Whining about insurance

So, I have Temporomandibular joint disorder (frequently called TMJ) and can’t find a single dental OR medical insurance plan that doesn’t specifically exclude treatment for it. I’m tired of having headaches, earaches and general face pain. I can’t eat chewy food or passionately make-out with my boyfriend. My jaw dislocates fairly regularly, and it’s really fun trying to put it back into place when I first wake up. It got stuck like that one morning and took over an hour of manipulation just so I could open my mouth and eat breakfast.

Insurance companies apparently don’t know whether to classify treatment as medical, dental or something else, and many treatments either don’t really work or actually make the problem worse, so insurance companies won’t cover it.

I can’t afford to pay for multiple dentist appointments and possibly eventually surgery. My only hope is a dentist that’ll work with me on some kind of payment plan, but I’m unemployed so I don’t know if I can even afford that.

I’ve been trying to not be so whiny lately; to try to stay up and be optimistic, but right now I just want to stop hurting and finally fix my health problems for good.


That sucks. In my experience, there’s nothing more distracting and debilitating, on a day-to-day basis, than dental pain.

Do you have any idea of what sort of money it usually costs to fix a problem like yours?

One possibility that often gets raised in threads about dental treatment and affordability is going to your local dentistry school and letting the dental students go to work on you. A downside to this, of course, is that the students aren’t as practised as an experienced dentist, and often you are also required to let multiple students poke around in your mouth.

When i was living in Baltimore, a friend of mine decided to save some money by going to the Johns Hopkins School of Dentistry clinic to get some basic work done (filling, etc.). She said that it was one of the longest, most painful and demeaning experiences of her life, and that she would, in future, fork out the money to see a “proper” dentist. And Johns Hopkins is one of the top 2 med schools in the country.

Of course, if your procedure is borderline surgical rather than dental, it could be that a dentistry school wouldn’t even take it on anyway.

I hate hate hate the separation of dentistry from medicine for insurance purposes.

Dental schools are probably a last resort and there aren’t a lot of them left. In Chicago, the nation’s 3rd largest city there is only one (University of Illinois at Chicago) left.

And a root canal over there can take anywhere between 6 months to a year. So I can imagine how long something more complex would take.

If you’re unemployed you’re just gonna have to live with it.

When I had a huge dental issues, I had a job but really bad credit. I called 1-800-Dentist and I told them exactly that. I said, “I have bad credit and I need a doctor that will take a payment plan. I will pay him $300 upfront and then he’ll have to work paycheck to paycheck with me.”

And they found me one guy. He was good.

I appreciate the advice, but I was mostly just venting. I’ve had headaches and migraines for years, with multiple causes, and this seems to be the last thing to fix to get rid of them. It’s just frustrating to not be able to afford treatment, and incredibly discouraging to find out a lot of the treatment hoops you jump through before a (possible) permanent solution either don’t work, or make it worse.

I’m not sure a dentist school would even do this kind of treatment since it’s usually something you’d seek out a specialist for. I’m going to find one (a specialist, not a school) and talk to them about cost, since my boyfriend currently makes enough money to support us and he’s pushing me to get this taken care of even if I don’t have a job, but pretty much everything is expensive without insurance or something else to help out. We’re hoping we can find one that will work with us. I’m absolutely prepared to hear that I can’t take care of this yet.

Commiserate with your insurance woes, Not a Platypus, and I hope you’re able to get your TMJ fixed. A word of caution, though. I spent gazooks of money getting mine fixed because everyone assured me that afterwords the flowers would bloom and the birds would sing and fixing it would put a serious dent in my migraines. It didn’t. At all.*

Have you seen a neurologist?

*well, okay, there were some very nice tulips that year…

I had treatment for TMJD when I was 18. I got to the point where I couldn’t eat anything but meal replacement shakes because I couldn’t get my mouth open anymore. It was horrible!

But, my dad’s insurance wouldn’t cover any treatment. They considered TMJD treatment to be elective. And this was a really good insurance plan, too!

When I first saw my TMJD doctor, I got a packet of info about different kinds of treatment and information about payments. The doctor had so much experience with treatment being denied coverage that he had a bunch of pre-printed sheets on the matter :frowning:

My mom actually found the packet the other day and gave it to me, so I actually have it sitting right here. Treatment cost $3900 and this was 12 years ago.

So, I got adjusted and my pain did go away. It was a miracle. Well, 5 years after my first treatment I had to go back and get adjusted again. My alignment had slipped again! I had been seeing the doctor all along, like every 6 months, so it wasn’t a big deal to talk to him about my options. I ended up getting braces again, tho.

He did give me a discount on the second time since he considered it “continuing treatment.”

Anyway, it may sound like I was disappointed in the whole experience but I’m not. I AM disappointed in the insurance company’s treatment of TMJD. I’ve done a lot of research on it in the past 12 years and I have found that most insurance companies do not cover TMJD treatment at all, no matter what the cause or what the type of treatment. I did an extensive article on it in journalism school and interviewed several patients across the country and they all said the same thing.

I’m not disappointed in my treatment, tho. Everything I’ve read said that adjustment isn’t a magic bullet. Neither is surgery. I was bummed but not surprised when I had to go for a second round of treatment in my 20s. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had to go again sometime to get re-re-adjusted.

Not A Platypus, I do hope you do get treatment. The cost will be what it is. In my case, I got to pay off my doctor in monthly installments with no interest. Hopefully yours will be as accommodating. The most important thing is to start getting treatment because living with the pain is just unbearable. It won’t get better, it will get worse. And it will drag everything else about you along with it.

I’ll be thinking about you. Hope you find some relief soon!