The XX Factor

Sonia Sotomayor’s Lovely-and Expensive-Smile

Sonia Sotomayor has a lovely smile, and like many Americans she has paid a price for it. According to the questionnaire she completed as part of the Senate confirmation process, she owes approximately $15,000 to her dentist.

Several writers have been boggled by the size of the bill. In fact, it’s pretty easy to spend $15,000 on dental treatment. Dental plans generally cover between 50 percent to 80 percent of restorative treatments (crowns, etc.), and most plans have an annual reimbursement cap of around $1,500-$2,000. If you need something more than a cleaning or a filling, you’re going to be digging into your own pocket, whatever kind of coverage you have. Just yesterday I was told that treating one problem tooth would cost me around $5,000.

If there’s anything surprising here, it’s that the dentist allowed Sotomayor to run a tab that big. Most practices would require cash-or credit card-on the nail. Sotomayor is obviously a trusted customer, but after all, if you can’t trust a judge (especially one on most people’s SCOTUS shortlist), who can you trust?

(I’ve been working on a series of pieces about American dentistry. Check out Slate in six weeks or so for more on this topic.)

Photograph of Sonia Sotomayor by Alex Wong/Getty Images.