SERIES: Healthcare in America #31B, Marisol Q. Santos, This Is the Bronx

By Marisol Q. Santos, February 25, 2019

A trip to the dentist reveals more than a toothache (Part 2)

I was very young when I came to New York and almost penniless. I worked at a minimum wage job and I noticed that, when I brushed my teeth, the roof of my mouth would bleed. Something was wrong. I delayed and delayed until the bleeding became so severe I could no longer put it off. I pulled myself together, gathered all my courage and went to a dentist, explaining that I could not pay for all the bill at once. I would need to spread out my payments. The dentist accepted me as a patient. 

He examined me and found that the bleeding was not caused by ordinary periodontal disease although (at the time) millions of Americans had conditions that, if left untreated, could lead to bone and tooth loss. No, the dentist discovered a tumor. He explained that I really should be in a hospital to have the tumor removed. 

I begged him to remove the tumor right in his office because (without insurance then) I could not afford a hospital stay and the bills that would accrue for all that the treatment involved (anesthesia, medications, possible complications) frightened me more than I can even say. 

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