Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

Cavity Search

I have a feeling I’m on the verge of a dental disaster. There’s a soreness in my lower right gums that arrived on the weekend and, while it has not affected me too much, continues to make its presence known with some occasional surges of pain. I’m not that surprised; the Russian dental student who sealed up my broken molar a few years ago at the NYU Dental School had warned me that the fix was only temporary but so long as there was no pain I wouldn’t need a root canal. Now there is pain, so I can only assume…

One of the “joys” of being a freelancer is that the world of dental care is not really open to you. You substitute regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and checkup with more vigorous flossing and a Sonicare toothbrush. If it ain’t broke (or you don’t have any pain, at least) then you don’t feel compelled to fix anything. It’s like ignoring your 50,000 mile tuneup on your car because you don’t hear anything rattling.

A coupon arrived in the mail a few months back for some local dental center where they were offering a cleaning and x-rays for about thirty bucks, which fit in my price range. I never pictured myself as one of those people who uses a coupon for any sort of medical services (there are 10% off breast augmentation coupons in the LA Weekly; who uses those?) but here I was, clipping out this coupon and marching into these dental offices that appeared to be legitimate. I got my teeth cleaned and x-rayed, and then the dentist did an exam, in which she announced the flaws in each tooth as her assistant scribbled notes. This went on for quite some time and I could tell there was some serious work needed there. (Don’t get me wrong: I brush my teeth regularly, but I do have a sweet tooth and my parents don’t have the best teeth either and they say genetics plays a role, so… it’s not entirely my fault. But mostly it is, I suppose). After she was finished, the dentist told me to go to the front desk, where the clerk would tell me the costs and make “arrangements.” I watched the young woman total up the list of charges on her calculator until she finally looked up and smiled: “It comes out to $11,500. But since you don’t have insurance, we can do it for $9,000. Do you want to make monthly payments or use your credit card?” I could barely contain my haughty laugh: “Let me think about it first and I’ll call you.” I was no sucker. Payment plans? Please. So I left and instead of thinking about it at all, it became one of my “funny stories” I told my friends: “You’ll never guess what the dentist wanted today for my dental work….” Ha ha ha.

I’m not laughing now. I had been hoping I would be admitted into the Writer’s Guild this year, because they have FULL DENTAL COVERAGE but alas, that did not happen. Instead, I’m looking through the yellow pages for local dental schools where I can at least get rid of the pain and get some of my cavities filled. Maybe UCLA or USC or Loyola Marymount. And contemplating a “dental tour” to India, where you can go on a trip and they take you to the best dental school there for far less money. But what do you do about follow-ups?

It’s days like these that I envy you corporate folks out there, with your regular salaries and your regular visits to the doctor and the dentist and all that other regular stuff. A big, unexpected medical bill for an artist can put them in the poorhouse, literally. The price we pay for “living on the edge,” I suppose. Another jolt of pain just went through my jaw. Ouch. I better make some calls. What a thrill.