Thursday, May 22, 2008

the bite of dentistry

I know that I have already complained about high dental prices in my funny valentine. But, if misery loves company, we are likely to see several other dental postings before I head off to Mexico permanently.

In the good old days of last February, my dentist honored me with two root canals. It must have been an honor of some sort because I left behind almost $1800 of my hard-earned cash when I walked out the door.

On Tuesday, I went back for a follow-up appointment to discover that the appointment was to prepare both teeth for caps. He did all the drilling and grinding without giving me any anaesthetic -- after all, the nerves were gone. And when I left, I was $2200 poorer -- even after my insurance was applied. The worst aspect of all this is that no one prepared me for the extra cost.

Only a week or so ago, I thought I was doing well by resisting the urge to buy a $400 camera. And then I drop enough money that I could have bought the same camera for every member of my family -- and we would still have had enough money left over to purchase dinner at El Gaucho.

Of course, I could have simply ignored the pain, avoided the root canals, and ended up looking like a poster boy for meth avoidance. Or I could have used the anecdote to promote some type of universal cosmetic dentistry program -- where my neighbors would be forced to pay for my Tom Cruise smile. Or I could have simply waited until I could get south of the border to have the same work done for a fraction of the price.

I really do not blame dentists. In one sense, they are miracle workers. When I was growing up in the 50s, dentures were common for middle-aged people. A full set of shiny white teeth was a rare sight. We have come a long way, and dentists are partially responsible for better dental hygiene.

After all, dentists simply want to drive the same type of cars and live the same lives that their patients do. Health insurance (private and governmental) has been responsible for a large part of the medical cost spiral. There is no free market for medicine where "insurance" is so pervasive. And, without a free market, there will never be any way that quality care will match up with market prices.

To a degree, that equilibrium exists in Mexico -- for now. I read not too long ago that Carlos Slim was buying up American health care companies with an eye toward introducing the system to Mexico. We can only pray that he does not succeed in ruining a system that works.


Babs said...

GOOD GRIEF! I had no idea dentistry was that expensive in the US now.......btw, how much is gas (for the car) now?

Steve Cotton said...

My dentist is on the upper range of prices -- a fact that comes back to haunt me when major work is required.

As for gasoline: in Oregon, regular is in the $3.90 per gallon range. This morning there was a newspaper article that stations in the Portland area were charging $4.09 for regular; $4.29 for premium. My English friends just laugh when I say this because they are paying close to the equivalent $10.00 per gallon (part of that is due to the low exchange rate on dollars).

Our food prices have also jumped during the last year. Billie is bringing back some examples from Houston. I am interested in seeing how they compare with the price increases in Mexico.

Todd said...

Hey, save it for when you come to Mexico.

My dentist in Morelia, is a real dental nerd, he loves the it and really knows his stuff.

He speaks Spanish, of course, English and Japanese. (He did his post grad work in Japan)

Then with what you save you can pay for your flight and the new camera!


Babs said...

Wow - our gas is $2.70 a gallon which is interesting as it comes from here, goes to the US in Texas for refining and comes back and is STILL cheaper then the US. I walk almost everywhere in in San Miguel so gas is not an issue for me, luckily. "American" food, such as cake mix, packaged US foods etc. are more expensive here because of the duty but the everyday fruits and vegetables, rice, milk, etc. is much much cheaper then USA! For example, I spend about $25 US on food for a week here and KNOW I couldn't do that there....
It will be interesting to see what Billie comes back with - I KNOW she's bringing back my Miracle Gro for the garden because that IS cheaper in the states. Weird!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Oh, Steve too bad you couldn't wait, for what you paid for a co-pay you could have traveled to Merida,stayed in a first class hotel and had your surgery done by an oral surgeon. I can't remember the all the prices but I know that are much lower than that. I had my fillings replaced with resin for $400 pesos each.

Steve Cotton said...

Todd and Theresa -- I wish I had waited. But what is drilled is drilled. By the time I get to Mexico, I wll have very little dentistry left to do.

Babs -- I doubt anyone will ever figure out what is happening with gasoline prices. I fully expected prices in Mexico to be hovering around $6 a gallon by now.

Tom and/or Debi said...

GUAU! and EGADS! You could have flown here to Merida, had the dental work done, and still have eaten at El Guacho.
Mi esposo's last root canal here was 500mxp.

Buena Suerte!


Steve Cotton said...

Debi -- Another reason I need to make this move soon. A friend up here said: "You must not have very good insurance" -- missing the point entirely about costs. We Americans have become very cozy with the notion that if costs can be shifted, we are not concerned.