Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605

I measure time by how old my children are. My timeline can be  like BD² (Before Second Kid’s Name That Starts With D…which can get tricky, since all of my boys’ names start with D, so this requires numerical designation after the D )  or AM (After kid’s name that starts with M) or …and so on.

The last time I went to the dentist it was AM but BD². So, between 9-13 years ago. I think M must have been less than a year. I needed a lot of work done back then but I’ve had no insurance and no money to get it done. I still don’t have money but I have some insurance. The ridiculous reality is that, despite being educated & having a shit-ton of experience (highly professional term not commonly used on resumes but should be) in many areas , the way my teeth look is severely limiting my employment opportunities and contributing to me being in poverty.

So, even though we’re living paycheck to paycheck (barely) and NEED food stamps to keep us fed, I decided to bite the bullet & get myself to the dentist to find out what the damage is and how much it’ll cost to fix it.

When I sat in the dentist’s chair, the dental assistance asked me the usual preliminary question. “How are you doing today?”


Typically socially-awkward me replied with ,”Nervous.” I meant to leave it at that but my brain & mouth don’t coordinate well, so out came my entire story about how mortified I was about the state of my mouth and ,”Ohmygod,please don’t judge me. My mother took me to the dentist ONCE during my entire childhood and let me drink 2 liters of soda every single day and I haven’t drank any soda in over a decade and make sure I take good care of what teeth I have and ….”

And on and on I went. I almost cried but didn’t. I think I mentioned something about coconut oil based toothpaste that I made myself and how the ingredients are actually exactly the same as my recipe for homemade deodorant. And clove oil. I know I talked about how much I love clove oil for killing my toothache pain, even though it makes me spasm and wretch like demons have possessed me and fear that Max von Sydow is going to come at me with a cross, chanting, “The power of Christ compels you!” like a broken record.

I was told this dental office was very nice. Nice,not meaning swanky but the way they treat patients. The dental assistant didn’t even hesitate to reassure me and let me know that they are not the judgey types.

Then the dentist came in.

Not quite like that but maybe he should think about offering that as a courtesy to patients.
It just so happens that the last time I saw the dentist, not as a dentist but just as a guy who lives in the same small town, he was at the school Halloween parade. Dressed as Daphne from Scooby-Doo. He made a very fine looking Daphne and it was very hard to focus on what he was saying to me without having the image of him wearing a short purple dress and a long red wig.

The first thing he said to me was, “I’m not going to yell at you,I promise!” . I’m guessing the sweet dental assistant took a minute to let him know, “Dude, this lady is a basket case. Be gentle.”

He was. I was relieved. He looked in my mouth and all the x-rays the assistant took and had to fill a yellow legal pad to write down everything I need to have done. But he was nice while doing it.

At the end of it all, I found out exactly what it will cost for me to have not just an awesome looking mouth but a healthy mouth . The healthy part is important. I don’t want to die early because I live in a country that thinks your mouth isn’t part of your body and therefore entirely unrelated to your overall health.

I know you wanna know how much,right?
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The sad thing about this….

it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

And still….

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$7,595. Yep. For this amount, I should get a lap dance from Daphne.

Kidding, sheesh.

Dental care is a harsh reminder that we should have managed the money the tooth fairy gave us when we were kids instead of rushing out to spend it on things that were probably bad for our teeth.

I don’t have $7,595 to spend on my mouth right now but I can do a little bit at a time as I have the money. My insurance covers $1,200 of it (good) but I can’t do a payment plan for the rest. The only option this office has for a payment plan is to use Care Credit ,which seems like a good option but I was denied because I have zero credit history. I think I’d rather have that than bad credit history but still…it would be a nice option to have.

At least I have a game plan and this is a good start. I look forward to the day I can eat more than oatmeal and smile in public more.

 

[blog title seemed appropriate since my oldest son ( D¹ ) is reading Don Quixote and we've had many discussions lately revolving around the book... ]

 

UPDATED TO ADD: My friend Nichole started a fundraiser for my dental expenses. I’m all emotional and grateful about it (because that’s how I am). I appreciate every cent people are able to contribute <3

Poor as Folk Dental Fund

I’LL BE FINE.

Taking some deep breaths and letting Woody be my inner voice this morning.

I have my first dentist appointment this morning. I’m so nervous. I’m also really, really hungry. I can’t even eat noodles right now. NOODLES, fer fecks sake.

I’m not scared of the dentistry part of this. I’m scared of what it’s going to cost. Of course, if it costs too much, I won’t even be able to get more than the basic of the most basic work done. My new married woman insurance has dental but only $1,000/year. I’m pretty sure it’ll be about 10x that.

My husband is taking the youngest with him to his doctor’s appointment while I’m at the dentist. Hubby & I are kinda falling apart. His doctor’s office called last week to let him know that his insurance won’t cover his diabetes meds anymore. The alternative meds sent him to the ER, so this is the only med he can take. Out of pocket cost will be $750 for a 3 month supply. Yay,insurance! I’m so glad we have it.

Anyway, he is more worried about my dentist appointment this morning because he won’t be there. He’s pretty sure I’m going to be a traumatized, emotional mess but mostly, I think he’s afraid that the dentist will say something judgmental and assholish that will make me kick him. Then, not only will we have to come up with money to fix my mouth (and a new dentist who will treat me), we’ll need bail money,too.

I have heard that this dentist is very compassionate. I hope so, for his shins’ sake.

U of Conn Discrimination Against Grad Students with Families

UConn discriminates against graduate students with families.Anne-Marie from Do Not Faint asked if I would publish her letter to University of Connecticut regarding their new policy regarding insurance coverage of grad students with dependents. I am more than happy to do so. She also wrote her own blog post describing her family circumstances and other thoughts on the new policy.
You can read that whole post here.

I wrote this letter to the president of the university today, Susan Herbst, just to give my rage some outlet, and I’m sharing it, here, so that others know that the University of Connecticut discriminates against students with spouses, partners and children by asking them to pay an exponential greater percentage of the cost of a health care plan. I’m not totally sure I chose the right numbers for the math, but I’m very close. If I go over it again, I’ll just cry.

Dear Dr. Herbst,
Soon, University of Connecticut Graduate Assistants will be forced into a change in health care benefits. After examining the costs and benefits, I have realized that our family, should we choose a plan that includes dependents, will be paying a disproportionate amount of a graduate assistant’s income in order to have health insurance compared to a graduate assistant without dependents. As it stands, our family of three qualifies for Husky, SNAP and WIC, because my husband makes so little income. This change in insurance adds insult to injury by increasing our health care costs exponentially simply because we are married and have a nine-month-old child. The choice we face is to change our care providers to those within the small network allowed by Husky or to pay the difference in cost UConn is not willing to absorb.

A single graduate assistant would be paying only $200 for an entire year of health care worth, according to the brochure from human resources, $3,988. That’s about 5% of the cost of the annual plan.

A family of three must pay $1,622 for a plan worth $8,368. That is about 45$ of the cost of the annual plan. We must pay an additional $250 deductible for seeing an off-campus doctor and, unless UConn has hired a pediatrician recently, anyone with 2+ dependents would need to do that. Because the therapist and psychiatrist I depend on for mental health care are not inside the new Cigna network, we will have to pay an additional $500 deductible for out-of-network coverage or change providers, a transition that is not at all good for my mental health. By the way, we already paid Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield a $500 deductible for the privilege of seeing out-of-network care providers this year.

Tell me: Is the assumption that a family of three must have two incomes? If so, how do you justify making such an assumption in a state and country where childcare costs so much and family leave is so rare?

I can only conclude that the University of Connecticut is knowingly practicing discrimination against its graduate students with dependents. Why should a marriage or parenthood force a student to live in poverty? I am disgusted by this practice. We are going to be living under the poverty line and incurring extra expenses simply because your university does not treat its graduate assistants with the same respect other employees receive. In addition to paying them salaries that hardly qualify as a living wage, your university asks for a significant amount of that money back in exchange for providing average-quality health care coverage. I hope that this practice changes in the future. For now, all I can do is write this letter and continue to beg the state of Connecticut for help, until my husband can finish his degree and obtain a position that pays a living wage.

Sincerely,

Anne-Marie Lindsey