I took S & C to the dentist today. It had been niggling at me for some time. When we moved here, it was on my 'to do' list. It just took me many months to get it done.
We do not have dental insurance. I well understand why the state of one's teeth plays into social class divisions in our country. It is darn expensive to go to the dentist & unless you have actual pain in your teeth, you may very well put off a trip to the dentist in favor of, say, covering your rent or buying groceries. I knew we would pay for the boys' visit out of pocket so I asked for the rates right up front when scheduling their appointment by phone. Combined, it would cost just over $300 for their cleaning & fluoride treatment.
When the receptionist heard that C & S have a younger brother who is two years old, she asked if we wanted to schedule him for an appointment as well. I declined but immediately fired off an email to my sister who is a pediatrician to ask about the new guidelines about when to bring a young-un to the dentist. Since having children, I had heard conflicting reports on this. I had been going with the age three guideline for the older boys & it only took me until they were actually four-years-old to get them to their first visit. The new standards say that a child should visit the dentist at one year of age so I'm already behind on F's teeth care, too. At least I've been consistent.
While S was sitting in the chair, the dental hygienist brought up the fact he needed x-rays. This was not something I had discussed with the receptionist when making the appointment so I started hedging by asking about immediate necessity & cost. I certainly do not want to be overly negligent when it comes to my children's care (not any more so than letting them watch too much TV or letting them play on the computer beyond our in-theory-half-hour limit), but standing there-- I balked. The hygienist sent me to the receptionist to learn the actual cost of the x-rays. I guess if you spend all day dealing with peering into kids' mouths, you should at least be spared the messy job of relating the costs of such peering to their parents. I learned that with x-rays for both boys, this visit would now cost $498. I did some calculating in my head, thought of the washing machine repairman who was currently checking out our leaking machine & wondered if we might pay for dental insurance soon that would cover (some of) the cost of these x-rays in another six months when we return for their next cleaning.
"Would it be possible to have these x-rays done at the boys' next visit?" I asked the hygienist.
"Well, anything is actually possible. BUT...." She explained about the potential cavities that she nor the dentist may be able to see that could very well be growing larger by the moment, sneaking their way to the boys' nerves.
I stalled. Then I said it outright, "We're going to wait for x-rays until their next visit."
She nodded, not in an unfriendly way, but proceeded to pull out a new piece of paper to add to S's chart. She wrote some things on the form & then handed it over to me to sign. There it was in black & white: a waiver acknowledging that I was going against the recommended medical advice for my sons & accepting responsibility for such a decision.
Yup, I signed it. Now forever, in my sons' permanent dental records is what I will lovingly *cough* refer to as The Bad Mother Form. It's official.