Some people are just lucky and their teeth are naturally awesome. And some people brush and floss religiously and still have tons of cavities. I am one of the former. I have never had a cavity. In fact, one of my former dentists once told me I had "super teeth" and that I could probably get away with only a dental visit once a year, instead of every 6 months.
If we're being honest, I'm not the best flosser in the world. I mean, I do floss, just not as often as you're supposed to. But I brush my teeth, use mouthwash, avoid excessive soda drinking, and all that jazz. My dentist appointments are usually over in less than 45 minutes. I'm in, I get a cleaning, a flouride rinse, a final look-see from the dentist, and then they give me my free toothbrush and I'm on my way.
But not this latest dentist visit. I pretty much left in tears, and not from any sort of dental work that they did.
- Arrive at dentist for scheduled appointment.
- Get ushered back to dental room and sit in chair.
- Get teeth X-rays because they didn't want to request them from my last dentist, even though I had them done less than a year prior. (I'm told if the insurance doesn't cover it, the dental office will cover the cost, so it's at no cost to me.)
- Teeth photography session. Literally, the dentist gets out his camera and takes a gazillion digital photographs of my teeth from really close up and at all sorts of angles. It felt somehow creepy in an indescribable way.
- Teeth inspection. He pokes and prods my teeth for a bit with some fancy-looking gadgets.
Then that's it. I'm told that the "consultation" is complete and they are going to look at the pictures and X-rays and evaluate the data they gathered, so they can put together a recommendation for my teeth treatment plan. They apparently need a lot of time to do this, so I have to schedule a second appointment to come back and find out the "results."
- Arrive at dentist for scheduled appointment. Since they didn't do a normal teeth cleaning at the first appointment, I'm hoping that's going to happen this time. There's nothing like squeaky-clean teeth after a dentist visit.
- Get ushered back to dental room and sit in a chair.
- Dentist arrives. He has a packet that includes my treatment plan, some promotional brochures from the pharma company that sells the anti-gingivitis medication he is recommending, and an ominous-looking black binder.
- The dentist hands me the treatment plan. They did not find any cavities. However, one of the spaces between my teeth has a deep pocket in the gumline, which he feels cannot be resolved with brushing and flossing alone. He recommends the medication and a "deep cleaning." I also have some wear on the outside of one of my teeth from brushing too hard. This just needs a little patching to protect the enamel.
- Total cost for medication and deep cleaning totals over $5000. Cost of patching (the only thing I feel that I really do need) is $24.
- Dentist then gets out the ominous binder. He opens it to reveal close-up photographs of people's teeth in varying stages of tooth rot and gum disease. He then proceeds to full-on lecture me on the importance of keeping one's teeth healthy, while progressing to photographs that, in the end, must be of people who never brushed their teeth in their whole entire lives.
- This makes me feel very ashamed, like I somehow am not doing enough for my teeth by regularly brushing and flossing them and, oh, the horror.
- The lecture lasts somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, until he finally puts away the awful pictures of strange people's teeth.
We discuss strategy. I ask, politely, "When are you going to clean my teeth? Are we going to do that now?"
He replies, "We only do teeth cleaning on people who have healthy teeth. Your teeth aren't healthy enough for a regular cleaning."
(This is the point where I am not sure whether to be shocked into silence or start crying.)
So I say, "Ok, what if I think about the medicine and some of the extra dental work you're recommending, and wait on that, but agree to do the deep cleaning and get the teeth patching. Can we just do that?"
He says we can but I still have to schedule another appointment. This appointment is just to review the teeth treatment plan (and, apparently, employ scare tactics to shame me into buying whatever med the pharma company is pushing). If I want to get any actual dental work done, I need a third appointment.
That's right... a THIRD appointment. When all I wanted was to go in, get my teeth cleaned, and maybe a 10 minute patch job on the tooth that got brushed too hard. (Also: does anyone note the irony that he is telling me I have horrible dental hygene at the same time he's telling me I'm brushing my teeth too much? Which is it?)
I told him I would "think about it" and get back to them on when I wanted to schedule the third appointment. I then left the dental office, feeling deflated and with no intention of EVER going back.
A few weeks later, the sweet receptionist lady (the only thing this place had to recommend it) called to ask if I'd figured out when I was going to schedule my appointment.
I told her I would have scheduled one if I could've just gotten a teeth cleaning and that little patch job done.
"Well, of course you can honey," she replied, scanning my file. "We can schedule you for a cleaning and to get that bit of chipped tooth patched too if that's what you'd like."
I said, "I'd like that very much, but the dentist said that wasn't possible, that he didn't want to do a cleaning."
"That's odd," she replied, sounding perplexed. "I don't know why we couldn't do that. Let me just check with him and find out what's going on. I'll give you a call back after I've spoken with him."
She never got back to me.