I went to the dentist today.

For the first time. Ever.

When I was a kid, my family was poor and we couldn’t afford doctors or dentists. Bad teeth run in my family, so they were already pretty messed up by the time I grew up and started making money on my own, so I kept putting it off for fear of going bankrupt trying to fix them. Flash forward to nearly 30 - I have several broken, chipped, or cracked teeth, they’re pretty much permanently stained brown, and toothaches are a frequent problem for me. I’ve always been ashamed of my teeth, I never smile with my mouth open, and they’ve GOT to be a turn-off to the ladies. I don’t even like to talk about my teeth because of how messed up they are. I have to eat from the side of my mouth to be able to chew anything that doesn’t fit in a spoon and it makes a hell of a mess, but i’ve still been putting it off because I have bills to pay.

The other shoe finally dropped on Monday when I woke up and went to work with a massive ache on the left side of my face. My gums were swelling, the pain was radiating through my cheek and eye and sinuses, and I couldn’t so much as touch the tooth without going into agony. I took a shitload of ibuprofen and rinsed my mouth out like hell in the hopes it’d go away, but by Wednesday I had two pea-sized white lumps on my gum above the tooth. I looked to Wikipedia and found out I probably had an abscess.

I stayed up all night scared to death and called 1-800-Dentist first thing in the morning and found a dentist who could see me today. The abscess popped on its own and gave off a pretty decent amount of blood and pus before I even made it i, but he confirmed it was infected and the tooth needed to come out. Fortunately, I finally have dental insurance and so it only cost me $70 for the extraction and another 98 cents for the prescriptions of amoxicillin and acetominephen + codeine.

Long story short, i’m now short a tooth (which hasn’t been much good to me for years now anyway) and i’m scheduling a full exam next week to figure out what can be done for the rest of my teeth. The dentist said my bottom teeth look salvageable, but most of my top teeth will probably have to come out and i’ll need dentures to replace it. I’m waiting for the codeine to kick in, and i’m not allowed to drink or have anything sugary for 24 hours, but I already feel better and it’s long overdue that i’m finally doing something about the state of my chompers.

Anyway, that’s my pointless little story that I felt like sharing.

I didn’t take very good care of my teeth up until about 7-8 years ago, and I regret it. However in the last 8 years or so I think I’ve only needed 1 filling, before that I needed way more than that.

As far as finances, I personally don’t get the argument you are making (no offense though). When I was in college I joined a dental discount plan, and a cleaning/exam was only about $80-100.

An amalgam filling on a discount plan was only about $40-50 per tooth. However a root canal plus crown runs $900. My thinking is, better to get my teeth fixed when a filling will do it rather than wait for them to need a root canal for 20x more money. Once I started taking care of my teeth, I spent about $200-300 a year on dental expenses (plan, 2 visits/cleanings, maybe 1 filling a year)

Never had an abscess though. And the worst that happened to my gums was gingivitis (no periodontal disease, people I know in the same boat ended up with periodontal disease).

I must have strong teeth. I spent years drinking sugary soda (about a 2 liter a day), not brushing as much as I should and avoiding the dentist, and I had over a dozen cavities and one root canal, but that was it.

I’m not defending it, and I realize i’ve screwed myself by waiting this long. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to spend the money.

For what it could end up costing you, you might want to look into dental implants done in another country. This site lists dental implants for $900 apiece in Costa Rica. Even with travel expenses and two trips, you might come out ahead and have real teeth instead of dentures.

It’ll be so much more comfortable for you with all the pain gain. And extra self confidence.

From your post it sounds like you didn’t have Dental Clinics as we had in Australia. They were free and mainly catered (I guess) for lower income families. I don’t think they had elite dentists- and were probably used for training dentists as well- but at least they were available for dental care in major cities.