A very expensive date…

23 09 2009

I’ve discovered the delightful taste of combining a small piece of sharp cheese with a date (as in the dried fruit). So today I grabbed a date from my supply of pitted dates and a little bit of cheese and chomped down, fully expecting that delicious marriage of sweet and savoury. Well, I got that — but I also got a surprise. The date was not pitted and I chomped down on a very hard seed. I immediately realised that I’d done something to my tooth as it seemed the filling had dislodged a little. It wasn’t out, but it wasn’t flush either — it had definitely moved.

I’m not booked in to my usual dentist in Perth until early November, but as I’m going up there in early October, I called to see if I could get in then. But she’s on a course that week and isn’t taking appointments. The receptionist referred me to another dentist in the city, but I decided to take my chances locally. I suspected that the dislodged filling was more serious than it seemed…

We don’t have a dentist in our town, so I called a friend for a recommendation in the town 35 km away. I then called them to see if they could see me late this afternoon, and after I explained the situation, they said they would.

Well, 30 minutes in the chair and $180 later I had a temporary filling, instructions not to eat on that side of my mouth for the next 6 weeks, nor floss near the dodgy tooth, and a warning that this filling could well fail.

It seems I’ve fractured the tooth vertically (i.e. down into the jaw), and as this was a tooth that has previously had root canal work done on it, there isn’t a lot holding it together. In fact, the dentist said that there are two sides to the tooth with nothing in between. He’s filled the hole, but there are no guarantees.

When I asked about long-term options he said I had a couple, all of which will involve extraction of the remains of the tooth. I could have extraction with nothing to fill the gap (not advised as the other teeth will move to fill the gap in uncontrolled ways); I could have a plate with a false tooth (long-term cleaning annoyances); or I could have an implant to replace the tooth (titanium screw into the jaw, followed by a manufactured tooth permanently affixed to it).

I asked for a ballpark figure for an implant — ‘about $5000’! Aiiieee!

Still, I guess I should figure the cost out over my likely lifetime, based on my genetics. Let’s say I live another 40 years — that’s just about $125 a year for a permanent tooth that will never need a filling, a root canal, or anything else done to it. And with medical insurance, the cost to me should be less than $5000 anyway.

As I said, this was a VERY expensive date…

Update 24 September 2009: I spoke with my usual dentist today. Based on the information I gave her, she agreed with the local dentist’s assessment and talked through my options in a little more detail. She agreed that an implant was likely and the least invasive in the long term. But the cost she predicted was more like ‘around $6000 to $7000’!!! Even a bridge (which she explained was not a plate with a tooth, but a new tooth linked to the crowned tooth behind and another tooth in front) was ‘around $4000 to $5000’.

The implant process would be done in stages — first, the extraction of the remains of the tooth, and yes, they do it as surgery and knock you out for it! The next step is to put in the titanium screw (which *might* get done at the same time as the extraction, but probably not, so possibly more surgery and more trips to Perth). The final step is to get the post attached to the screw and a crown put over it (she would do that part). The entire process might take 6 months from beginning to end.

But first, I have to get in to see an oral surgeon. She gave me the names of two she recommends. The first issue is getting an appointment. The receptionist at the first one I called answered the phone after about 10 rings, then put me straight on hold. After waiting a good 5 minutes when she didn’t get back to me (on long distance call rates!), I hung up and called back. This time the phone rang out. I figure that if they can’t be bothering answering their phone, then I can’t be bothered giving them my business! Pretty simple, really.

The receptionist at the second oral surgeon’s business was most helpful. But gave me the bad news that the first appointment I could get with him was in November! And that it will only be a consultation, not any sort of procedure. I’d have to come back for that, and because I can’t get to see him before November, the first stage of surgery is likely to be after Christmas. I just hope the filling holds that long — and that I don’t get sick of eating on one side of my mouth. Looks like no steak for a while… 😦

She has put me down on a waiting list in case there’s a cancellation — she’s aware that I have to drive 3 hours to get to Perth (well, possibly 2.5 hours now that the new Perth to Bunbury highway is open!), but will give me as much notice as possible.

This date is getting more and more expensive…