Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Speaking of Dental Problems

  1. Mar 15, 2010 #1
    A couple weeks ago one of my bicuspids literally split in two when I bit down on something. The front half separated from the back half. There was a really unpleasant crunching sensation.

    It was pretty clear the whole thing had to be pulled, but I dithered around for a few days trying to get used to the fact I was going to lose yet another tooth. When I did get to the dentist it was pretty clear to her the whole thing had to be pulled, and she got her needle and pliers out of her tool belt without delay.

    I've had some bad novocaine shots but she managed to give me the most horrendous, white knuckled, Nazi interrogator treatment I've ever had. When she was done I used the F word. Twice, because she ignored it the first time. Perhaps she hears it a lot.

    --------------

    I was down at the cafe where I hang out tonight and one of the characters who'd had a front tooth knocked out a couple months ago showed up with a nice new complete set of choppers. He's Mexican-American so I asked him if he'd had it done down in Tijuana, where, rumor has it, dental work is dirt cheap. He said yes. I asked how much it cost and he said he'd had a bad tooth pulled in addition to the one that was broken (they were right next to each other) and the bridge, consisting of his two front teeth, had cost $400.00.

    Two years ago I was quoted a price of over $3000.00 for a bridge to replace two molars here in the US.

    Another guy who was sitting there piped in and said he'd had work done in TJ as well, and in addition to the amazingly cheap cost, the dentists and assistants were very gentle and everything was done as painlessly as possible. he said he won't ever go back to an American dentist because they're all so rough. The first guy agreed about that.

    So, it strikes me as very odd that a person can get treated vastly better, at a vastly cheaper price, in a third world city than they can in San Diego. I've been to about 7 different dentists in the 20 years I've lived here and they all pretty much sucked in terms of being gratuitously rough with the inside of my mouth: everything from unnecessarily painful novocaine shots to jamming the suction thingy into my tonsils and stretching my lips back till they felt like they were going to tear.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2010 #2
    Tis true, dentistry here in Canada is private so the priccing at each location is different. When you live in a big city it cost vastly more. The further away from the city, the cheaper it cost. For instance my grandmother had all her teeth pulled (she had damaged them in a fight or something) and got a full set of dentures for prettty cheap. Even cheapeer than your Mexican/American friend. She had gotten the whole thing done in New Brunswick at a small town though...

    One thing I can suggest you check out though is schools of Dentistry. They normally take patients for their students to 'practice' on and it's MUCH cheaper than going to a private practice. Problem with this is the waiting period to get to have a student, and sometimes the procedure takes a longer period of time over multiple visits. The results are great though, they are all under supervision of course and as well they are all great at what they do.
     
  4. Mar 15, 2010 #3

    Borek

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    No experience with other side of the pond, but from what I hear in Europe going from old UE countries (like GB or France or Germany) to Poland or Czech Republic for dental work is nothing unusual. Much cheaper here and our dentists use exactly the same technology - and they are well trained.

    Sure, you can meet a butcher pretending to be a dentist here as well, so asking for directions won't hurt.
     
  5. Mar 18, 2010 #4

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Oy, I went to the dentist yesterday to deal with my chipped teeth ( I always find the bones in sliced deli meat, the pits in pitted olives, plus I grind my teeth in my sleep.

    The dentist said my teeth and gums were healthy, so he recommended that I just get them capped. (My old dentist was just adding veneers to fill in the chips and they kept breaking off).

    Ok, to do caps on my upper front and sides, not my back teeth, after insurance...$10,092. :surprised He wants to cap them all so that they look the same. I'm looking at the same cost for my bottom teeth which need to be built up.

    The x-rays were cool, you stand in a machine and the part around your head revolves all the way around, resulting in a 3d complete x-ray of your entire mouth. Then they display it on a large computer screen in front of you when you go back to the chair. The dentist just taps on the screen to select teeth to show what needs to be done. Then they point a wand in your mouth and take color pictures of each tooth that are also displayed on the screen. It's very nice because you can see exactly what the dentist is teling you about each tooth.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2010
  6. Mar 18, 2010 #5

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think you'll find quite distinct regional differences in dentists. A lot of dentists in a local area will have been trained by the nearest dental school (they don't tend to roam far from the state where they train), so when you go from dentist to dentist and have similar bad experiences, I'd be willing to bet its originating in the training they received in dental school. I had similar bad experiences with dentists in Michigan, to the point where I will specifically ask dentists where they graduated from, because I want to avoid any UofM graduates. I don't think they are trained to listen to their patients very well there.

    In contrast, I've never had a single problem with dentists in NJ who graduated from UMDNJ. When I needed my wisdom teeth pulled while living in MI, I traveled back to NJ to have it done by an oral surgeon there (mine were all impacted below the gum line, so couldn't just be yanked out by a regular dentist).

    Though, Evo's experiences with new technology also explain the cost. A lot of dentists are splurging on expensive new technology for x-rays, for example. It seems that now, every office has one of those panoramic x-ray machines, which cost a LOT, and so of course they need to charge more to cover the cost of that new machine. There really isn't a need for such routine use of those, though. They mostly are useful for orthodontics to really look at the position of all the teeth in the mouth one the same film. They really aren't so necessary for simply finding cavities that you can do in the standard film sets of smaller groups of teeth.

    There's also no real need for a digital x-ray machine in a small dental office. It doesn't take that long to develop the films, and you don't need to send them across departments like you might in a hospital radiology department. The only benefit of digital x-rays is if you're transferring dentists, since it's easier to send digital images than having to make copies of films.
     
  7. Mar 18, 2010 #6

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I've had some horror-show experiences at dentists. When my wife and I moved to the county seat, I had to get a new dentist, and coincidentally, a young fellow had just opened shop and was accepting patients. Normal visit, cleaning, check-up... Then his hygienist quit and he hired the woman who taught Attila the Hun about pain. She was absolutely brutal, and on my next appointment, when she got through "cleaning" teeth, my gums were split and bleeding in 1/2 dozen places and abraded in many more. When the dentist came in to examine my teeth, he made no mention of the blood and damage. I got out of the chair and told him that he would never see me again.

    A few years later, I was having a little sensitivity in a molar, and had not yet found a regular dentist. I went to see an older doc who was pretty well-respected. He said that I had a cavity that needed to be filled. Once he got inside that tooth, he ground away more and more material before installing an amalgam filling. He left the filling too high and I had to go back to get it reshaped. A few days later, I was eating, and felt a "crack" only to spit out a nice big piece of tooth. The tooth didn't hurt, so I left that.

    A couple of years later, after studiously avoiding dentists, I started having a bit of pain in another lower molar, went to a new dentist in town, and he said that I needed a root canal. So I go through a round of antibiotics, and go back for the root canal. He was exceedingly ham-handed and the root canal was painful. I was so glad when that was over. He installed a temporary filling and made an appointment for me to come back and get a permanent filling. I went back, and Lo and Behold, as soon as he opened up that temporary filling, I was in excruciating pain. He hadn't gotten all the nerves, so I had to sit through yet another root canal on the same tooth, get a temporary filling and come back another time for a permanent filling. About a week after getting the new permanent filling, I bit into a Triscuit with cheese while playing cards with friends, and spit out a nice big piece of molar.

    Now I have two badly chipped molars, and I haven't been back to a dentist in about 15 years. I brush and floss religiously and haven't had any issues.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2010
  8. Mar 18, 2010 #7
    I agree with everything you said before about the dental training. It's weird though this machine that Evo talks about where you stand and it rotates around your face... my dental office has had it ever since I can remember. The x-ray is on film though so I guess it's the digital part that makes it expensive (I don't think they store digital copies of the x-rays at my office).
     
  9. Mar 18, 2010 #8

    Borek

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    For that price you can come to Poland, spend two weeks with us (Marzena offered her room as a place for you to sleep - this is not exactly a bedroom, but it has kind of a folded bed for visitors) and have your teeth remodelled any way you like. Plus you will get most of your money back to US.

    You will have to talk with us which can be a traumatic experience. I believe I can pronounce every English word in a way that is incomprehensible, Marzena can pronounce every English word with a surprising German accent. I don't know anyone else in Poland capable of doing that trick.

    The only problem is our dentist doesn't accept credit cards as her terminal is broken. Marzena chewes on credit since last Thursday :rofl:
     
  10. Mar 18, 2010 #9

    Borek

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    If they already had a film machine - you may be right. Otherwise digital machines are much better. Last November I had to go the dentist to remove piece of tool that some idiot left in my molar 15 years ago. That meant two x-rays, not having to wait for the film to be developed I have saved about half an hour. Plus digital machine takes less space, as there is no need to find a corner for developer (or whatever it is called).

    Can be my POV is skewed, as xray machines in offices here are relatively new idea so most of the offices never had a film machines.
     
  11. Mar 19, 2010 #10
    This makes a lot of sence, and would explain quite a bit.
     
  12. Mar 19, 2010 #11
    Woah half an hour for the film to develop? They must've been doing something else hahahah
     
  13. Mar 19, 2010 #12

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My old dentist had the digital "wand" that he would put in your mouth and get an instant x-ray of 1-3 teeth at a time and they would appear on the screen as sets of teeth. The machine that goes around your head produces a complete single picture of your entire mouth and bone structure. When considering doing restorative work, this is much better to see how everything fits together. The new dentist is also a prosthodontist.

    Borek, the offer is very tempting.
     
  14. Mar 19, 2010 #13

    Borek

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Two times fifteen minutes.
     
  15. Mar 19, 2010 #14

    Borek

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Just say when.
     
  16. Mar 19, 2010 #15
    Yup those x-rays of 3 teeth at a time are still done, however at my dentist they are done by inserting a this thing you chew down on (forget it's name) and it has a guard that goes over your tongue it's kinda rubbery. They put the xray machine lined up with the device and take the x-ray. This wand thing sounds pretty cool though not gonna lie :tongue:. The revolving x-ray machine is definitely the most usefull for doing restorative work and at my dental office at least they are part of the 'mandatory' set of x-rays that you get done. (They aren't digital though).

    It's weird though that your dental work is going to cost so much. Maybe you should get a second opinion and third opinion on what exactly needs to be done, it's no secret that many dentist do a lot of truly 'unnecessary' dental work just to get money (and most of the time the patient doesn't say anything or care because they don't pay, their insurance does). As well I know here in Canada that dental procedures that cost that much you can go on a billing cycle, say 200$ a month or whatever you choose. However a lot of dentist also accept a 'flat one time payment' if you offer it for WAY cheaper. For example, my friend had gotten his braces done and it's costing him close to 10k. After he finished the procedure etc. after talking to other people who have had braces though he found out that he could have just offered a set amount and the dentist probably would have just accepted it. (Idk if this will work for your particular procedure) Another thing you should mention is that your insurance will not cover enough of it... a lot of times they make it cheaper so that they still are getting their money from the insurance company but it doesn't effect you financially as much.

    @Borek, the film development process is almost instant... the take the x-ray and the film automatically goes into a solution. It is rinsed and bam you have a x-ray. The process for each one takes around 5 minutes.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2010
  17. Mar 19, 2010 #16

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It's all in the economics*. A few years ago, I was in Mexico for a construction project with my boss and he had a dental problem. He had one of the women who was cleaning the construction site do the work for him. She was a dentist and she was cleaning a construction site.

    On the same project, we met a skilled controls technician (trained by York in York, PA) with a rediculous work ethic and liked him so much we hired him. We paid him 5x as much as he made in Mexico, plus bought him a mediocre car and paid his travel expenses....and we worried we might be exploiting him by paying him so little.

    *Well, maybe 90% based on normal economics, 10% based on the risk of getting shot.
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook