Your Mouth Is Not Part of Your Body



ONE would think, to judge by the way health care insurance is provided, that the mouth is some separate entity, rather than the part of your body you probably use the most. Dental insurance, then, becomes like the rider to your homeowner’s insurance that covers your grandmother’s jewelry or your collection of stamps–it  requires some sort of different coverage. I don’t know how the hell you’re supposed to eat, drink, kiss, or bite the fingers off of your predators without a mouth, but health insurance separates this one very important part of your body from everything else. It’s a historical anomaly, and one that should have been corrected when we let surgeons become doctors. If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a fair amount of pathology that can occur within the oral cavity, and much of it is related to illnesses elsewhere in the body.

Why doesn’t basic health care insurance cover problems to the teeth and gums? My primary care doctor’s exam of my mouth is brief and cursory. Would he be able to tell if I were unable to chew my food properly? Would he know where to look for the most common oral tumors?

I went to public health school at Boston University. They have a dental school. Were teeth or oral health even mentioned once during my time there?  (That was a rhetorical question. No, of course, they were not. You would think that with the fluoridation of water being cited as one of the ten greatest public health measures of the 20th century that a light bulb might have gone off over someone’s head, but you would be wrong.)

Why am I thinking about all of this? Well, for one reason, I am now in the situation of shopping for dental insurance. Want to know what I’ve learned? Dental insurance sucks raw eggs. It eats donkey dung. It takes your premiums and then sneers at your pain. Worse than that, it doesn’t do enough for children who are going to need lots of care in order to get the smile that is required for getting a good job in this society.

Dentistry, as sufferers from dental problems know, does not come cheaply. According to, a 2009 survey found the average root canal fee is $740 for a front tooth and $1,000 for a molar. Considering that the average dental insurance only pays around 60-70% for these procedures, the bill will come with an out-of-pocket expense of  around $300. Benefits with most plans generally max out at around $1000-$1300 per year, and you can see that it’s going to take some serious jack if you’ve got more than an occasional problem.

Those of us who were lucky enough to grow up in financial security, along with parents who appreciated the fact that one is neither employable nor datable with a rotten mouth, can most likely survive with this insurance. It sensibly pays for two cleanings a year, helping the insurance company avoid having to pay out for more sever problems. But if you’re the person who grew up in where water wasn’t fluoridated, where you parents had rotten teeth, etc, you’re probably not in position to pay for all the work that needs to be done.

Chew on that for a while, if you can.



2 responses to “Your Mouth Is Not Part of Your Body

  1. so — what can we do to correct this? You brought it up. You are certainly right about the expense so whatever you do, floss daily.

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