Frugal dental work (especially for seniors)

joyfulguyNovember 13, 2002

Greetings, fearless hunters for frugality,

I'd kidded my regular silver-haired dentist for some time, asking when he planned to retire - hoping he'd delay, as he charged modest fees (though his office was about thirty miles away). He did, about three years ago.

Made a few visits to recently graduated dentist who'd set up practice in nearby village where I used to be minister. They asked if my work was on insurance or personally financed (think about $73.00 regular charge cost me $50.00).

A number of my teeth have fillings, several sport caps (one a gold one - that I've had for 35 years). Most of my molars are gone.

The local dental school, less than eight miles away, did an extraction in emergency - usually $32.00, but charged $75. for the "complicated" one - took over two hours, included drilling the jawbone. For another, they thought it too complicated - took me to the University dental department. Result: shorter time, perhaps some complication - fee $261.00.

Dental school recently evaluated me as regular patient - includng 180 degree x-ray - $60.00.

Recently did a scaling job (on only slightly over half of the original number of teeth) - removing calculus, including some periodontal work - digging down into gums to cleanse pockets of infection. Over 2 hours - $24.00.

The student who did the job said that I might have some pain after the freezing came out, in which case I should take (a pain relief caplet that starts with "T...") - I had only slight temporary discomfort. Thanked her for doing a capable, gentle job.

Several teeth had chunks broken off - two of them down near the gums. One had a cap, but most of the tooth under the cap eaten away, so it collected food every time that I ate. It was loose and I wiggled it a bit the day before the extraction. I heard a snap - and the cap came off (being held by only a slight connection).

The senior students extracted five teeth yesterday, under local anaesthetic. Not complicated - except hard to get hold of teeth when there's little showing above the gum line. Charge - $32.00 for the first tooth, $16.00 for each additional.

When they were writing the detailed receipt, $32.00 for the first, $16.00 for each additional, I said, "$96.00". They looked at me - how had I figured that so quickly? Simple - the 16 is half of 32, so 4 sixteens equal two 32s, or 3 -32s in all. Three 30s are 90, three twos are 6, total 96. The younger generation don't know but from calculators.

Out just before noon, only slight temporary discomfort when freezing came out. I had some milk in afternoon, soup at supper, block of cheese in evening (no bread), ice cream (without temperature problem) in late evening, peanut butter and jam sandwich after midnight.

There are some recently discovered cavities, so some fillings to do.

As part of the evaluation, their specialist dealing with dental plates looked at my mouth, asked me if I could afford a (xxx) car. I didn't quite hear what he said, so asked if he'd said, "Honda" or "Hyundai". Don't remember his answer, but then asked whether he meant new or used.

He had me frightened there for a while. Thought later that I should have remembered that "used car" isn't part of the vocabulary of the average dentist!

They've taken impressions, and two partial plates to be developed over the next few months.

Total, including the work done to date, estimated to be under $1,800.00.

As some have said previously - if you live near a dental school and need work done, that's a worthwhile place to go.

Happy hunting for frugality to all,

joyful Ed

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Yes, as the daughter of a dentist (who retired to teach) and has since retired to the golf course!!!, I can say that the dental school students really have to perform well...the work is graded, after all, and YOU are the work!

In addition, at the school of optometry..the student found my eyes to be fine, but guess what, the instructor who has to check the work of the student spent a good deal of time on my left eye...turns out I have a hole in the I know to look out for blows to the head, or anything that could cause the retina to rip!

Point being, if in a collegiate environment, not only do you get the exam by the student (who at this time is far enough along in his/her studies to examine you) but you get good old experience checking up!

One further note, it was a savior to some friends I have with not a dollar to spare, to get checked out at a price they could afford!

Not saying it's for everyone, but if pennies count, and a teaching hospital is nearby, go for it!

All smiles, all bright eyes!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2002 at 7:27PM
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I had a neighbor who worked for the university dental school. I had a filling fall out at work, and my regular dentist couldn't get me in for 3 days. I called my neighbor at work, and she got me in to the dental school clinic that evening. They did great work. An added bonus is the clinic was open until 7 pm - just try to find a dentist who stays open past 5!

I'm going to see if the university has an orthodontic school, as it looks like at least 2 of my 3 kids will need braces!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2002 at 9:14AM
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Maybe the real money saving tip here is to take care of your teeth and not let them go so long ... but I certainly wouldn't fall into that category!

I thought you were going to suggest something else, Joyful Guy: my dad recently got his dentures fitted and they were kind of tight, making his mouth sore. So he told me took out his modeler's file and modified them a bit! Talk about frugality!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2002 at 8:46PM
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Hi Phyll,

Where do I find your Dad?

I'd gone regularly to the dentist who retired.

The dental school seems to think that I've been grinding my teeth - but the earlier dentist hadn't said anything about that.

I've had chunks breaking off of the sides of several teeth recently. A small piece broke off of one this afternoon.

Sounds as though it's about time to get your snow shovel out, Buffalo Phyll.

Have a happy weekend.

joyful Ed

    Bookmark   November 14, 2002 at 9:15PM
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Updated message, all,

I'm down to eight teeth, now.

Sure takes a long time to eat.

I think that I chew my food more than most - so I used to be about the last one finished eating when with friends.

Don't suppose it could have anything to do with, "Too much talk - too little eat", do you suppose?

Anybody got some good soup recipes?

Should get my partials before long. It's near the end of the dental school year. I'll miss my nice East Indian student - told her supervisor I thought she had gentle hands and supervisor said, "Yes, she has", without equivocation. Student married to a vet - who slid into the ditch on snowy road on his way home, the other day.

Good thing I've been saving up all winter.

ole (mostly toothless) joyful

P.S. Had freezing rain Sat and Sun, tore a lot of branches off of trees: sun out Monday made trees look like had millions of diamonds on them. EB

    Bookmark   April 9, 2003 at 2:24AM
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I am in the same boat as many of you----my wonderful and reasonably priced dentist has retired. We don't live any where near a dental school and I am having a terrible time finding a dentist. Went to one two days ago who had been recommended as "great" and he charged me $170.00 for a cleaning, full mouth xray, and exam. In addition, he recommended that one tooth I have that has had a large filling in it for years be fitted with an "onlay" (he said it is a "cross between a filling and a crown") because "eventually the tooth might break". (I have had no problems with it at all!) This for $750.00!! Also, he wants to have a consultation with me regarding "improving my smile" with bondings, etc. in the front teeth. (How many thousands of dollars will that be?) I guess I could just ignore his recommendations but how can I keep going to a dentist I feel is just looking at his patients as a well of money? I am really disgusted over this and just don't know where to find someone who is not trying to become wealthy from his patients and who is good.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2003 at 12:02PM
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I have had and am now having major dental work. The dentist that I went to for years and really liked retired about 7 years ago. I was switched to another dentist who practiced in the same office. I have had some major work done by this dentist and almost every time I leave his office, I am black and blue and in severe pain. One time I ended up with over $800 in medical bills. The dentist gave me a hematoma which ended up getting infected, I had major swelling of my glands and a lot of pain. I went to a medical doctor and got penicillin and they referred me to a cardiologist who did an echocardiogram. I have a heart murmur and have to take antibiotics before having any work done on my teeth. Because of the severe infection, I was referred to a cardiologist to make sure no damage had been done. I am now having a bridge replaced and had a tooth pulled this week. I am having problems and the dentist looked at it again today and said I have a severe bruise on my gum and it is swollen but it should heal without further antibiotics. Last summer I had a crown done on a molar and ended up with two weeks of severe pain and had to exist on a pain reliever. My point in all of this is that I have always been afraid to go to a dental school and have students working on me since I have had so many problems with an experienced dentist working on me. If he can't do it without me ending up in severe pain and bruises, hematomas, and other problems, would a student do a better job?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2003 at 5:31PM
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"Experienced" means nothing if you have that long of a track record of discomfort. Crowns on molars do not, as a rule, result in pain and bruising. One poster earlier in the year had a root canal that resulted in chronic pain due to them not getting all the root, but even that didn't result in bruising.

Even if you don't try a school, seek out another dentist. Schedule time to interview them and tell them about the past year of work, and ask their opinion.

Best of luck!!!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 7:42AM
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Hi (again) Judith,

I'm sorry that you've had all of that trouble. I'd say that your experience is very unusual.

I don't think I'd be spending any more time with that dentist.

Work in the Dental School Clinic is done by third and fourth year students. They consult supervisors before every action, and supervisors often ask them about various procedures that might be done in a certain situation and ask their reasons for choosing the one that they propose. Sometimes supervisors check my mouth half a dozen times during the course of a session.

As I said earlier - my student works gently.

I am very pleased.

ole (pretty well toothless) joyful

    Bookmark   April 13, 2003 at 3:24AM
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Still useful information.

ole joyful ... down to three teeth (all in one jaw) now

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 7:22PM
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Sad to say ... my so-called "shiftless" remaining gum-bound (i.e. original) teeth ... haven't been shiftless!

Top plate fits ... but the bottom partial plate and the teeth that are supposed to relate well to them and anchor them ...

... aren't singing from the same hymn book: the plate doesn't fit!

Think that I'd better go back to the dental school to see what kind of help they may be able to offer, in this new season.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 9:45PM
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