Rick Watson headliner
There should be some kind of law that says, “No dental work after the age of 60.” I’m talking about banning root canals, extractions or any procedure that causes your mouth to smoke like a brush fire. But sadly, these procedures are totally legal.
I woke up one night this past week with a toothache. That’s odd, I thought to myself. I had a checkup recently and had no problems. But the fact remained — my jaw was hurting.
The next morning it seemed like an unpleasant dream, but a few nights later the same thing happened again. I made an appointment to see my dentist.
She tapped on my teeth like she was playing a xylophone, but none of them hurt. She took a tiny implement shaped like a scythe and gouged under one of my bridges.
“Hmmm,” she mused. “How long have you had this bridge?” I told her I got it when Carter was in the White House. She failed to see the humor. I doubt she was born when Carter was president, I thought to myself.
After studying the X-ray, she recommended I go to an endodontist. I wondered why I should see someone who studied insects, but then my brain rebooted and I realized she meant some kind of dental specialists.
The endodontist looked younger than my regular dentist, so I didn’t bother hitting him with the “Carter was in the White House” gag. After more X-rays, he said my back tooth that had a crown needed a root canal.
He came out with a needle as big as a bicycle pump and shot me full of Novocain. After a few minutes, he asked if my jaw felt numb. I sounded like I’d drank too much tequila when I drooled, “It wheels murty nung.”
Then he put what sounded like a stump grinder in my mouth to get through the crown and down to the roots. When he finished, I stopped at the front desk to settle the bill. My portion, after what the insurance would pay, was enough to buy a flat-screen TV.
Later it was back to my regular dentist to finish the job. The old bridge had to come off and one of the jaw teeth had to come out before she would fit me with a new bridge.
She had one of the women who worked in bookkeeping break the bad news about the cost. She spoke like a grief counselor as she explained all the charges.
“So, do you want to have the work done?” she asked.
What I wanted to say is, “No, I think I’ll live the rest of my natural life in excruciating pain.” But instead I whipped out my debit card, and she scurried off as if she’d won the lottery. I could almost hear her say, “Woohoo, now we can all go to the beach this weekend.”
Obviously I’m having fun at the expense of my tooth-worker friends. They were all very professional and can’t help the fact that insurance pays so little.
But I got to thinking — I’d be willing to bet there are a people these days that go without treatment because they can’t pay.
I am grateful that we’ve been in a position to pay for problems when they arise, but we won’t be going to the beach this weekend.