Affordable Dentistry for Low-Income Patients with a Dental Emergency?

I need to find an affordable dentist for my dad. He is 63 and has a terrible toothache, but he’s also unemployed and on state insurance, which doesn’t provide dental coverage. Obviously, with the unemployment, he can’t really afford to have the tooth fixed, which is terrible. He keeps trying to live with it, thinking he’ll just fix it when he gets back on his feet again, but I’m really worried that it’s infected and that it’s getting worse. How do I find an affordable dentist who will help him?



Dear Jim,

I love when I see children taking care of their elderly parents. There are a lot of ways you can find an affordable dentist and it sounds like your dad needs to get in as soon as possible. Anytime there’s pain it is a dental emergency. If it’s an infection, it will get worse and spread, so it’s good that you’re looking into options.

The fastest way to get him treatment is to call around and see who offers payment plans. Some offices will provide in-house financing, but a lot of them are offering things like Care Credit, which is financing through a company that only helps people with medical bills.

They usually have a deal where, if you pay off the balance in six months or less, you don’t even have to pay interest on it. If you find an office that does either one of these things, any office can instantly become an affordable dentist and he can get treatment right away.

If he’s in a real bind, have him visit his primary care physician. Although a doctor won’t treat dental needs, he can assess it and determine if he thinks it’s infected. If it is, he’ll be able to prescribe antibiotics, which should be covered under his state medical care. This won’t fix the problem. He’ll still need to see a dentist, but it will buy him a little bit of time to work out which affordable dentist he’s going to see and how he’ll cover the expenses.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Matt Roper.

Why Would a Dentist Refer Me to a Neuro?

I had a horrible toothache about a month ago and I went to the emergency dentist. He told me that my tooth was dying and that it needed a root canal. He did the treatment and I expected the pain to go away, but it never did. I went back to see him yesterday and he did an exam and x-rays and told me the tooth was fine. Worse yet, I think he suggested that the pain was in my head. He suggested that I go see a neurologist. This is nuts. My tooth hurts. Is there really anything a neurologist can do or was the emergency dentist just trying to get me out of his office?

Stephanie – Wyoming

Dear Stephanie,

Though it sounds like the emergency dentist may have been missing some chairside manner, he wasn’t pulling your leg, and he wasn’t necessarily telling you that the pain was in your head either, though it likely sounded that way.

A neurologist can investigate whether nerve damage is causing your pain. Though it doesn’t happen every day, it can happen and it sometimes feels just like a toothache.

There are also other causes for pain, such as sinus pressure or sinus infections. The roots of your teeth reach up quite far, so trouble of almost any kind with your sinus cavities can feel like a toothache, too. If this is the case, you’ll probably have other cold or allergy symptoms as well, and taking a decongestant and/or antibiotic will help. You’ll need to see your primary care physician for a diagnosis if you think this might be the case.

The emergency dentist should have been able to make a diagnosis based on his x-rays and an exam. If there was something wrong with the tooth, or if the root canal was not effective, he should have been able to tell. But, if he was in  hurry, he might have missed something or he might not have looked at the neighboring teeth. Sometimes teeth in the same arch or section of the mouth can refer pain to one another, so it will feel like one tooth is bothering you, but it’s really another that’s giving off distress signals.

The bottom line is that if you’re still in pain, you need to find someone to help you. You may want to book an appointment with another dentist in the area for a second opinion, but make sure you don’t give him any information about your prior diagnosis. This way, you can be sure you’re getting a straight answer, and you’ll know 100% that you should book the next appointment with your primary care physician or a neurologist. Best of luck to you.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Matt Roper.