I was under the impression that Organized Crime was a thing
of the past. Then I got a toothache. Newsflash -- Organized Crime is alive and
prospering. These days it calls itself the ADA.
A little over seven years ago my long-term family dentist, a real
live human being who cared about his patients and made a good living doing so,
filled a lower molar and covered it with a gold
crown. I had dental insurance at the time (along with a job of over 30 years
that left town for a cheaper labor market) and the total bill came to $400, with
my share being 60%.
Two weeks ago that same tooth began to bother me so I went to my daughter's dentist here in Georgia where we have lived for the past five years. I am disabled and living on a fixed income from Social Security. The Dentist x-rayed my tooth and gave me the option of either saving it at a cost of $2,000 or having it pulled. I would liked to have saved the tooth but $2,000 is beyond my reach. So I paid her $60 for the x-ray and a referral to an oral surgeon. She didn't want to pull it, fearing my health might be a problem for her.
The oral surgeon's price was $445. Having no real alternative I elected to have him remove the tooth. Net result -- the tooth that seven years ago cost $400 to be filled and caped with a gold crown cost me $505 to have it removed. I realize that costs go up but this is criminal.
Now I find a molar on the opposite side of my mouth and in the next position in front of the one I had removed has a cavity. So I return to my dentist. Her tech x-rayed the tooth (actually the head of the x-ray machine was under my jaw at the time) and then took a second one as the first was of my jaw and neck, no tooth showing at all. Of course I was charged for both x-rays. When the dentist came in again I was offered the choice of $2,000 to save my tooth or she could pull it for $145 (without gas) or $235 (with gas) and wanted to know if I wanted her to pull it. I guess the fact that I had obviously survived the extraction by the oral surgeon she had referred me to convinced her it was worth the risk for her to pull this tooth.
Again, I would like to save the tooth but $2,000 is beyond my reach. I asked her if she could just fill it but she said that once a tooth began to hurt, the decay had reached the pulp and it couldn't be filled. This was different from what my dentist back home had told me when he had filled just such a tooth for me. He did tell me that he could not promise that I wouldn't have to have a root canal later but that he could put some material over the pulp to protect it from the filling material. He filled it and, after 10 years, it's still fine.
had another appointment and due to time constraints I told the dentist I would have to
leave and make an appointment for a later time. She told me that would be fine, and said she hoped I would come back.
My daughter manages a restaurant and, although her hours per day are long, she only works three days a week -- Thursday through Saturday. However, because the other manger had a child in the hospital on this particular week my daughter was working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Great -- I could go back on Friday.
But wait -- I discovered all of the dental offices (of which there are many) in the area are closed on Fridays. I guess their income is such that a four-day week is all they feel they need to work. In researching this I discovered that the average income of American dentists is two to three times that of the Average medical doctor, and this for working less than half of the doctor's hours! Amazing.
I also discovered that the ADA lobbyists have pretty well successfully shut down numerous denture providers to kill any competition they offer. Talk about a monopoly! I also discovered that if you live close to the Mexican border there are more than 300 dental clinics staffed with American-trained dentists (I assume they paid the same amount for their education as the American Dentists) who use the same equipment, as their American counterparts but whose fees are 70- to 75-percent less! Unfortunately I live in Georgia.
Okay so it's Thursday, and I call my daughter's dentist to make an appointment for Monday to have my tooth pulled. I get an answering machine that informs me the office IS OPEN but everyone is busy, and that I should leave my name, phone number, etc., and someone would get back to me. I leave the information, as well as why I am calling, and wait 30 minutes for a reply. It is now 4 p.m., so I call again. This time the answering machine informs me that the office is now CLOSED but if I leave my name and phone number someone will get back to me. Gee, where have I heard that before?
Now in pain and desperation I call another dentist's office and am informed that yes they do pull teeth and the initial exam (I thought $60 with an X-ray was steep) will be $165 and that the tooth removal will be an additional $250 to $385! Well at least this proves that there is some competition between dentists. It's not a total monopoly!
The news media has been full of various health care crises for a number of years, and I did see a story last year where a poverty level child had died from a heart infection due to an abscessed tooth. But other than that, dental care just isn't discussed. Medicare doesn't help at all, covering no dental procedures even though a toothache can lead to complications that will run into thousands of dollars that Medicare will have to cover.
I was born In America 62 years ago, but it was a country that the one I now find myself in bears little resemblance to.