26 May, 2011

Do you like my smile?

Big day today. 7th wedding anniversary. And My First Proper American Dentist Experience. It's taken me a while to get this sorted out. Last year we had insurance of the HMO variety - which basically means that you have insurance but can't choose your dentist except from a particular group. Turns out this means you can't find a dentist within 50 miles for love nor money because dentists don't like taking HMO insurance. Lesson to learn if you're moving here. Choose PPO. It'll cost more but you will be able to find someone to treat you.

Luckily last year we switched to PPO and thus I could choose my dentist and so I chose my friend Phyllis. She's a parent at my daughters' school, very nice, friendly, funny, easy-going. Which is good, as it's been a eon since my teeth were last investigated properly and that was in the UK - land of bad teeth. So I wanted someone friendly who would feel obliged to cover her horror and not say as a dentist did to a friend of a friend "You've got barnacles growing on your teeth!"

First up, X-rays. Lots and lots and lots of digital x-rays. Then huge questionnaires. The usual stuff - who are you? where are you? the confusing insurance ones and then the funny ones: do you like your smile? What? I was also shown a "smile book" today. I declined. Wish I hadn't, just so I could find out what it is. I sort of envisage something like those hair style magazines - but with teeth. Seriously? Do you get to point at a smile and say can I have a Rachel?

Wasn't all bad. I have cavities. The depth and capaciousness of said cavities was established with a nifty painless light that made Clanger like noises (for US audience The Clangers was a cult UK kids TV series about knitted aliens that made whistling noises - it's genius). As each tooth was checked the noise whooped up and down - the more whoopy the worse the cavity. Sort of like finding a big cave and checking for a good echo. But given the lack of proper maintenance it could be worse. I have a treatment program and the insurance will help me half way there this year by paying 80% of costs up to a $1000 cap and then I'm on my own. That's the thing about insurance. It is not as simple as you have it and you're covered, or you don't and you're not. You have it, and you might be covered for some things, but you still have to pay part of the costs. And working it all out is tricky and time consuming and confusing. And at the end of the day, you've paid for insurance and you still have to pay out quite a lot of money.

But the costs are not dissimilar to UK private practice - I think. And we can fortunately afford it. And then I shall have shiny happy teeth though I shall not be returning to the UK with a Hollywood smile. Costs way too much. And apparently Tom Cruise's teeth are used as a case study in American dentistry schools (they weren't always as perfect as they look...).

Meanwhile, 7th Wedding Anniversary. Which rather surprisingly this year meant chocolates. Yup. Dentists and chocolates. Oh well.


Eliane said...

P.S. If anyone does need a recommendation for a dentist in SF then Mission Terrace Dental. Thoroughly nice non-scary dentists with all sorts of hi-tech non-painful equipment. Which is what you want in a dentist!

Alison said...

Congrats on your anniversary!

I'm impressed at your grasp of American insurance coverage. I still don't get it, and I've been doing it for decades!

Sounds like your dentist has much more advanced technology than mine...but then, I haven't been back in 2 or 3 years; they keep insisting I need to buy $34 mouthwash and the like. But I'm with an HMO, so don't have much choice.

Alison said...

PS I'm going to go visit my brother in Cobham, Surrey next month. I'll get to see the flip side of your experience; they've been there not quite a year.