HEIDELBERG, Germany - "No more new patients for braces," the orthodontist at the Mannheim Dental Clinic told me.

"Nor are they accepting new patients in Heidelberg." He looked straight at me, as he shattered my hopes of ever owning another new car, buying a house eventually or even enjoying retirement before I am a centenarian. "Consider going on the economy," he told me.

On the way home from the dentist, I tried my best to convince myself that braces are not really needed.

After all, people lived thousands of years with crooked teeth.

Why is it that nowadays everybody is supposed to have teeth like Soldiers standing in perfect formation'

Of course, the dentist said our son needs braces mainly because of his excessive overbite.

Surely, the headaches and jaw problems that may follow can easily be treated with a little ibuprofen.

As I parked the car I sighed.

Perhaps we should wait with braces until we are back in the states'

That evening I talked to a friend whose three children are currently also receiving orthodontic treatment on the economy.
"It's not really that hard," she said. "We have about one more year of braces to go, and so far we are very pleased."

"What about all that paperwork'" I already saw myself chasing dentists for signatures, filling out forms until two o'clock in the morning, and finding out that I did not have the right documents after all.

"They e-mail you the forms," my friend assured me, "and the German orthodontist fills out the bulk of it. Then I just scan it in at home and mail it right back."

We decided to get him braces now and go on the economy.

Luckily, we are enrolled in the Tricare Dental Program.

After a phone call to Tricare Dental, they e-mailed me a list of local orthodontists and an overview on how the overseas TDP works.

Days later, the German orthodontist performed an initial evaluation and gave us an appointment to get all the treatment planning materials, like X-rays, together. "I'll mail you the diagnosis and treatment plan," the orthodontist said. "You can then e-mail it to Tricare." A couple of weeks later the treatment plan duly arrived, detailing all the steps needed to correct the overbite.

This is too easy, I thought, until the first bill arrived.

Would we have to pay the initial examination or would Tricare pay it directly'

After a call to Tricare Dental, we learned that we had to pay the bill in full; however, we would be reimbursed, since the initial exam is paid out of the yearly benefit.

To my astonishment, the reimbursement for the initial examination came days later.

In the meantime, the treatment plan was approved.

The biggest drawback is that the plan will pay only half the cost.

The good news is that we will receive a check for 50 percent of the total cost of the orthodontic charge after the treatment begins.

"I can't wait until my teeth are straight," our son said the other day, as he helped me sort through photos. "I'll be able to open my mouth when I smile!"

Yes, I had forgotten about that. What a small price to pay for full smile memories.

Page last updated Wed January 12th, 2011 at 10:52