It was early May 2016. I, like many days when I have to run errands in downtown Watkinsville, pop into Zaxby's for a salad. I take it home. Grab a real fork and plant myself in front of my computer, working and having lunch simultaneously. And how I love their summer classic, Zensation. A little Asian flare, with a mini-egg roll. What's not to love.
I'm sitting, eating and reading. A normal afternoon, when all of a sudden, a bite turns into a loud crunch. Not a salad crunch, but one that originates at the base of my front, right tooth.
First, the backstory.
I have horrible - HORRIBLE - teeth. The teeth that I do have are horrible. I make no excuses for my bad behavior as a child when I fought my mama about brushing my teeth. It was only baking soda for our family, and I detested that taste. None of that flavored mouth wash in cool colors or the refreshing sparkling toothpaste I'd see on commercials. Only that pasty baking soda. I fought it. By the time I was in the sixth grade, my dentist and I were on a first name basis. I'd sit in the waiting room, blood pressure pumping ferociously, waiting for my name to be called. The only thing that calmed me was walking through the doctor's door, down the hall, past the waist-high treasure chest of goodies that you could only reach into if you were walking the other way when everything was over. What will I get this time?
Maybe it was my childhood that instilled the fear of dentists inside me. Maybe it was the dentist actually taking off his belt because I wouldn't stop crying because it hurt so badly. Maybe it was my small mouth coupled with an active imagination. No matter what, I avoided and still avoid the dentist like the plague. It is only when I am pushed by pain or circumstance that I darken the doors.
Now, circumstance is running the show.
A next-day visit to my dentist taught me that the root of the tooth had broken loose. Since the tooth itself didn't seem to be loose, it might hold for a time, but eventually, it would require an implant and replacement. A small favor, but within the next week, the tooth became loose and the inevitable came much too soon.
Having gone through three previous implants and crowns, I knew this process would not be without its pain and economic cost. In my area, just for the extraction and implant of one tooth, the price tag soars to nearly three grand. Add the anesthesia, temporary crown, and a plethora of other items, and finally the permanent crown, it's about five grand for one tooth. The cost of a used KIA.
I'm at the point in my life, where the repair of this one tooth will simply not be enough. I need major work, major replacement of teeth, and forgive me, I won't do dentures. The thought of gumming just sends shivers down my spine while images of teeth falling out at the worst moments. Let's not forget how they look, sitting beside the bed in a cup. Now, what is my course of action?
As a traveler and journalist, I've heard snippets of conversations of what we call medical tourism. I've read about it on the AARP site, of how people my age, baby boomers, are seeking answers to their inevitable medical issues that crop up due to aging. They are looking outside the US for medical treatment that is affordable without losing the expertise of a skilled American doctor.
Today, my research begins. If I have the mouth restoration that I need here in the States, it will cost me upwards of $60K. I don't have that kind of money. I don't want to go into that deep of a hole. I don't want to hogtie my future, and my husband's future, to my teeth. There is NO insurance to cover implants or restoration (a rule that is ludicrous to say the least). My hands are tied.
The three countries recommended for exceptional dental work: Hungary, Malaysia, Costa Rica.
I start with Costa Rica.
I have horrible teeth. Always have and always will if I don't make changes now.