Budget & Finance, Family & Friends

What the Middle Class Looks Like: Dentistry

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Disclaimer: I am not 100% sure if we are middle class, but I think we live like we are. We live in the Midwest (so we aren’t paying LA rent or Alaska milk prices) and my husband is in a union so health insurance is an included part of the package and not a deduction from his check or something we have to pay for separately. The “Middle Class Mondays” series covers things I’ve always felt would be different when we had what I consider “enough” money and how those experiences compare to how things used to be for us or how they compare to how things were when I was a child.


I have a great dental insurance plan. I know this because my dentist’s office keeps telling me so. It’s been years since I’ve seen a dentist because the last one was a public aid dentist in cook county and I was pretty sure she was trying to drown me in my own spit. (I had to sit up with the drill in my mouth because when I raised my hand she put it down and when I tried to shift she held my forehead.)

Needless to say, I’m a little bit freaked out by the dentist.

Yesterday I got a periodontal cleaning (that deep, under-the-gums cleaning you get when you’re old, not just the scraping off the front teeth one, they numb your whole mouth for this cleaning) and since I was in good shape the dentist decided to get the cavities on the left hand side of my mouth out of the way so she wouldn’t have to re-numb me later.

Eight cavities. Eight.

All the while I was praised by the dentist and the hygienist for how well I had cared for my teeth. I brush 2x a day and floss once – sometimes twice – a day. So while I was not surprised they praised me such consistent praise seemed almost overwhelming.

Then they focused on one another and started talking like colleagues do about kids, school, and life. I was much more comfortable when this started because I didn’t have to participate and could concentrate on being quiet and calm and not a person who freaks out at dental visits.

It all turned out fabulously. Sure, my copay (on an 80/20 PPO plan) was $555 but I had a new card I had opened with 0% APR for the first 21 months on new purchases. That means I have time to pay this off without paying interest. Great! I still need more work to the tune of 10 more cavities, a front tooth cap replacement, and probably some kind of whitening action. I’m getting the cavities finished this year. That means I need to start paying $125/mo. now in order to pay off the whole chunk in 20 months from now.

Almost 10 of my cavities are because my previous (public aid) dental work was shoddy and cavities were actually UNDER THE FILLINGS. So it’s not from lack of trying and lack of care that this happened. Which is frustrating.

So my overall total by the end of next month when all this is done (not including vanity procedures like whitening or tooth straightening which are total pipe dreams in my life still) I will end up owing a hair over $2,500 … for my teeth. With insurance. Very good insurance, according to the dental staff.

We could not have done this any sooner than this year. It wouldn’t have been even a little bit possible. It’s a shame, too, because I have to tell you I absolutely believe that dental should be part of all other medical and get covered like any other regular procedure at any regular doctor.

Mouths are important.