I lost the incisors abutting either side of my two front teeth in a 1978 car accident—like a tornado destroys selected buildings while leaving others unscathed. After a dentist glued a porcelain 6-unit bridge onto my upper front row of teeth, he warned that sections of it might shatter somewhere in the neighborhood of a decade hence. He was right. I woke from the coma and discovered that something had chipped the unit he’d sculpted to appear as my left incisor, exposing a rough blackish-gray foundation.
The wanton bungling of medical personnel subjected me to public aid dental care policies that made about as much sense as tits on a boxcar. In the state where I lived, public aid would shell out for the extraction of a rotten tooth, but not for the less expensive preventive filling. They didn’t cover painkillers, even those administered during critical oral surgery. If you hosted an unexpected infection, you were shit out of luck until they approved an antibiotic, a process that usually took weeks. And they wouldn’t approve cosmetic procedures—like repairing my chipped crown—for patients over the age of 30; I’d braved my 30th birthday a few years prior. Apparently public aid policy-makers had reasoned that anybody who dares linger on the planet after three decades is washed up and has no reason to give a toss about their appearance.
By the way, I completely understand the concepts of triage and appropriate money management. But given the manner in which every branch of the medical establishment treated me, I’d be remiss to shirk conclusions because they’re unpopular and/or hard to swallow.
After poking around in my yawning trap, a state-sanctioned dentist explained public aid policy regarding cosmetic dental procedures. The good news: only a portion of the bridge needed repair. The bad news: public aid likely wouldn’t foot the (decidedly inflated) bill. But, he said, he’d tackle the paperwork and submit it; he shrugged: “No harm in trying.”
The final paragraph of the rejection letter I received informed me that if I didn’t agree with the decision, I had the right to appeal. The dentist who sent the request had cautioned that infection might set in if I left the damaged section unrepaired. I phoned some agency—probably the Department of Human Services—and scheduled an appeal. I expected a committee of several stern people, sitting erect behind a huge bench that dwarfed me as I stated my case, my tiny voice ricocheting off the walls of the cavernous chamber. Instead I met with a lone condescending dumbass in his modest office.