Tuesday, October 31, 2006

April 2006--Dr. J Tells It Like It Is

On April 25, 2006, I went to see Dr. J, a well-known orthodontist in my city. I'd scoured his site beforehand, read up on his credentials, and was very impressed. He's in the RCD (Royal College of Dentists) and that's nothing to sneeze at. He is widely known for his treatment of TMJ disorders, among other things. I knew this was the kind of guy I needed.

So I went in for a (free) consultation, got some x-rays, pictures, the works. At the end, my face and x-rays came up on this computer screen so that I could see with my own eyes what was wrong with me. Dr. J met me in the consultation room and we went over it all. Right away, just by looking at my face, he told me I could really benefit from the surgery. Like the dental assistant said, I was an excellent candidate. Dr. J told me that he'd had the surgery himself, so I knew he must know a lot about it. And he does.

We went over my x-rays together. Dr. J was the first doctor ever to actually pinpoint the reasons for my pain. Literally pinpoint, on that computer screen that showed my joints and jaws. I saw how my TMJ joint was worn down into a cone shape. I saw how my jaw joints were too far away from my ear canals. I saw my overbite. I saw that little tiny nerve that my jaws are hitting against but shouldn't be. I literally saw and understood--for the very first time--why I was having pain there. It was a huge "ah ha" moment.

I was told if I didn't have my jaws fixed into a harmonious position, I would eventually have to deal with arthritis of the jaw, root canals, gum disease, among other unsavory effects. I knew something had to be done.

Then, after all my questions were answered except for one (prices!), Dr. J got out the pricing chart. That is a list of prices for orthodontic treatment as set by the Canadian Dental Association. It went from non-severe (around $3000) to very severe (around $10,000). It turned out I was more on the severe side ($7800). Just my luck.

The financial consultant came in to talk to me. She outlined the fee and told me exactly what it would cover. She told me what MSI (my provincial health plan) would cover (it turns out that only covers the surgery itself). I don't have dental insurance, so the price quoted to me was the price I would have to pay. I was told about the payment plan, which for me worked out to be $262.50 a month. For 24 months of treatment. This incuded braces, all appointments, and retainers. For someone in debt, whose husband's pay went to rent and bills and his debt, and my pay being only $400 a month, this payment was high. Not to mention we were in the midst of buying a house at the time!

That first visit with Dr. J was a huge eye-opener for me. I had a lot to think about.


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