My Dental Dilemma

Hey everyone! I wanted to make a post about my experience with the dentist last night (you can all cringe now). I feel that it’s important to be aware of your health – and I mean all of it, not just your body in general. I think that eye care and dental care fall by the wayside a lot, when that shouldn’t be the case. Your eyes and mouth/teeth are just as important as any other part of your body. When you have a toothache it’s not fun, and delaying getting glasses can be really bad for your eyes! (Was I the only one excited to get glasses?)

Taking care of things right now will save you money and save you from bigger issues in the long run.

Why does my tooth hurt?!

A few days ago I started getting headaches. This isn’t out of the norm for me (unfortunately), but taking one Advil wasn’t working as it usually does. This was a bit puzzling, but I went on with my days hoping it would soon disappear.

This label is mocking me..
This label is mocking me..

Yesterday, I finally figured out that the pain was originating from my teeth – more accurately, my jaw. I started wondering if it was my wisdom tooth, finally coming to bother me. The pain still wasn’t too bad, so again, I hoped it would pass.

This morning, the pain was still there, and it progressively got worse throughout the day. My coworker ironically had a dentist appointment that morning, and gave me the name of her dentist. I was in luck – they had late hours! However, she did say that when she had tried to make an appointment, they were booked, so I did some research and found another office with late hours. Both were minutes away from my apartment.

I called my coworker’s dentist first, but they weren’t able to take me until the 12th. I didn’t think I could wait that long. My tooth had been bothering me all day, and I didn’t think I could last another week. Not only that, but I wasn’t sure if it was safe. For all I knew, I had an infection.

Thankfully the other office was able to fit me in last night. I was so relieved. I really thought I would have to wait a few days. Why can’t I ever find a doctor with late office hours?!

My dental dilemma

R took us to the office, where I didn’t wait long at all. They had a form I filled out online, and they actually received it at the office once I submitted it. I didn’t have to print it, which I thought was pretty cool. Anyway, I was very nervous, because I had a bad feeling I’d be parting with a tooth shortly. Turns out my hunch was right.

They took a few x-rays to locate the problem. At first, the dentist scared me by saying he thought one of my teeth was fractured. On closer inspection, apparently it was a narrow cavity in the tooth. He said they could try filling it, and if the pain didn’t go away, I could come back for an extraction.

Gauze is a weird word...
Gauze is a weird word…

Here’s why there was a dilemma. I don’t have dental insurance. Yep, I am foolish, and I fully admit that. I was covered under my mom for so long, and I figured I could wait to get insurance. As timing would have it, I have the typical 3 months to wait before I’m covered at my new job. My old job had a plan that cost $30ish a month. Should I have paid it? Yes, but I wanted that $30 in my pocket. Silly me.

They broke down the costs for me – apparently the office visit was around $50, the x-rays were $70, and the tooth extraction would be $500. If I went with the filling, that would have been $250. They had some deal that included the x-rays and office visit, and another deal that included two free cleanings and a full mouth series of x-rays. However, since cleanings are every six months, and I’d be covered in three, I didn’t think it was worth it. I figured I was better off just getting the tooth pulled. If the filling didn’t work, it was money down the drain.

I ended up taking the package that cost $500 all together. There was the option of going to an oral surgeon, which I’d normally take because I’m a chicken, but I knew that would have been too much money. I had to tough it out – this was the result of my mistake.

This is why I love my emergency fund

I keep a rather large emergency fund just in case something unexpected like this happens. While we rent our apartment, and I only own a car, you might say there’s not too much that could go wrong, but you never know. I’d rather sleep soundly at night. While I absolutely didn’t want to part with $500, my health was in question, and I need to take care of myself.

I know I would have been way more anxious to visit the dentist without insurance and without an emergency fund. I could calmly put the amount on my card, and pay it off the same night, without having to worry how I’d come up with the money.

If you asked me a month ago if I thought I’d have this issue, I’d have said probably not. No one knows the future, but I haven’t had any dental pain in quite a while – since I got a root canal years ago. So it’s easy to say, “Oh I don’t need this insurance, whatever!” Let me tell you – it pays to be prepared. You may not think anything will happen to you in the next month, but life can and will surprise you. Be ready for it!

A happy ending

First of all, the office staff was great. Everyone was so nice, and it’s refreshing when that happens. For some reason every medical office I visit has lots of disgruntled people working there, and it’s not welcoming.

Freebies are the best
Freebies are the best

The dentist was great – he pulled the tooth out in about five minutes. Crazy! He told me the hardest part was the numbing process, and he was completely right.

Second of all, I got a huge surprise when I walked up to make the payment. “That will be $274, please.” “What?! I thought it was $500…” (yes I’m that honest person). “Oh, no, the dentist just gave you an estimate on the higher side, just in case it required surgical extraction.” SCORE! You bet I was ecstatic after hearing that.

Obviously this could have all been avoided had I not been stupid and had insurance, but I thought it was worth sharing. One, for the health reminder/lesson, two, providing some insight into why I keep an emergency fund, and three, to give an example of the unexpected happening when you least want it to! The not-so-happy ending: apparently my teeth are secretly horrendous, and when I do get coverage, I need to go back to deal with cavities that I had no idea I had. Checkups are important!!

Anyone have any tips on recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction? Have you ever had a medical issue and no insurance? Or something insurance didn’t cover? 



  1. kelly @stayingonbudget November 6, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Yeah, the dentist gets expensive really quickly…it’s something that people don’t think about until something happens. Trust me, I’ve been there without insurance!

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      It’s good to know I’m not alone. It always stinks to hear the office visit is going to cost $50+ as it is, then they pile everything else on top of it. As they made suggestions to me I just kept thinking, “And what is that going to cost?!”

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty November 6, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Dental work is so expensive!

    I’m very glad that your bill was less than you planned for. That’s awesome!

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      It really is. I am just going to get everything taken care of next year so that, hopefully, this will never happen again. May as well when I am young and don’t have too many other things to worry about.

  3. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply November 6, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    That sucks that you won’t be able to take advantage of the dental benefits for 3 months and this came up now. Good thing for your emergency fund. Dental work is definitely costly…my wife had dental work done which was only partially covered and it was expensive. We did have a health flex spending plan so at least we got some savings. Also, I think we tried to negotiate with the dental office and offered to pay cash for a slight discount.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      The thought crossed my mind, but I felt a little weird negotiating as a first time patient. I could see trying to do that if you have an established relationship with the dentist. I figure even when I do have insurance, an emergency fund would still come in handy. As you said, dental insurance doesn’t always cover everything.

  4. This Life On Purpose November 6, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    I love going up to pay and realizing it’s actually WAY cheaper than I thought it was :) It’s a great feeling.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:15 PM

      It really is a great feeling!

  5. Done by Forty November 6, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    I’m so glad it wasn’t anything worse, like an infection, and that it wasn’t particularly expensive either. Dental coverage usually isn’t too expensive if you wanted to shop some around on the open market. However, like all insurance, in general you’re going to be paying more in than you’ll get out. I’m torn on whether it’s a good deal for us.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      Thanks, I am glad for that too (lots to be grateful for this week). Most people just think they need insurance and pay whatever it is for it. I think it’s smart to try and do the math on whether or not it’s worth it. I am glad that dental and eye coverage will be completely covered by my next job, but $30 a month at $360 a year is more than I just paid to get the tooth out. I did actually shop around and it didn’t seem worth it, either.

  6. anna November 6, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Nice, that must have been awesome to hear what the actual total was! Glad to hear you had it taken care of, and that you had the emergency fund to cover it, but sorry to hear that headaches are common for you. :( Yay for dental/vision soon enough! There was a span of about a year where I didn’t have insurance, and as soon as I came on board with a company that offered it (it was active day of employment), I needed it! I thank my stars for the timing of that.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      I was soo relieved it ended up being about half of what was originally estimated. It is great when the timing works out. As it is I am overdue on an eye exam (though luckily my eyesight has leveled out), but looking around at prices it was a bit too much. I really just want it to cover contacts, and I still have a supply. My dad used to have really bad migraines, so I am just thankful I don’t have headaches to that degree.

  7. Brian @ Luke1428 November 6, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    This is exactly what an emergency fund is for and why it allows us to sleep so comfortably at night, knowing we’ve got things like this covered. My guess is that you would have been more upset with yourself had you not had that in place.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      Very much so Brian! I would have been kicking myself twice over.

  8. Catherine November 6, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    I write this from my work, a dental office where I work as a hygienist. Sorry about your tooth. I’m shocked by the xrays. How many did they take? Though I’m in canada I caNt see them being that different and we charge $14/xray (as per Canadian fee guide). And the exo cost seems insanely high too! Anyway cost aside, good luck with healing! Rinse with warm salt water and advil for pain if you need it!

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:08 PM

      Thanks for the advice Catherine! I think they took 4 x-rays, but it was also because two didn’t turn out well. My dad had to get two teeth extracted earlier this year, and it cost him about the same for two, so I think it’s probably just a reflection of where I live.

  9. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life November 6, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    I don’t have dental so I go to NYU’s dental school. I had to get a dental implant this year $1250!!! It would have been $1800 at my regular dentist.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:06 PM

      Whoa! Dental work is seriously expensive sometimes. That was smart thinking to go to the dental school at least. I should have thought of that, but the pain was getting too bad. The dental assistant actually mentioned it to me, in an attempt to save me money, which was really sweet of her. I am just glad it ended up being on the lower side.

  10. SarahN November 6, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Ekkk! I have a sore jaw/tooth since I don’t know how long, and even with dental health insurance, have paid out of pocket so much for a sleeping mouthguard, which hasn’t really helped :( It’s just made me look freaky!

    I’m so glad this worked out well for you – I got my four wisdom teeth out under day surgery whilst I was still on my parents cover (and I recovered at their house, having moved back there the DAY before the operation). Took me a whole week to recover, and it was during a break from university. Gosh it knocked me around – physically, but also a week off studying and revising (Engineering was hard!). Weirdly, I still have pain, so maybe they left a fragment behind?

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      My jaw is a bit weird as well … something else I’ll probably have to figure out down the road. I wear a retainer every other night and usually wake up with a headache. I think I grind my teeth while I sleep.

      Oh no! That’s not good at all if you still have pain. I still avoid chewing by the tooth I had a root canal on; the crown is painful. I wish I could have done all four at once just to get it over with, but I couldn’t justify the cost. Plus I am starting my new job next week, so bad timing. Maybe next year. I really thought it would hurt more than it does, so I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

  11. Cash Cow Couple November 6, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    Very Nice! Love the total bill at the end! Most people don’t know it, but I went to dental school for a semester, then dropped out! I hated it, but the money would have been great.

    Doesn’t really pertain to your story, sorry…

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 8:45 PM

      That’s okay Jacob – I remember reading about your dental school experience. While I don’t think I could ever go to school for any sort of medicine, when the dentist showed me the tooth at the end, I thought it was kind of intriguing.

  12. Budget and the Beach November 6, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Gah dental work is painful and no fun! I waited too long and had to get a root canal which not only was painful but hurt. I don’t have dental insurance because most people told me that it’s better just to save up any unexpected expenses in an emergency fund, and budget for regular type check ups so that’s what I do. Rather keep the money in savings and hope nothing goes wrong then pay monthly on the off chance I might need it.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 8:44 PM

      Getting my wisdom tooth out hurt less than the root canal I had. I wasn’t really a fan of the office I visited last time, though. Very smart of you to just budget for it!

  13. Kara November 6, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Oh you’re singing my song – both about getting dental work taken care of and about insurance/emergency funds.

    I had PERFECT teeth … perfect. My mother was a dentist and because of her I had no cavities. No gum disease, No tartar build up. Nothing. And because of her I still take care of my teeth, flossing, brushing, and so forth, and sp never saw any reason to worry about tooth issues.

    Until I was 41. Then one day I had some tooth pain while I was eating. No big deal, I thought, because I have perfect teeth. Probably just sinuses or the weather change or something. No biggie. So I ignored it (and I even have insurance, but I was cocky about my perfect teeth).

    Three months later I was eating a piece of bread and my tooth BROKE. Off. In chunks. In my mouth. Not even crunchy bread, just bread.

    Three dentist visits, a root canal, 2 different crowns, a whitening session, and $3700 later, my teeth were at least looking perfect again. *sigh*

    So when people tell me that they’re in perfect health or have no problems or potential issues or don’t need insurance/an emergency fund/regular checkups … I remind them of my “perfect” teeth. No one is immune from health/dental/eye issues. Even if you’ve been perfect for 40 years … things happen.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 8:41 PM

      Oh my!! That’s insane. Honestly I probably would have reacted the same way. I also had no reason to think my teeth were horrible, but apparently over the course of three years they became just that. You are so right that anything can happen at any time. I’m not looking forward to the work I’ll probably have to get done. I am just hoping it can wait another three months.

      My boyfriend had a similar incident occur – he was eating a sandwich and a piece of his tooth broke off. A few weeks ago another piece broke off. I’ve been hassling him about going to the dentist, and he booked an appointment while he was with me last night. I just hope nothing major is wrong.

  14. MakintheBacon November 6, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    I had all four wisdom teeth pulled out when I was in university. I was too afraid to take Tylenol 3 because I was concerned it would make me vomit. I should have bit the bullet and taken it instead of just extra strength, but I’m weird and withstood the pain.

    I got glasses when I was a 12 and HATED wearing them ever since. I still hate wearing them to this day and only wear them around the house. I hate the way they look on me. I think about getting laser eye surgery done here and there, but am a bit freaked out about them cutting the top of my eye off and sticking a laser in it.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 8:27 PM

      I don’t normally like taking painkillers, either. I’ve had weird reactions to some of them after surgery. They only gave me Motrin 600 and I was fine last night, thankfully.

      I don’t like how most glasses look on me. To be honest, I spend around 3 hours looking around the store to find the perfect pair. It’s pretty bad. I was afraid of getting contacts in high school, but I’ve never looked back! (Plus braces and glasses made a bad combo.) I am totally freaked out by lasik as well. I would benefit a lot from it, but I’m too nervous about the procedure.

  15. Micro November 6, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    I’m not the biggest fan of going to the dentist but I learned my lesson at a young age. I’ve had time were I stayed up all night with a painfully sore tooth. The temporary pain sitting in a dentist’s chair for an hour is easily better than 8 hours+ of not sleeping because of the pain from a tooth that wasn’t treated beforehand.

    1. E.M. November 6, 2013 at 8:24 PM

      That is a good way to look at it. I have never had any extremely painful toothaches that I can remember, but my dad happened to have one when I was visiting. He was up all night and I would never want to be in that position. As it was, it was bothering me at work and I didn’t feel very motivated to be productive.

  16. KK @ Student Debt Survivor November 6, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    Oh man, I hope you’re feeling better. Unexpected dental issues are the worst. I’m glad it *only* cost you $274-ugg.

    1. E.M. November 7, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      Thanks KK, I am feeling a lot better today. Yesterday was on and off but I don’t think I’ll need the painkillers anymore. Unexpected dental issues really do stink.

  17. DC @ Young Adult Money November 6, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    My wife got her wisdom teeth out a couple weeks ago and it was a LONG recovery. She got them out Friday morning (all four) and still couldn’t work on Monday. I am not exaggerating when I say her face swelled up to three times it’s size! I’m so glad she’s better now. I think lots of ice and rest is about the best thing you can do after getting a tooth extracted.

    1. E.M. November 7, 2013 at 9:50 PM

      Oh gosh, I am sorry it didn’t go too well for her. I am really thankful no swelling occurred, it just hurts to open my jaw. Probably helps I only got one out. I’m not sure if I could have handled all four. Having it be in the middle of the week was horrible as I didn’t want to be at work at all.

  18. Ashley November 7, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Ugh, I have terrible teeth too! This is a good reminder that I need to go to the dentist soon… :)

    Glad you didn’t pay quite as much as you expected- that’s always a nice surprise. But thank goodness you had an emergency fund that could take care of you. Just one more reason being financially secure is important!!

    1. E.M. November 7, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      Yes! Sadly I could see someone putting off a dentist visit if they were in debt without insurance. The fear of getting into a bigger hole of debt can really hold you back.

  19. Matt Becker November 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    This is a really great lesson, both on the importance of insurance and an emergency fund. People never think they really need either until they actually need them. Like you said, it’s really best to be prepared. It’s usually not worth saving a few dollars today but opening yourself to a big loss tomorrow.

    1. E.M. November 7, 2013 at 9:46 PM

      I really did luck out that it was inexpensive. I was so nervous that it might run me into the thousands if something was seriously wrong. You never know what news you might receive. Teeth are really tricky it seems as there’s a lot that can go wrong under the surface, so it really can pay to have insurance.

  20. Romona@Monasez November 7, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    WowThat’s a pretty good deal. I just got three extractions today and I’m hoping I won’t ever have to get another tooth pulled again.

    1. E.M. November 7, 2013 at 9:43 PM

      Ouch!! I definitely feel your pain. Getting a tooth pulled is never fun, but at least the pain goes away soon after, making it kind of worth it!

  21. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life November 7, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Thank goodness that the total was lower than the estimate. Most people definitely forget about dental insurance because it seems so unimportant. Having health insurance is so much more ‘important’ because there are many more things that can go wrong. But that doesn’t meant that your teeth aren’t still part of you and can affect your day to day living!

    1. E.M. November 7, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      Exactly. Yes, there are more things that could go wrong with your body, but your eyes and teeth are just as important. They still have an impact on your overall health. Thanks for stopping by!

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  23. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living November 8, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    My last job was a with a religious organization that didn’t pay for my birth control pills. I was able to get a prescription for a generic that worked for me and for the 14 months I worked there I got my prescription filled at Costco’s pharmacy (the cheapest for folks without drug coverage) but even the generic cost me $40/month! Now I’m covered so it’s back to $10 for a three month supply but that extra $490 I spent those 14 months I was at the job for the prescription was not fun!

    1. E.M. November 8, 2013 at 8:52 PM

      Wow that’s insane! I am very glad most of my prescriptions are fully covered, though the Motrin they prescribed cost me $3.80 which was amusing. I know my grandma sadly pays an arm and a leg for all of her medication.

  24. Jen @ Frugal Rules November 9, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    A visit to the dentist is often a dreaded thing but a toothache is more dreadful. It’s double the pain when you think of the expenses. But you are right in saying our dental health is equally important.

    1. E.M. November 9, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      I don’t think many people enjoy going to the doctor or dentist because of the possible bad news they can receive, but it is better than neglecting your health and getting worse. Very true that it’s better to just face it!

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  26. Connie @ Savvy With Saving November 10, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    Wow, dental work can be so expensive. I have to get my wisdom teeth out next week but luckily I have insurance. I’m kind of dreading it though!

    1. E.M. November 11, 2013 at 9:26 PM

      Aw, I hope it goes well for you! If they aren’t impacted I think it’s a lot less painful.

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