Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy TOOTHday to Me? When Dental Work Goes Wrong

Today is my birthday, and I  just had a disappointing discussion with my dentist office, Bellevue Dental. What a way to celebrate!

On Aug. 17, 2013, I went in to see Dr. Gross about a crown she said I needed due to a cracked tooth. She asked if I was having any pain in the tooth and I said no, but she said it needed a crown to save it. I suspected my days working at Sears were numbered at the time due to layoffs, so I opted to have the crown put on while I had a part-time insurance plan since I have been on such a tight budget following the Nashville flood with all the resulting home repairs.

The tooth was X-rayed on Aug. 17 and filed way down. An impression was taken, then a second one when the first one did not turn out well, all of which was quite painful. I had to wear a temporary crown for a week or so while I waited for the permanent crown to come in.  Dr. Gross said it was one of the deepest crowns she had ever done, but in hindsight I wonder -- was it too deep???

When it came in, the crown didn't fit -- AT ALL. Dr. Gross filed and drilled and X-rayed, filed and drilled and X-rayed some more and continued filling, drilling and X-raying until they decided the crown simply did not fit. I think I counted 6 X-rays of that tooth in one sitting. Another impression had to be made. The process was VERY painful and began FOUR MONTHS of constant pain for me. Again I was sent home with a temporary crown and had to wait another couple of weeks for the new one. Did trying to force that first crown on which just didn't fit damage the nerve?

 It cost almost $1,000 to get the crown. I had no pain before the crown, but since then I have called or gone in almost every week for four months, complaining of the constant pain.

When the new crown came in, it was put on--again, very painful-- and I was sent home, but it was never X-rayed. It seemed to fit OK, but I couldn't chew. I was told the gum was bruised from all the work and some discomfort was to be expected, to start taking Ibuprofen and to call if I continued to have pain. A week or so later I did call, and I told the receptionist I wasn't in a hurry to come back in because the procedures had hurt so much, but I wanted her to tell Dr. Gross I was still having quite a bit of pain and to ask if I should come back in. Brandy said she would talk to Dr. Gross, but no one ever got back with me, so I assumed the pain was normal. However, I kept having pain and I called again to let them know it was still hurting. In fact, I called or came in almost every week for FOUR MONTHS complaining of the constant pain and inability to chew on that side.

I gave up most of my days off to keep going back to the dentist. They occasionally made me wait a week or so to see me or sometimes got me in sooner. Once I had to wait three hours in the waiting room. Then they would make me "tap, tap tap" to mark the places my teeth met and grind a little more off the crown which hurt each time but would temporarily get rid of the latest "hot spot" of pain. I told them repeatedly I couldn't chew on that side and was having constant pain. They said some discomfort was expected, but I told them repeatedly I haven't been able to eat pickle slices, meat, raw fruits and vegetables, or anything chewy since August. I have been through bottles and bottles of Ibuprofen since August just to get through the day. 

One time I was in tears as I left a message about "excruciating pain" after trying Orajel to see if it would relieve some of the pain. Dr. Gross said the Orajel probably got on the root and "set my mouth on fire." She said no more Orajel and suggested I buy a better (and more expensive) toothpaste for tooth sensitivity from her!
An abscess similar to mine

At one point I told the hygienist the gum felt tender and inflamed around the tooth. Two or three weeks later, after four months of weekly calls and/or visits, I told them I thought it was abscessing. Sure enough, it was an abscessed root I had been dealing with. 

On Dec. 8 they lanced and partially drained it which hurt like the dickens, and they said I would need to go to a specialist and have a root canal done. I was put on 500 mg of Cephalexin every 6 hours to try to control the infection, because abscessed tooth infections can be deadly. Ten days after starting the antibiotics, the tooth is still extremely painful and the area around it is still puffy with a swollen node under the jaw.

My tooth and inflamed gum 10 days after starting on antibiotics

I asked them if they would offer me some kind of financial adjustment since I have spent 4 months with terrible tooth pain and have paid $1,000 for a crown when I really needed a root canal. They said they would get back to me. 

Today they called and said that out of the $1,000 I was paying them for the crown, they were refunding me $50 so I would have something to put towards the root canal. Um, how far do you think that $50 will get me towards a root canal now that Obamacare has done away with my part-time insurance??? The sad truth is since I still owe Dr. Gross for the crown, I won't be able to afford a root canal and will have to look at the price of extractions. Instead of saving the tooth, Dr. Gross has effectively cost me the tooth. Happy TOOTHday to me!


Barbara Raskauskas said...

Holy cow! Kathryn, how about checking with a lawyer? This smacks of malpractice to me. Good luck!

Kathryn Darden said...

Thanks, Barbara. After paying Bellevue Dental some $1800 for the crown and a couple of fillings, I really can't afford a lawyer. In fact, the money for the crown is basically coming out of the money I was putting back for property taxes each month. Now I don't have enough to pay those either.