Two years ago, I began a dicey gamble. I was on the verge of leaving my full-time job for the usually-greener grasses of freelancing, and I was at odds over what to do regarding my health care coverage. More specifically, I was debating whether or not to sign up for a dental plan with my husband’s employer. It’s a quandary I thoroughly researched before making my ultimate decision… and a decision that is currently biting me in the butt.

The Method Behind My Madness

At the time, my husband’s employer – whose insurance plan I was about to join – charged $17 a paycheck for dental insurance. My husband gets paid 26 times a year, meaning the total annual cost for his employer’s dental insurance would have been $442 (starting July 1st, that cost went up to $19/paycheck, or $494/year). I knew what my dentist charged for a routine cleaning, and I knew that even if I paid for the entirety of those bi-annual cleanings out of pocket, I’d still have paid more than $100 less than I would have in dental insurance premiums. I was 28 years old and had never had cavities – not a single one – in my entire life.

So I opted not to sign up for dental insurance.

How Things Went Wrong

No sooner had I declined my husband’s employer’s dental insurance than I discovered I was pregnant. Why was this such a big deal, you ask? Well, because when I get pregnant, my teeth tend to go crazy. Not my teeth, really, but plaque. I know that the hormones of pregnancy are often to blame for this problem, but for whatever reason, they went completely haywire during the nine months I carried my son. The plaque was even worse than it was when I was pregnant with my daughter.

I got my teeth cleaned at two and eight months pregnant, and was repeatedly reminded by the hygienist to floss more often. But have you ever been pregnant? Do you know hard it is to find the energy to stand in front of a mirror with a piece of string after a day of carrying a bowling ball in your abdomen, let alone the exhaustion that follows once said-bowling ball makes its grand appearance into the world and spends all night long screaming its bloody little head off?

Ok. You get my drift. I was tired: too tired to floss.

When I went to my first post-partum dental appointment, the dentist told me that my teeth were veering dangerously close to having multiple cavities. Cavities? I’d managed to avoid those – and the terrifying fillings that accompany them – for the first 29 years of my life, and I wasn’t about to succumb to what I thought was a childhood malady now. So I brushed the exhaustion aside and buckled down on the twice daily flossing… well, most days, anyway.

But a few weeks ago, I got some bad news: I had three cavities. The cost of cavity filling at my dentist’s office wouldn’t have been bad if I’d had dental insurance; it would have been a $25 co-pay. Instead, I was going to have to pay the cost of cavity filling out of pocket – a whopping $200 per tooth, or $600 in all. (The cost was higher because the cavities were – embarrassingly – in locations that made it imperative that I get the more-expensive resin-composite fillings instead of cheaper options.) Knowing that I was without dental insurance, my dentist offered to cut me a deal – all three fillings for $450. Still, on top of the two out-of-pocket cleanings I was paying for every year, I was looking at $750 in dental costs.

The Magic Bullet To My Dental Dilemma

Of course, I had no other choice but to pony up the cash to get my cavities filled; otherwise, I’d have risked a tooth extraction, root canal, or even an infection that could have harmed other parts of my body.

You’d think after all that, I’d be ready to sign up for dental insurance during my husband’s next open enrollment period, right?

Yeah, no.

First of all, I’m pretty confident that the odds are now in my favor. My dentist says the other teeth that were showing signs of cavities have actually improved, meaning – hopefully – that there won’t be any more cavities on my dental horizon. But I’m also betting on a new dental discovery to keep my mouth clean. A Yale University researcher has created a molecule that can make teeth cavity proof for hours after just a minute of exposure. The molecule – called Keep 32 (after the 32 adult human teeth) – may be available on the market in mouth washes and tooth pastes in the next year and a half… and you can guarantee, I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it.

Reader, have you ever taken any gambles on your health?

(And we are NOT going to get into an Obamacare debate here… so don’t even try!)

Libby Balke

Libby Balke