Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Saga Begins

As wonderful as our dentist is, he's still a dentist, and charming though he may be, he's still the one poking at your mouth with a tiny ice pick and admonishing you to clean your teeth better. So it follows that we ignore, for the most part, his little cards that remind us that we should be getting checkups. Prior to my arrival in the Netherlands, my last visit to an oral hygienist (not even a "real" dentist) happened a good decade earlier, when I was 18. I don't even remember how old I was when we stopped seeing our family dentist in the US. I believe we stopped because our dental insurance ran out, or something like that. Suffice it to say that one of the first things we did when I finally got my health insurance (with dental coverage) here was to visit Karel's dentist. Romantic, right?

I have been unusually fortunate, in the sense that, until last month, I have not had any problems with my teeth at all--not with my wisdom teeth, nor have I had any cavities since childhood. Last month, one of my wisdom teeth, which hadn't yet broken the surface after two years of sitting just under the gum, decided to go for broke and try again, much to my dismay--and pain. The pain is only intermittent, but when it's there, it gives me referred headaches. And after two days of headaches and teething agony, I decided the damn thing needed to go.

And here's where the whole thing gets weird: I made an appointment with our dentist to rip the little f*cker out. Our dentist poked, he prodded, but because it wasn't out, he didn't have the ability to take it out. So he gave me a referral letter (no phone number, strangely--I had to look that one up myself) for the oral surgeon at the university hospital.

I made an apointment with the oral surgeon. ("Hello, my name is Jules, and I'd like to make an appointment." "All right, can I have your insurance information?" "[insurance information]" "So wait a minute--what's your first name again?") I was told that this was merely going to be for an x-ray, that they wouldn't be traumatizing me any further. Which was fine by me--like I said, the pain is only intermittent, and I wasn't in any rush to get another tooth extracted. I'd had the same procedure done as a child, and was in screaming agony for every minute of it.

The oral surgeon appointment went well enough. They poked, they prodded, and then they asked me to stand in this machine which whirred and went 'round and 'round, by which they obtained a panoramic view of my jaw. My little problematic wisdom tooth turned out to be stuck under a ridge of bone, and they also advocated that I take out my top wisdom teeth as well--"a simple procedure", they promised me, as they were not only all the way out, but nice and straight, as well. But because they are so difficult to keep clean, mine were in danger of developing cavities and other issues.

I made a third appointment for the surgery, so soon I will be blogging about lidocaine injections and squicky crunching noises.

You might be wondering what makes this whole thing so weird: not once was I asked to make a payment. Our dentist threw in a cleaning, but never presented me with a bill. The oral surgeon never asked me whether my insurance covered this procedure. Instead, I expect that I'll get an extra bill from my health insurance company next month for my deductible (which is what happened after I paid a visit to our huisarts). It almost felt wrong to not have to whip out my PIN and pay for something. I'm as much a fan of some kind of health care system for everybody, but it still feels weird.

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