Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My First Root Canal (and hopefully my last)

          So I had this root canal work done last week which I had been putting off for more than two years. In the meantime my regular dentist has done multiple repairs on the tooth in question due to chipping, cavities, or decay. When I finally got dental insurance again from my job and with better benefits, I finally decided to follow my dentist’s advice and went to the endodontist she referred me to. My last major dental treatment was about 3 years ago when a couple of teeth were extracted and because of my severe anxiety, had to have the surgery done under general anesthesia (Propofol) in the care of a specialist.
          I went for the initial consultation where the dental assistant took some x-rays of the tooth, after which the endodontist came, looked at the x-rays, then pushed a Q-tip sprayed with an icing chemical against the top of the tooth, and asked me if I felt pain. Of course I did. I was sent back to the receptionist who asked me if I wanted the root canal done that same afternoon and they were quite insistent. Having had a couple of fillings already done at my dentist’s clinic earlier, and having had  nothing to eat all day, I declined and made an appointment for the following week. The receptionist checked my insurance and said I would have to pay $550 out of pocket since my dentist had already used a lot of my funds. The receptionist then said, they were giving me a discount and quoted $350, so I jokingly said “lower?”. She said $250 was as low as they can go and to tell my dentist to keep referring patients to them. I asked the endodontist if it was OK for me to take a mild anxiety pill before I came for the procedure the following week and she said it was OK.
          I showed up at the time of my appointment (12:45 p.m.) and waited in the reception area for about 15 minutes before being told that my treatment would be delayed because they were busy. So I went out and took a 20 minute walk. When I returned, they were still busy but the receptionist informed me that since I had more treatments done by my dentist, my co-pay is being increased from the original $250 to $400. Well, what else can I do but offer them my credit card? I was ushered to one of the treatment rooms and waited some more. The endodontist finally came which was already about 3 p.m. by then, asked me if I had lunch, administered numbing gel on the tooth and a few minutes later injected me with a local anesthesia. There was more waiting before the dental assistant came and isolated the tooth and placed a dam in my mouth to keep the saliva from the tooth to be treated. Then she placed a block of something on the opposite jaw to keep my mouth open. It was most uncomfortable and it didn’t help that there was more waiting.
          Apparently the endodontist was shuttling between 2 or 3 patients and when she finally returned to me, the drilling finally started. I had looked up the procedure beforehand on the internet so I sorta knew what to expect. Fortunately, I didn’t feel any pain during the drilling until the endodontist went deeper, but even that was tolerable. She informed me that there was calcification deep in the tooth and that a dissolving agent had to be put in to soften it before she can proceed. So while waiting for the dissolver to do its work and for the endodontist to return from her round robin routine, I had to distract myself to keep from being more anxious. I got out of the chair, looked out the window, took a couple of selfies, and went to use the bathroom, all the while with mouth wide open.

          When the endodontist returned, she drilled deeper until she was all the way to China. Oh, I mean until she estimated she removed all the calcification. Further x-rays were taken to verify if she actually did that. Finally she confirmed that everything seems to have been taken cared of and proceeded to fill the tooth, but she warned me that because she had to drill hard into the calcification, I may be in pain when the anesthesia wore off. I was finally freed from my mouth bondage and released. I was advised to return to my dentist to be measured for a crown. Did I suddenly become royalty?
          I went to my dentist’s office to tell them that my insurance benefits were exhausted and she said I may have to settle with a temporary crown in the meantime until next year. An appointment was set for the following week.
          I didn’t have to take any analgesics that day and the next day when I went to work, however I had to take a naproxen tablet the following day just so I could get some sleep after work.

Another Root Canal Done – On My Credit Card
          The insurance company sent me an email saying an Explanation of Benefits was available at their website. It turns out, my benefits were not exhausted at all but pretty close to it with about $210 left, despite paying my dentist for 3 fillings and for cleaning, and paying the endodontist for the initial consultation at 100% and for the root canal itself at 80% with the remaining 20% out of my own pocket. This amount was $175 and not the $400 that they billed me because they thought my benefits were exhausted.
          Since it was a weekend, the endodontist clinic was closed and the insurance company customer service wasn’t available either. Come Monday morning, I called the insurance company to verify that I actually only owed the endodontist $175 and inquired as to whether the endodontist was allowed to ask me to pay above and beyond the contracted price. The customer service agent excused herself to verify this with somebody and when she returned, she said no. I then called the billing person of the endodontist to explain my situation and to ask for a refund because of the overbilling and because the extra $225 was a big burden for me. She said she couldn’t give it to me at that time but she would check my insurance coverage again and get back to me. In the meantime, I contacted my credit card company via their website and filled out a form and an explanation disputing the extra $225 charge. For now, I would not have to pay that amount until the dispute is settled.
          You know what? I don’t know what was more painful: the root canal pain in the tooth or the overbilling pain in the butt! I hope everything turns out in my favor toothwise and moneywise.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Hoka One One Tryout

The HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 3 and Rapa Nui 2
          I haven’t bought any running shoes for about 4 to 5 years mainly because I haven’t worn out what I already have due to infrequent running in recent years. In those 4 to 5 years of no purchase, the barefoot running movement had come and gone and in some cases swung over to extra thick soles in some shoes. When some of my running friends started posting pictures of their thick soled Hoka One One shoes, I became curious about them. I knew when they first came out that they were very expensive and cost $150! The shoes have a negative foot drop, a rocker sole, and due to its thickness, a cushioned ride. Being an overpronator with already damaged posterior tibilialis tendons, they were the exact opposite of rigid, motion control shoes I’ve worn for decades.
          I checked the prices online and found some closeout deals as much as 40 percent off on older models. The Bondi 3 was down to $83.99, still steep but considering the price of running shoes nowadays, more reasonable. So I ordered one just to try it out and see what the hulabaloo was all about. Maybe it would resurrect my running, maybe not, and if not then I can always wear them for walking or at work. The shoes arrived in less than a week and a couple of days later, it was time for a test drive.
          I started with baby steps and as slowly as I could jog. Any slower, I might as well have walked briskly. But I really wanted to feel the shoes. At first the cushioning made me feel like I was sinking a little instead of being propelled forward. But then again it could have been that my legs have lost muscle memory from infrequent running. I was expecting it to feel like the 1979 version of the Brooks Vantage which was very cushioned and bouncy when new and was rated best shoe by a running magazine at the time. It turned out Brooks paid the magazine for that rating. But I digress. Another thing I noticed is that it felt as if I was running more upright instead of leaning forward and on subsequent runs, my knees felt more underneath me instead of my usual overstride. Could this be due to the negative foot drop as opposed to the usual wedge shape of running shoes? But, back to this first test run which lasted a whole hour. I kept track of the mileage on Runkeeper and when the run ended, I checked the distance and pace. Heavens to Betsy! It was much slower than I thought! 4.94 miles in 1:00:54 at a pace of 12 minutes and 24 seconds per mile. The upside was that my ankles didn’t hurt and it felt like a good workout despite the utter slowness.
          Two days later, I went for another run but this time, I programmed Runkeeper to alert me to run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute. Another one hour run but this time despite the walk breaks, my pace was 11:14 per mile. This must have been a miscalculation by Runkeeper. Maybe the GPS didn’t connect until mid-run. The third run which was only 30 minutes yielded an 11:02 pace using my trusty old Garmin 305. Still no ankle pain.
          I went back to the website I bought the Bondi 3 from and looked for more closeout deals. I noticed the Rapa Nui 2 for 73.99 with an original price of 130. Mind you, these were trail shoes and I don’t run on trails but nobody cares what surface I’d run on them. I hemmed and hawed to myself but ordered it anyway. During the run test, I noticed that even though it was still rated as a cushioned shoe, it felt more like a stable shoe because it was a little stiffer than the Bondi 3. It actually felt like it was propelling me forward a little better and the 11:03 and 11:24 pace on the 2 minute run/1 minute walk intervals seemed to reflect that on the two workouts I tried them on. Either that or I was beginning to regain my running legs.
          Those short run/walk intervals seem to be working for me as an alternative workout to my stationary biking. I’m not looking to increase my pace or lengthen my run. I’m just happy that the Hoka One One appears to have rejuvenated my running. I’ve only had 6 workouts between the two shoes and I hope I can keep on doing what they have allowed me to do so far and not just a placebo effect of having new shoes.
          Unfortunately, two days after writing the above experience, I suffered a strained right thigh which had nothing to do with the shoes. Apparently 3 days a week of running was a little bit more than my body can handle. That's just the way my muscles react to running in the past few years. They can only tolerate about 6 weeks of running regularly before they break down again. Nevertheless, I'm still sold on the Hoka One One shoes. I'll start running in them again as soon as I heal.