Lesson learned. That’s what many say, myself included. But the thing is, some lessons aren’t delivered in a single serving, culminating in a grand epiphany. Sometimes they come slowly and are rather costly.

When I was thirteen I went to the dentist only to receive an announcement: I was in need of braces. Before they could get to that–however–some adjustments to my teeth were in order, primarily to my back molars. I had an appliance put in to realign them so that braces could be done. The thing is my family moved to England immediately after this and my mom–in her infinite wisdom–decided that it was unnecessary to continue my dental regimen until we returned to the U.S. Enter irony.

When we did come home my father had been discharged from the military and we hit hard times. Health insurance was a bare minimum and dental wasn’t even considered. The appliance wouldn’t be coming out soon and you could forget an orthodontist. The thing is, that was nearly ten years ago and I doubt the appliance was meant to remain in my mouth for so long. That became apparently obvious when it started to fall apart. I put up with it, even when food started getting stuck between the bands and my tongue would get stabbed by the wire. We did eventually get dental insurance, but my mother wouldn’t take me to an orthodontist because she feared the expense. We bickered and as time passed, the appliance degraded even further. Then my teeth began to hurt.

I work retail and have to remain on my feet for long periods of time. When my molars started causing me excruciating pain it was a torture to endure even with pain medication. Eventually, I bit the bullet and made myself an orthodontic appointment to have the blasted thing removed and simply payed for it myself. I did, and when the appliance was removed, half of a molar fell out–in pieces. Turns out that the appliance had been damaging one of the molars. A cavity had formed inside it and as time went on it ate at the tooth. I still had half of the thing in there and they strongly advised me to have it removed. ASAP.

So I go to the local dentist, figuring that I could simply have it pulled. Not so the dentist told me. Apparently, the bone in your jaw exists for one purpose–to support your teeth. Without the presence of said chompers the bone will degrade and be reabsorbed and that causes its own host of problems. What they ended up doing–and are still in the process of doing–is remove the tooth, insert a bone graft, and place a false tooth. Your probably thinking that this isn’t cheap and that’s correct my dear reader. The procedure(s) cost around $5,000, most of which I’m paying for as my insurance covered only about a third. But here’s the real kicker. Getting the appliance removed was $60.

Suffice to say that this is a lesson that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. And next time I try to put something important off, I’ll point to this. Because lessons aren’t always just memorable.

Sometimes they can be costly.

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Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic right to it.

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