What Getting My Teeth Fixed Taught Me About Being Broke

Juliane Bergmann
8 min readMar 25, 2022

For one: being broke made me more greedy, not more generous

Photo by Bogdan condr on Unsplash

The endodontist is carrying on a conversation with me while he has both hands and several sharp tools in my mouth to scrape out the black, smelly, infected gunk inside one of the four root channels the previous guy missed.

I had an old root canal redone today. It was great. No, seriously. I realized I’m not broke anymore.

That first root canal cost me zero dollars and lasted for a decade so I’m not complaining. The dentist who did it donated his time to provide treatment to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Like me and many homeless people I saw in the waiting room. The dentist came to the community health center in the city I lived. I was a young mom without insurance, without money. My tooth hurt like hell and I remember sitting through the several-hour procedure, so grateful for this dentist’s help.

But he wasn’t a specialist. He was not an endodontist who’s been doing root canals for decades, just a volunteer dentist who did his best.

Fast forward ten years. Not being broke anymore means I can go to the guy who does root canals for a living. The x-rays showed an infection, a black ripple radiating out from one pointy root of my tooth. My regular dentist caught it at a check-up. This means, I have health insurance and a reasonable co-pay and a dentist within driving distance and a car to get me there, and a job that allows me to take time off for health reasons.

It means I’m not broke anymore. The fourHUNDREDmotherfuckingdollar co-pay still hurts but I got to make the choice to pay it, instead of waiting until my abscessed tooth makes me blind with pain and forces me to deal with it sometime down the road.

Let’s be clear — I’ve been broke from birth, but never poor, never starving, never without shelter. There were times we ate plain white bread for dinner and years we lived in a family member’s tiny upstairs apartment without paying rent. But we had food and we had beds. I make this distinction because I’ve never experienced true poverty. I know I could’ve been slightly less lucky and found myself evicted with four kids after my divorce. I came close but fortunately had…

Juliane Bergmann

Want to get your story published but don't know how to pitch editors? Grab my free pitch template and get your first byline: https://tinyurl.com/28dtcf22