope for the best.

I really should have let that be the end with this dentist. I really should. But I have this fault of giving people the benefit of the doubt, particularly when I've known them most of my life (he's been my dentist for over 15 years), and they purport to be Christian.

So, anyway, this time around, I figured I was due for a good checkup. The cleaning went fine, although I suspect the hygienist is in the CIA. (She's the one who trains the agents how to kill a man with dental floss in three seconds flat.) But then the news. Another two crowns. TWO! The treatment plan has us shelling out minimum $800; the expected insurance cost is very near to my maximum benefit for the year. All used up before the end of January. Again.

I'm calling around now for a second opinion, and not just because of the past. Can tooth problems be diagnosed without x-rays? Because, remember the comment that I'm not due for x-rays? Well, they never took them. They took digital photographs (which may or may not be my teeth. Would you recognize a macro shot of your #30 molar?) and diagnosed from that. Maybe that's standard practice these days, but it seemed choreographed. Hygienist takes pictures, dentist comes in with a rather strange Used Car Salesman smile (remember, I've known this guy for 15 years), and suddenly I owe them $800. Which for us, despite the dentist's belief that I have a JK Rowling-like fortune, is not pocket change. It's a returning-my-new-camera-lens and holding-off-on-buying-that-science-curricula expense.

The whole experience leaves an emotional aftertaste reminiscent of the parking lot incident right before Christmas - some guy asked me for a coat hanger to unlock his door (apparently the large super-store I'd just shopped at didn't sell wire coat hangers), then when Dr. D appeared with the cart full of groceries, the guy asked, "Oh, is that your husband?" and shot away like lightning.