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My Tooth Can Teach You A Lesson

November 16, 2011 · 109 comments

in Life, Personal Finance

It all started with some chewing gum…

I had chewed this brand of gum before, and didn’t really think much about it- until the pain struck.

See, I can chew and chew and everything will be fine.  Then a couple hours later, the pain will start in this one particular tooth, and only when I chew a certain brand of gum.  A normal person might decide to just not chew gum anymore, but not me.  Sometimes I get so hungry that gum is the only thing around, and it buys me some time until I can eat.  (Nobody in my family wants me to get too hungry, that is not fun…)

Usually, the tooth pain lasts a few hours and fades away.  This time though, it was relentless.  It was then that I remembered that I had a new crown put on the tooth above my sore tooth and suspected my ‘bite’ was not quite right. So, I got through the weekend with a lot of Motrin (should have turned to whiskey) and raced to the dentist Monday morning.

Why Can’t Treating Teeth Be Easier???

My dentist knows me very well.  Probably because my teeth are incredibly soft and apparently quite absorbent.  I have had many root canals and such, so quite often, I get bad news.

I hopped in the chair, had some idle chit chat, and explained my pain.  I told him I thought my bite might be a little off, and upon inspection with some mysterious blue paper, that did seem to be the case.  The dentist ground down my crown a little and then we had our discussion.

Since xrays don’t always show what is wrong with a tooth, the dentist explained the following possiblities:

  1. The sanding down of the tooth will fix my bite, and the pain will resolve shortly.
  2. There is an infection down in the root area.  If that is the case, the following is possible:
  • An endodontist can rip the crown off and take out the post, clean it all out, and put it all back together.
  • An oral surgeon can cut through the base of my gum and clean out any infection that way, leaving the tooth intact.  However, there is a major nerve connecting to my lip that could be damaged if that route is taken.
  • The tooth could be pulled and I would get an implant.  (Tooth implant that is…)
The dentist was leaning toward it just being an angry tooth that would resolve on its own because I wasn’t having any gum pain (which would indicate deep down infection).  Obviously, I was hoping for the same because the other options sounded awful.

So What Can We All Learn From My Tooth?

When thinking about all the unpleasant possibilities my dentist explained to me, I mostly worried about the pain and frustration of the repair process.  All options would be very expensive, and I believe he said the implant would be the costliest at around $3500.  Since our dental insurance covers almost nothing, we would have to absorb most of the cost on our own.  However, cost was the least of my worries.  I didn’t want to be having dental problems over the holidays, I didn’t want to go through the awful process of either repair or replacement, etc etc.  Obviously I didn’t want to have to pay a major expense, but the money aspect did not stress me out like it would have when we were first married. I can’t imagine how much more awful I would have felt if I combined the pain with worry about how I was going to pay the bill.

My tooth experience just reinforces the point even more that having an emergency fund or whatever you want to call it is imperative. Obviously it is good financially to have money available to pay any unexpected bills, but it is also good mentally and emotionally. Experiencing negative events of any kind is bad enough, but when you also add financial worries, it can make matters so much worse.

So, next time you are out shopping and see a pair of boots or a new Ipod on sale that you really don’t need and can’t afford, picture yourself sitting in the dentist chair and having an expensive procedure done.  Do you really want to see yourself cringing in the chair thinking about both the pain from the dental work and the pain you will feel when paying extra interest charges for the dental (or whatever) visit?  Always remember that life is waiting for you just around the corner, and both good and bad things can happen.   It is up to you to make sure you are prepared as much as possible for whichever path life takes you.

(As a side note, I think the dentist is right and  my bite was just ‘off’ because my pain level is much more tolerable.  However, I am keeping my fingers crossed!)


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter November 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

Great parallels indeed. I must admit I always hate going to the dentist. He is a nice guy but I am a suck when it comes to my mouth and I always worry about having to get work done.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:19 am

Don’t you hate going and getting your cleanings done and living in terror until the end when you find out if you have to come back for some unpleasant procedure?


Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter November 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

Yup. I have been lucky though. I have required very little dental work in my life so far. I have never even had a cavity.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm

That is fantastic Miss T! I think I was born with cavities unfortunately. My dentist likes to refer to my teeth as ‘soft’. I call them little money pits.

Good luck on staying cavity free! That is quite an accomplishment, seriously.


First Gen American November 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Oh man..tooth pain is the worst. Finger’s crossed that it was just your bite.

You are so dead on right. Having an emergency fund makes emergencies an inconvenience and temporary time suck instead of a full blown crisis. Great advice and it’s a nice place to be in life. I know it takes most of us years if not decades to get there, but it’s definitely worth the wait.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:18 am

First Gen, I would have flipped out if I had to worry about the tooth and the money. I would have been nervous about every little lasting twinge because I would think ‘how am I going to pay for this???’.

I don’t have as much ’emergency fund’ saved as I would like, but we can absorb issues outside of job loss. (Darn tuition…)


Jana @ Everything Finance November 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I don’t think I will ever understand why dental procedures are so expensive. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had more than a couple of cavities but from what I’ve been told, dental procedures are painful and expensive. Not exactly good news for one of the more important parts of your body.

I do agree with you on the importance of an emergency fund. We all know we’re supposed to have one in case of job loss but it’s just as important to have one for situations like you’ve described.

Good luck!


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:16 am

Thanks for the wishes of luck! I just can’t believe that dentistry seems so archaeic to me. Although I guess I wasn’t around long ago when the only option was to pull teeth, so I guess there has been some progress. However, I figured the drill and novacaine would have been replaced by now.


Krantcents November 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Your story reminds me of ice bergs, it is not what you see, but the portion under water that can hurt you. I always think about plan B or what can I have to resolve the unexpected.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:09 am

Fantastic analogy KC, you are so right. The tooth in question is a crown, so everything you can see looks great. It is what lies underneath that scares me…


retirebyforty@retireby40.org November 16, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Whew! That’s one crisis averted. Dental procedure definitely can be painful in more than one way. I had some work done last year and thankfully my insurance picked up most of the cost. Are dentists in other country as expensive as here? They are making money hand over fist.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:05 am

It is shocking how expensive dental procedures are. Even cleanings are getting pretty expensive. Although part of the problem is I have the worst insurance ever. It is great that yoru insurance covered so much.


UltimateSmartMoney November 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm

You’re right about having that emergency fund because you never know when you end up needing it. It sounds like you might have saved that $3000. Dental work can be so expensive. I ended up billed $1000 for my root canal after my insurance coverage. It’s also good habit to find out exact amount you have to pay out of pocket before you do through the procedures. I hear that you can work with your dentist to find a way to minimize your out of pocket.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:02 am

I think that dentists are especially willing to work with you if you don’ t have insurance. Good tips USM!


101 Centavos November 17, 2011 at 6:50 am

One of the reasons I love the HSA card. It’s a built-in emergency fund to take care of medical and dental emergencies. I hate all things sadist, I mean, dentist-related.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:01 am

Did you ever see the movie ‘Marathon Man’ with Dustin Hoffman? I always think of that horrible scene when I am at the dentist…


Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

Your tooth did teach me a lesson. I completely agree that the EF is imperative, but I like how you added the psychological benefits of having one. Those don’t get covered in nearly enough posts. However, these benefits may ultimately be HUGE because of the impact of getting derailed financially by unexpected expenses can have on your overall plan.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Shawn, I am so glad my tooth taught you a lesson! It taught me one too, I really was greatly relieved that I wasn’t fretting about possible dental costs. Worrying about health is bad enough, and worrying about pain just adds insult to injury.


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager November 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Ouch! Hope you keep us posted on your recovery.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I will Jenna! So far, the pain is only about a 2, where it was a 10+, so I will take it!


Christa November 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Good luck on the tooth pain. That is the worst kind of pain in the world!


Kris November 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Thank you Christa! It really is a type of pain that is hard to escape.


Financial Samurai November 22, 2011 at 9:53 am

Kris – Would you happen to be undergoing some stress and have a little bit of TMJ?

I had that issue for a while and it takes a lot of mental realization to stop clamping down and hurting the tooth.


Sandy @ Journey To Our Home December 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I completely agree with you- the stress of having to pay for an expensive procedure can sometimes be more than the actual physical pain of the injury.
Good luck! Hopefully, your tooth continues to get better and you don’t have to any more pain.


Kris December 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

Hi Sandy. I am a little nervous because the pain keeps popping back up if I grind my teeth at night. Having another bite adjustment today in hopes the problem goes away completely.

Thanks for your well wishes, I appreciate them!


Shelly Slader July 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm

My friend is a dentist in Hamilton and he has told me of some pretty crazy stories of people and their teeth issues. It is definitely not a fun thing to have to deal with. I hope everything goes well for you!


Hilary August 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this! I have actually been trying to learn a little bit more about holistic dentistry in Anchorage, AK… Do you happen to know anything about that?


dental implants vernon hills August 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Well, let me tell you some thing about my teeth. They are awesome! That is because I brush and floss everyday, and go to the dentist twice a year. Obey and you’ll be in the same boat of awesome!


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