Yesterday, a horrible thing happened. Apparently a sneaky cavity had been eating away behind the surface of one of my molars for some time, and the surface enamel gave way at last to reveal the ugly truth.
A thoroughly unpleasant sensation, to say the least, and the less said, the better.
This morning, I called the local dentist in my small town. They had an opening in the early afternoon. I have no dental insurance, so I inquired as to costs and brought my emergency cash reserve envelope along to make sure I could cover a worst-case scenario.
There was the requisite 10 minutes of paperwork before the dental hygienist could bring me back for X-rays. I have been lax in dental visit regularity because I am in fairly good health orally at least. But it has been cough years since a proper exam, and I had never been to this particular dentist before.
X-rays have come a long way since the tech used when I last visited a dentist. Everything was digital, and the gag reflex triggers were not triggered like with the old film systems. They were even able to take gruesome high-definition digital photos of the cavity.
After taking a quick look at the bad tooth and a cursory examination of everything else, the dentist said my teeth were mostly OK, with normal wear and tear and some slight adjustments suggested to my brushing technique. Then came the topical numbing agent and the proper anesthetic injection.
I hate needles.
But I survived.
After a few minutes waiting for everything to get properly numb, the dentist and his assistant went to work. They were both clearly well practiced at cooperating with minimal communication. Very professional. Drilling was uncomfortable, but I get the impression the tools and skill were both of a high caliber. The filling itself is some sort of peculiar UV-hardening resin that was applied in stages, smoothed, and then polished. All told, it took barely over an hour from start to finish even with the paperwork hassles.
Then came the real pain: payment. However, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, and they offered a modest cash discount to boot. I still walked out about $260 poorer, but no wait, and minimal bureaucracy.
Now, that hit to the wallet was unpleasant, but it is less than I would have paid for insurance. I didn't need to bother with inquiring as to who was "in network." Instead of some government monopoly provider or the hassle of managing government monopoly payment processing, everyone got exactly what they wanted in short order. The office, technology, and education apparent there made it look like a bargain.
Notably, I selected this dentist because I had heard good things from locals, not because I bothered to look up his state licensing status. I don't give a toss about his state approval, and only moderately about his status with the dentistry association.
Of course, in the present world, he had to worry about added costs like licensing, insurance, various taxes, and who knows what all else. And the consumer bears that cost either financially, as reduced supply, or in some other form. But despite the absence of a proper laissez-faire free market, what I found was close enough and the outcome satisfactory. I abhor the arrogance of central planners who would deny me the option "for my own good." What worked today was pretty good as-is, and their prior efforts only got in the way.