Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dental Nightmare Part 2

I probably should have posted this yesterday, on Halloween, because dentists are scary creatures who send shivers down our spines. They probably don't mean to, but their very presence can cause even the bravest souls to wither in their chairs.

I have had a hard time finding a good dentist in our newly adopted home town. So far I'm 0 for 2. My first experience is recounted here. That was an awful encounter and really doesn't compare to this latest. But I'm about to hand my new dentist his walking papers for being unresponsive and arrogant. Or am I too picky? Too judgmental? I'll let you decide.

Let me start at the beginning. Yes, I picked this new dentist because he accepts our insurance. His name was in the database, and his ad in the yellow pages looked quite appealing. Clean lines, like an invitation to a ballroom dance. Lovely layout. I'm a sucker for good designs. So I called.

When I sat in the chair, the dental assistant seemed edgy. I am drawn to people who can make conversation, who notice the stunning view of the entire bay out the dental examining room window, who are comfortable in their own white shoes, and who project self-assuredness. She was withdrawn, apologetic, uncertain.

On the other hand, the dentist was the consummate professional. He looked at my full-mouth set of x-rays on that eerie backlit screen, like I was a rare specimen of ancient lousy dentistry. He assessed, analyzed, and then spoke to me in a fatherly and concerned voice. He asked "What do you hope for your teeth? I responded, well, I'd like to keep them in my mouth. "Yes," he answered, that's good. Very good."

He's wasn't very specific about his plans for my mouth's future, but tried to convince me that I should consider implants. I told him that my insurance doesn't pay for them, and that I was not going to spend $3500 per tooth on implants. He commented off-handedly, "You know someday there will be no insurance." I didn't know if that was a threat or joyous announcement of our social health care future. I asked him to write up a projected plan, costs, and to give me a few options. He walked out of the room.

My next visit was with his hygienist, and after that I was scheduled to have a small cavity filled that was under one of my crowns. For some reason, I had no idea that that required the removal of the crown. Once that crown was off and the cavity filled, he said, "You have three options for that tooth. You can have a new crown, you can have a permanent bridge, or you can have an implant. I would not recommend the crown, but it's your choice." I said, okay, I'll let you know on the next visit. He put on a temporary crown, and I was out the door.

On the next visit, I only needed two more fillings and that was the extent of the restorative work that needed immediate attention. That visit turned out to one of those grueling appointments that goes on much too long. A visit that was supposed to last one hour dragged on to nearly two! The proximity of two people with their hands in my mouth started to be a panic-inducing nightmare. I couldn't tell exactly what was going on, but it felt like they were drilling for oil on the north pole and were hitting various nerves along the way. A few zingers caused me to move my head involuntarily, to which the good dentist said, "Steady, girl." (Steady girl? What, am I a horse? Whoa, Nelly?) On that visit I told him that I decided I wanted to have the crown. He said, "I don't think that's such a good idea. In fact, I'm going to have to advise you against it." So at that moment, I had a tooth with a temporary crown and a dentist who didn't want to replace it. Shit. (BTW, I received paperwork from our insurance company, and learned that he charged $735.00 for those two restorations.)

On our trip to Santa Cruz last month the temporary crown popped off, so I went to see my old wonderful, surfer dentist. He re-cemented it, and I asked him if he thought the tooth was salvageable. He said there was definitely enough tooth structure to save it. I was really hoping for that answer.

So, when the temp popped off again in early October, I went to see the dentist and told him once more that I wanted the crown put on. He re-cemented the temporary crown and reiterated that he was not comfortable with that course of action. In fact, he told me that he isn't comfortable with my entire BITE. He said, "I'm not sure I can really accomplish anything without you first seeing an orthodontist to have braces put on. We'll never get that mouth right without first straightening out your bite."

WTF? I am 53 years old. I am not getting braces. I don't want a mink-coat, can't I just have a respectable republican cloth coat? Is that too much to ask? What's with excessive high end dentistry? Don't we have choices?

The temporary crown has popped off again. I have an appointment to have it re-cemented today at 10:30, when I will tell him that our professional relationship is over. Steady, girl!

1 comment:

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