Would you pay your dentist $3,000 out-of-pocket to drill a hole in your lower jaw for the purpose of installing a titanium cylinder with which your bone will fuse over the next 6 months by a process called osseointegration, only to return once you've healed up to have a crown added?
After at least five years of saying “no” to such an experience, I caved today after a routine cleaning garnered concern from my dental hygienist and trusted (yet expensive) dentist of 15 years. I knew the day was going to come when I recognized the importance of getting an implant for the molar I'm missing. Since my early twenties, I'd had a brace over the opposing molar so it wouldn't fall out. When I was younger, I simply didn't have the money to afford surgery, and my dental coverage wouldn't pay for it (or at least not much of it). Ironically, I'm now in a position to afford such a costly surgery, yet it directly impacts my primary priority, saving for my RTW trip (set to start this December).
So I spent my afternoon weighing the pro's and con's of this dental dilemma.
Pro's on getting the implant:
- Save the upper molar
- Decrease chances of infection and cavities around upper molar (which is hard to clean due to brace)
- Improved ability to chew my food
- Less anxiety that I'll have serious jaw/dental problems as I get older
- A sense that I'm putting my health before money, material, or trip (hard to say, but true)
- The ability to say I've got a titanium implant (just call me The Terminator)
Con's on getting the implant:
- $3,000 diverted from my trip savings to the pocket of my dentist and his suppliers
- The knowledge that I'm going to have a drill bury it's way into my lower jaw in less than 10 days
- A second surgery to add the crown (visible part of tooth) in 6-8 months (assuming proper bone fusing and healing)
- More pain
- Potential for complications, thus costing more than expected (again, unlikely to be covered by my “Standard” dental plan) and potentially delaying my departure time
In the end, I picked up the phone and called my parents. We all use the same dentist. As it turns out, my dad had already had the implant put in a few months ago, and was going to go back for the second part of the procedure in April. He talked me through the experience thus far. One to one and a half hours at the dentist, little pain, but the unsettling experience of hearing and seeing the drill. He wasn't fond of the idea either, however he suggested I may still have a good 50 years left on this planet, and it's probably a good thing to do for my future health. The imagery of his parents constantly spitting out their dentures that motivated him sure did the same thing for me, and I just heard about it!
The kicker is that as I looked back over my insurance options (selected in Oct 2006), the “Enhanced” dental plan would have potentially paid 40% of the implant, or $1,200. The difference in premiums would have been minimal. I just thought I could keep putting it off though, and chose the cheaper plan. Very unlike me, and not a mistake I'll make again.
I could really use some moral support on this one. Please let me know if you think I'm making the right decision.
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