Over the past several weeks, I’ve started wearing braces.  This has happened in three increments.  Three weeks back, I had some spacers put in.  Some brackets went in last week.  And then yesterday, I got more brackets and some bands.

This whole adventure is due to breakage of my upper and lower jawbones during my bike accident.  As a result of this, my jaw hurts when I open my mouth semi-wide.  My upper and lower teeth are misaligned.  And it’s possible that nerve compression near my mandible joints are to blame for the chronic tinnitus I’ve had since after the accident.  The point is, I require the orthodontic work for reasons beyond the simply cosmetic ones.

I will need to wear the braces for about two years.  About a year from now I will need to have my upper jaw rebroken (during surgery) with the upper and lower teeth being realigned as a result.  Lots of fun.

It hurts too.  Enough to put me off food.  Those that know me will find this shocking – there’s very little capable of putting me off food.  But making eating hurt is enough.  I’ll not dwell much on the impact to my vanity that this has had.  I looked in the mirror the other day and could have sworn I saw an adolescent with touches of gray and lines on his face.  Humbling.

My eldest daughter has been great to me during this adventure.  She’s worn braces, and has shared a number of coping tips with me (advil, yogurt, and watch out when you get them tightened).  It’s actually kind of a fun and interesting experience for me to have KK comforting her aching dad.

Now let’s talk a bit about medical coverage for this condition.  I’d had nicely aligned teeth prior to the accident – this whole thing is due to the (uninsured) guy running me over last July.  And although my medical coverage is excellent, my dental and orthodontic coverage is not nearly as excellent.  Less than a fifth of the cost is covered.  That means by default we would be thousands of dollars out of pocket for this work, even though there are bona-fide medical complaints associated with this, and that it’s due to this accident. 

I first consulted an orthodontist last October.  The usual story was that we’d need to pay for the work up front, and argue with the insurance company on our own.  The orthodontist that I’ve chosen agreed to try to work this out with the insurance company.  After six months, and much documentation, they agreed to cover it as a medical expense.  So in June, I received a notice from them that they would cover any work done prior to a year from the date of the accident as medical.  The good news is that this would give me about 100% coverage as long as I got two years worth of work done in just three weeks.

I called them up to request an extension.  The guy on the phone essentially told me to go ahead with the work, but to understand that they might say no.  At that point, voice raised, I told him about the truck wheel running over my head last July.  I cited the dates of my initial consultation, when they began considering my case, and pointed out that they’d taken a full six months to approve it.  Within five minutes I had assurances that they would extend the deadline for the work.  About a week later I received a notice telling me that I had an additional three months to complete the two years of work.  And so it goes.

The point is that the insurance gets complicated and contentious quickly.  And as I mentioned, on the whole, my medical coverage is quite good (and reliable).  Adds perspective to some of the opposition to the health coverage reform movement.  It would be nice, particularly for those who are not as fortunate to have any coverage.


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