What It’s Like To See A Dentist With No Insurance

And, gulp, after 3 years

New Yorker cartoon by Sidney Harris available at All Posters

You all were very encouraging when I mentioned in a D1T some weeks ago that I had been neglecting my teeth for years since, like millions of Americans, I have no dental insurance. And you had good ideas for how to get a check up and cleaning without breaking the bank.

Local friend and Billfold pal Rachel Sugar got in touch with me to recommend someone in the area who was both affordable and good. I finally made the appointment, and I finally dragged myself to the office yesterday, and guys, I was so scared. Like “what if Trump gets his hands on the launch codes” scared.

Because what if the hygienist peeked in my mouth and then recoiled in horror? What if she dashed to a back room shouting, “Johnson! McNamara! Come quick, you have to see this”? What if she summoned the dentist and told him, “Hey, Dr. Rosencrantz, guess what: you can tell your wife that the two of you can totally afford that Bahamas vacation after all, thanks to this lady here in the chair and all the work she needs done on her teeth”?

Something like that actually happened to me when I saw a dentist for the first time in New York City, once I had finally gotten dental insurance through a job. The dentist told me I had several cavities. SEVERAL. And the hygienist made a face at me and said, “What kind of toothbrush do you use?” I was tempted to drown my embarrassment in the East River.

Luckily, this time, there was no drama. Everyone was super nice. No one shamed me for not having insurance or for avoiding fluoride-scented spaces for so long. No one shamed me at all! In fact, they did exactly what they advertised they would — check up, cleaning—and they treated me like a human being the whole time rather than a frackable plot of land from which they intended to extract all valuable resources before leaving it gaping and ruined.

Best of all, the dentist told me I had no cavities or problems that required follow ups. He gave me a goody bag and smiled me into the lobby, where I paid the lady at the desk and made another appointment for six months from now. Actual cost: $170. Abstract cost of putting the fear behind me and having healthier teeth: priceless.

Of course, in six months, they intimated, they’ll want to take some x-rays. I don’t even want to consider what x-rays would cost sans insurance, but hey, that’s the future! Who has the headspace to worry about that? Maybe by September I’ll have insurance again, or else I’ll have struck it rich by investing in fracking.

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