Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

It was about 30 years ago... give or take a couple... that a kindly young Air Force dentist advised me to get orthodontic work done after completing some routine restorative work in my mouth, which is to say: a filling or two. He even gave me the name of a dental school buddy of his, whom, he said, would give me a “military discount.” During our conversation I asked if he had any idea what the required orthodontia would cost. His reply? “Three to five thousand dollars. You need a lot of work, given the over-crowding and general misalignment of your teeth.” He went on to tell me that if I chose NOT to have this work done I would have severe dental “issues” in later life.

Enter the roosting chickens.

I don’t have many occasions to regret decisions I’ve made in my life, but this is definitely one such case. Alas, that $3K was well and truly out of the question at that point in time. Even considering the fact I was a Tech Sergeant back then and wasn’t dirt-poor, I wasn’t all that far out of the dirt, what with being recently divorced and about to remarry. Keep in mind― this is 1977 we’re talking about, and three thousand Yankee dollars was a rather princely sum in those days, particularly to a mid-grade NCO. Life, as it’s said, has its priorities… and my teeth weren’t high on my personal priority list. They should have been.

Yesterday my dentist gave me some bad news and suggested a course of action that I have to mull over during the coming week. He suggests I consider dental implants; we have an appointment next Tuesday to go over the exact treatment options, which he will work up after reviewing my history, my x-rays, the results of his analysis, and so on. As for me, I have to do a lil research on the subject.

I like the concept of implants…they appear to beat bridge work, i.e., false teeth, hands-down. But implants have at least one serious drawback: they ain’t cheap. I shudder at the thought of what this work will actually cost, which will be revealed during my consultation next Tuesday. There are other drawbacks as well. Implants take time, and a lot of it. I'll probably need bone restoration work before the actual implants can be installed, and that process alone can take up to four months. The whole implant process could take up to a year, with six to eight months a reasonable estimate in my specific case. And, even considering the remarkably pain-free nature of modern dentistry, work of this nature ain't exactly painless. There will be multiple surgeries involved. But…of all the alternatives out there, implants seem to be the best.

So much for my new Miata.

(That’s not my dentist, btw. Just a stock image.)


  1. I'm sure my dad feels your pain on that one...he had to wear braces for quite a while as an adult to get his teeth back into whack. I'm just thankful my parents had the resources to get me and my sisters good orthodontal work when we were kids. Braces suck, but they suck at lot less when you've got them in grade school as opposed to when you're 50.

    Primarily because when you're in grade school you don't have to pay for them.

  2. Bless your heart Buck...that don't sound too fun.

    I've been blessed with good teeth, at least up to this point. As a matter of fact, I had two teeth filled prior to entering the service in '64 and they have never needed replacing. I had two more filled about 2 years ago!

    My wife is currently wearing braces and will soon have some more gum surgery. She hasn't been as blessed.

    I'd get the best work done...they have to last you!

  3. I feel for you, there. I'm completely paranoid about taking care of dental issues. A stith in time saves nine seems to apply here. It's not just the money, but the cumulative pain and inconvenience. I hope you hit upon the best possible solution.

  4. That is a tough decision. I am glad I finally had my teeth fixed (invisiline) although it took about 2 years to get it all done. FWIW, the implants sound better in the long run. But then I have bad dreams of my teeth falling out - probably some sort of teethphobia.

  5. Hell Buck, you didn't want to take all those retirment dollars with you to the promised land anyway....did you? ;)

  6. Thanks for the kind comments, all y'all.

    I've known more than a few folks like yourselves, Mushy and Phlegmmy, who have good "tooth genes," and need little or no work other than cleanings (with the understanding you've been throw the braces thing, Phlegmmy). SN1 and I were discussing this subject the other night and he's been told he needs orthodontia as well, and so does my grandson. My tooth genes ain't so good, and unfortunately I've passed them on/down.

    Dan: I'm tempted to go that way (Miata), but I like food too much. As in: being able to eat something other than mush.

    Lou: I seriously WISH I had done what you did!

    Pat: I'm just glad those dollars are there. My options would be a lot more limited if they weren't.

  7. You have my compassion - facing similar mess here...

  8. I have an old boss who went thru what you are describing - in her late 30s. It wasn't easy, but it didn't seem as horrible as she first was told to expect. The cost was high, but the results were gorgeous.

    I don't like talking about dentistry work - had too much of it as a kid (tooth problems, braces, etc...). I'm blessed as well, and that's all I'll say.

    Good luck with the decision...not easy under any circumstances.

  9. Once again, you show yourself to be a shadow of me with some unspecified number of years tacked on. I did all the stuff I was supposed to in my childhood, got the wisdoms pulled, wore that horrible retainer, headgear, braces, you name it. Still overcrowded up top. Right front sticks out. Seems to have gotten worse, mild discomfort, lately I have the impression a speech defect may be in the making. Ex-girlfriends have been known to call it "The Fang."

  10. Nope, that sure isn't our dentist! LOL! He is a lot better looking than that generic photo. BTW, did you know his wife was once Miss. Portales or Roosevelt County, whatever, back in the day (which was about 15 years ago).

    Sorry about the teeth problems. Hopefully it won't be too painful for both your mouth or your pocketbook.

  11. Morgan sez: ...with some unspecified number of years tacked on.

    Ummm...20+, I think. Maybe not "plus." I'm 62. ;-)

    And bad tooth genes do suck, but I suppose it's better than bad cholesterol genes, or the obesity gene, or...God Forbid...the moonbat gene.

    Kris: That's reassuring...about your boss.

    Jenny: I didn't know that about Dr. Thompson's wife, but it doesn't surprise me at all. He certainly has that "alpha male" aura...or whatever ya wanna call it.


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