The Intricacies of Medical Care on the Road

Many RVers, whether full-time, most-time, or part-time, have a home base where they return on a regular basis to recharge, update legal documents and take care of routine medical or dental care. They have doctors and dentists who maintain their records and are familiar with their history.  And then there are the full-timers with no home base. I’m in that last category. I always considered myself lucky in this regard for a couple of reasons.

First, I earned very low cost health insurance by serving in the Air Force for 20 years. Everywhere I’ve traveled in my RV, I’ve been able to find a doctor or hospital who accepted my Tricare insurance when necessary. Second, despite some very bad habits during my younger years, I’m still pretty healthy. At the ripe old age of 57 I don’t take any prescription medications. When I remember, I’ll take a multivitamin in the morning. According to the health professionals I’ve talked to, that’s uncommon. So, on the medical side, I’m pretty lucky.

On the dental side, not so much. I’ve had periodontal disease for a number of years. There’s really no cure for it. I follow a very strict home heath care regimen but that’s not enough. My last ‘regular’ dentists strongly advised that I should also get professional cleanings 4 times a year. Great! Again, because of my military service, I qualify for low cost dental insurance. Unfortunately, it’s like most other insurances. They’d rather pay after a problem occurs rather than spend a little more on preventative measures. They’ll only pay for 2 cleanings a year despite the diagnosis of periodontal disease.

That leaves 2 hurdles while traveling. The first is finding a dentist who accepts my insurance and is willing to take a new, one-time patient. That task is made a lot easier because of the Internet and Delta Dental’s website where I can look up the nearest dentist. The second problem is actually scheduling the appointment. Some offices schedule their cleaning appointments 6 months or more in advance. Others require you to make an initial exam appointment before they’ll do a cleaning. I carry my own X-rays with me so each office doesn’t have to shoot new images (which would come out of my pocket).

The last point is not so much a problem as an interesting side note. You just never know what kind of dentist/hygienist you’ll get until you actually show up. Every place I’ve been has fallen into the ‘satisfactory’ to ‘excellent’ category. I just needed to relate my latest visit since it was so out of the ordinary. I visited a dentist in Drayton ND today, maybe the only dentist in the town. The office was only open 3 days a week. OK. I’ve seen a lot of offices that only worked 4 days. I drove through the town about a week before my appointment just to see where it was. I didn’t have the exact address written down but knew it was on Main St so it couldn’t be too hard to find, right? Wrong! Drayton is a very small town and driving the entire length of Main St only takes about 2 minutes.

So, the next time I was in the RV, I checked the exact address, went back to Drayton and looked again. I found the addresses on either side of the office but in between those was a door and window with absolutely no numbering or signage. Hmmm. The receptionist called me 2 days before the appointment and she confirmed that I should indeed come to the unmarked door. The practice was so small they didn’t have a hygienist. The dentist cleaned my teeth, which was a first for me. After the procedure, I mentioned to him that it was the first time I’d seen a stealth dentist’s office. He explained that he’d been there forever and everybody knew where he was. Since he was getting ready to retire, he had no desire to spend money putting his name on the window.

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