Toothache Lead to Blindness

Do you think that dental insurance isn't that important? That you are covered if you have health insurance? I would have agreed with you, until I read a story in my weekend newspaper about a man who went blind from a toothache.

I've got really good teeth. I'm 46 and I've never had a cavity in my life. Dental insurance is not on the top of my list, although we are nicely covered through my husband's employer. Even the dreaded root canal is 80% covered through our dental plan. 

Moses Han didn't have dental insurance. He worked 14 hour days in his convenience store, seven days a week. It was his only income to support his wife and three young daughters ages 6, 4 and 2.

Han went to a local dental clinic, and walked out knowing that the nerves in his back left molar were dying. He needed a root canal; the same procedure that my husband has had at least twice in the past 10 years, at minimal cost to us. Han didn't know that an abscessed tooth is full of infection and that these infections can spread quickly from the teeth to the neck, the jaw and even the torso. 

Three days later, with a red and swollen face, Han revisited the dentist. He was prescribed antibiotics. After 2 weeks, he was back in the dentist's office with more swelling. The dentist prescribed an additional course of antibiotics, and said if things didn't improve to go to the hospital. By the time Han got to the hospital, the infection was serious enough that he was admitted. An oral surgeon eventually had to remove the tooth. The infection returned again, probably fed by pockets of bacteria hiding in Han's body. Han noticed a black mark on his right eye about a month after his tooth was removed.

In the end, the infection that started in his tooth destroyed his eyesight. All this for the cost of a $1300 root canal and crown.

Most of us would think that modern medicine could have saved anyone with a toothache from a serious complication. Apparently, we would be wrong. Although Han had health insurance, it didn't save his sight. All I can say is: if you don't think that you need dental insurance, think again.

Monique L. Attinger

Posted by on June 22,2007 at 6:45 AM

I agree. Dental insurance may seem like a "luxury", but as this story shows, failing to treat a dental problem promptly can result in serious consequences.

Posted by insurance opinions on June 22,2007 at 3:51 AM

I know dental insurance is expensive, and that a lot of people have started to travel out of the country for dental care, as noted in the book "Patients Without Borders", but reading this can really make a person nervous about not having insurance now, including myself.

Posted by on May 2,2007 at 7:05 AM

If you can't afford insurance, consider a discount dental plan that will allow you to buy dental services at a reduced price. There is a minimal wating period. We've got more information on these kinds of plans here:

Whatever you do, don't neglect the care of a toothache! If you get an estimate that is more than you can pay, work with the dentist and ask if there are less expensive alternatives that will still work to fix your problem.

Posted by B on May 1,2007 at 10:22 PM

I'm concerned about this. I need dental care and am very young and on my own and can't afford even a plan. My wage doesn't cover it and my job wont book me on constant full time hours so they don't need to give me benefits. What can I do? I need no pain in my mouth and my sight!

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