The Fluoride Backstory

Rather than just jump on the outrage wagon, I should have written about the why of the fluoride treatments in the first place. Sigh. So here goes.

Right after I got diagnosed and was told I was going to be doing 5 months of chemo, I went to the dentist. I’d been looking for a new one for a while, so I hadn’t been in a couple of years. (Yeah, I know. don’t say it.) The last time I’d been in was to see my former dentist in Houston while I was there working on a project. That was in 2013. I’ve got pretty good teeth, and I brush and floss at least twice a day, so they weren’t completely off the charts gross.

After my bitewing x-rays and cleaning, the new dentist showed me a couple of spots we need to watch. One is a food trap and the other is the crown I had put in umpty-ump* years ago. The crown has a gap up near my gum line. I’m thinking, “Uh oh. This can’t be good.” I know I don’t have enough time for the dentist to start the process for putting in a replacement crown before I start chemo. The dentist tells me that older crowns are like “pandora’s box” when opened. She never knows what she’ll find. So after talking with the oncologist about what I can and can’t, or should and shouldn’t do while on chemo, I’m feeling a little panicked about all of this.

I looked up my former dentist and left a message with her office about this gap in my crown to see what she thinks should be done and when. During some back and forth phone calls I learn that she’s also going through chemo for colon/liver cancer. When she got back in the office the following week, she gave me a call and we talked about our respective cancers, the chemos that I was going to get and what she thought about the crown and overall preventive measures to protect my teeth through chemo. She tells me that she has another patient going through chemo that will require new crowns and two root canals. Ugh, that sounds awful!

It is during this call that she tells me that I’d be wise to have the fluoride varnish painted on my teeth monthly while I’m going through my cancer treatment. This dentist took great care of me and my teeth for 14 years. I trust her. I start making appointments to have fluoride varnish applied to my teeth.

I am allowed 2 of these treatments per year on our dental plan. I started my chemo treatments in November, so both of the treatments I had in 2017 are covered. The January and February 2018 treatments are also covered because our insurance rolls over on the calendar year, not our fiscal year. In March, I tried contacting Delta about covering the remaining varnishes. They say they’ll look at it and then don’t get back to me. When I called last week, I was told that they wouldn’t even talk about it because my company bought a certain plan and there is no deviating from the plan.

So this is where I’m currently sitting. The treatments aren’t horribly expensive, but they should still be covered. Cancer treatments are no picnic. If there is something to be done to prevent additional pain and suffering later, it should be done. I feel that way whether it’s physical therapy, neuropsych assessments, starting yoga, baking soda rinses or dental fluoride varnishes. It’s time for a change in our healthcare systems.

We pay thousands upon thousands in healthcare premiums each year. Some policies are better than others. We know this. There are Cadillac plans and barely a bicycle plans. Dental coverage in the US is considered a “nice to  have.” Poor dental care leads to other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, kidney disease, and a host of other chronic health problems. It makes sense. Your mouth is the gateway to all of your other major organs. It makes sense that you’d have heart, lung and digestive issues when your teeth are rotting out of your mouth. We need to push for better dental care from our employers and our other health care professionals.

About Pink Ribbon Road

This blog is about receiving and living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
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