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Root Canal Redux

I got to roadtrip Sunday down to my folks’ home in Iowa. The weather was mild for the first day of the second month, the sun shining and it was good to have the time to myself to drive, mull things over and tell myself stories. (And sing very loudly – and perhaps badly – to whatever I had playing in my CD player at the time.)

The purpose behind my visit home was to go to a bridal fair with my mom and to tack down some final details on the wedding. Yes, its three months away, but every day that passes reminds me I have a ton of invitations to address and there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done. (Then again, I’m also beginning to realize that if something doesn’t get done – it’s not going to be the end of the world. I am the anti-bride.)

But the delight in going to my folks’ house was to hang out with my parents and to see two of my four nephews. (The other two were away for the weekend.)

While I was home, I quizzed my dad on his recent root canal. He got one earlier in January and it was right around the time I had gotten the bill for my uninsured folly. I was charged about $1,100 for my root canal and some other stuff that was uninsured by my company – the root canal itself cost about $850.

“So dad,” I asked. “How much did your root canal cost?”

“Well, it was going to be $360, but she charged me $320 because I had to have two of them. So $640 for both.”

I am no expert on dentists, but if memory serves, my father goes to the same dentist who I visited when I was a kid and needed a retainer. And since my teeth are in relatively good shape, I can attest that the dentist in my hometown is decent.

So why the hell am I paying $850 for a root canal?

I discussed the conundrum with my Future Husband when I got home. Would it be worth saving about $500 to go to my hometown to get any major dentistry done? At first glance – absolutely. It would be worth $500 to drive 1 ½ hours and take a morning or afternoon off work to go to my parents’ hometown and get major dental surgery.

It takes a ½ tank of gas to get back and forth between my folks’ house and Rochester. That’s about $8. For the work that I would miss – that’s about $70. And I would also get to see my family and I don’t mind driving. So I don’t think the $80 I would blow on my trip for cheaper dental is money spent in vain.

The cons? Well, I do love my dentist in town here, even if my dental bills are probably putting her children through school. Having rapport with a local dental professional is probably good in the long run. I also am a big girl and probably shouldn’t run home to mommy and daddy (well – to mommy and daddy’s dentist) every time I have some minor oral surgery that needs to be performed on my gaping maw.

But I would be lying if I didn’t say that this whole idea is very tempting. Anyone else have any thoughts on if this is crazy talk or if I’m actually on to something?

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3 thoughts on “Root Canal Redux

  1. This is why we still go to the dentist 2 hours away. For one I have been told I need a root canal (total scam) that cost $1k. Along with other scammy things. So he’s the only one I trust. (I got a third opinion from a friend too – all scam).

    & we get the “forever discount” since we have been with him since I was 5 or something. I have no doubt he charges more to other customers. We just pay a fraction for our cleanings, etc.

    We take the kids to a local dentist because he is a little cranky about working with kids AND anyway they will both probably need a lot of work. If I needed work I would search a little harder for someone I trusted, but the twice a year cleanings are certainly worth the drive. For the kids we found a good pediatric place. My fear is when he retires though!

  2. My take is that if you have things covered by insurance, and they dictate certain places you can go, you should probably go there, and usually local is more convenient. If you’re not covered by insurance, or if your insurance allows you to go anywhere (if it pay 80/20 or only covers a certain amount for a specific service) and your hometown place fits the bill, by all means do that. And if your insurance doesn’t cover something like a root canal…well then I think shopping around for the best deal is perfectly acceptable – given that you have two trusted options in dentists.

    The reason this probably happens, besides the small difference in regional economics, is that places that are on the “list” approved by insurance providers will just set their prices to whatever the insurance company covers. I’ve seen this many times with medical insurance in general – if an insurance company says we’ll pay $X for a root canal, that’s what the dentist will charge, knowing that they will get more volume of business because people with that insurance will go there. People without insurance? Well tough luck. Same with prescription drugs, etc. This is why our healthcare system is so broken…but I digress…

  3. You might want to check if your local dentist is actually a network provider in your dental plan. I went to one dentist for over 6 months, having several fillings put in, not realizing he was not part of the plan. Needless to say, I paid at least $20.00 too much for each visit just because he was not in the plan. I also did not like him or his staff. They were weird.

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