As a bit of preamble, throughout recorded human history, my family has had terrible teeth. We have good skin and hair, low cholesterol, and not much by way of degenerative diseases. As a trade off, we have a history of cancer, poor vision, and awful teeth–on both sides of my family even. My maternal grandmother and my father had zero teeth that weren’t filled, crowned, otherwise fake or missing altogether when they died at advanced ages. I had 13 cavities in my baby teeth. 13 out of 20! That’s something like most of them percent.
Now, one might think (particularly if that one is a dentist) that this bad teeth business is the fault of the end user, i.e., poor dental hygiene or jamming copious amounts of sugar in our maws while laughing maniacally at the inevitable dental carnage to follow. Alas, ’tis untrue. Every day, I have brushed twice and flossed since I was able to hold a toothbrush. Other than the year I was homeless and a chunk of the 2000’s when I had no insurance, I have seen a dentist every year of my life. My sugar intake is on the low side of normal. I prefer savory stuff with the occasional slice of pie. My family just has genetically bad teeth. I’m just glad I wasn’t born in George Washington’s era. Really, I wish I was born in the future where new teeth are grown at will right in your mouth with science.
I’m currently on the dental circuit. Every year, I start the hopeless journey with fresh dental benefits. I join the caravan as far as my dental insurance will take me, then I alight and wait for them to start anew. I’ve been doing this routine for years and I’m nearing the end of this year’s ride.
I have a nice dentist. She’s of European origin with a slight Slavic accent. She is pragmatic and realistic with a front office worker who would wring every drop of coverage she could out of my insurance company. My dentist admonishes me for the condition of my teeth (I’ve never known a dentist who didn’t), but it’s never harsh. It’s more like, “I wish you’d let me do all the things I’d like to do to your teeth.” Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to afford all the dental work I need done before they most likely fall out of their own accord.
My dentist had her own small practice consisting of her front office person, a few dental assistants, and her. At the beginning of this year’s dental cycle, she informed me that she moved offices. She is now in a huge dental conglomerate with a bunch of different doctors and without her front office bulldog whom she let go since the new office already had plenty of personnel.
The new place is crazy. They have at least 10 dental rooms and a bunch of dental chairs just hanging out on one side of the building that basically makes it look like a salon. Seriously, who wants to get dental work done out in the open like that? Fortunately, every time I go, they put me in a room. I think the dental salon is reserved for easy dental things, which does not apply to me.
I saw my dentist at the new conglomerate until, one day in June, I went to my appointment and some dude walked in. Where is my dentist? He told me that he was filling in for her, because she’s filling in for another doctor at another location. Um, okay. It would have been nice had they told me that before I was wearing a bib, but I presume they didn’t so they could keep my business since I spend a lot on dental work every year.
At the end of every appointment, I made another appointment to see my dentist hoping that, when I went back, she would be there. The last three times I’ve gone, I’ve had to see this dude who is not my dentist. At first he seemed alright, but three times now, he has admonished me for the state of my teeth in not a nice way. Three times, he has asked me if I eat a lot of sugar. Three times I have told him no, my family has bad teeth and I’ve been seeing my particular dentist for over a decade in the hopes of fixing them. You can’t get mad at me for having bad teeth when I visit the dentist countless times every year. It is, in fact, your job to make my teeth less bad. Get on with it, bucko.
Yesterday, I had a 1 pm appointment where I saw the dentist who is not my dentist in order to get two fillings, which will signify the end of my dental journey for the year. It seems like every time I go to the dentist who is not my dentist, I have to get x-rays. Yesterday, he made me get a full set. 18 of them. I asked. Someone needs to invent a new thing they jam in your mouth for x-rays since the plastic thing they use is entirely too big and abrades my gums. I was bleeding before I had any dental work done.
After the x-rays, I sat in the chair for another 10 or so minutes before the dentist who is not my dentist arrived and scolded me for eating all the sugar that I don’t eat and finally got to work. My dentist is diligent and careful where she puts her hands. The dentist who is not my dentist rests his hands wherever he damn well pleases–on your nose, shoulder, hair, lips, etc. He has hit my teeth with his drill or tiny mirror on a stick several times and has sprayed water in my eyes and up my nose, because he doesn’t always turn off the water drill before taking it out of my mouth. He even accidentally brushed my gums with his drill once. Ouch.
My dentist does all the procedures herself–even cleanings. The dentist who is not my dentist can’t be bothered to do plebeian things like cleanings. He only does teeth he finds “interesting,” which is apparently my mouth. How nice for him.
My dentist always puts topical numbing gel on both sides of the tooth she’s working on before injecting anesthetic into my gums so it doesn’t hurt as much (it still hurts like crazy though and is my least favorite part of any procedure). Yesterday, the dentist who is not my dentist only put topical numbing gel on the cheek side of my tooth, not the tongue side, before he injected anesthetic. The tongue side hurts more and I had to get that shot with no numbing gel at all. It hurt like hell.
After the injection of pain, he said he’d be back in 5 to 10 minutes to let the anesthetic take full effect. He left the room and chatted with a woman I couldn’t see about her knowledge of the Hindi language, which he called “Hindu.” Hindu is a follower of Hinduism; Hindi is a language, asshat. He left me sitting there in a dental chair wearing a bib from 1:31 pm until 1:56 pm–exactly 25 ridiculous minutes while I got angrier with each one.
He did a bit of drilling, splashing water on my face and hitting my teeth with his drill, while resting his hand on my nose. Then, he wanted yet another x-ray. His assistant took my 19th x-ray of the day. It was in another room so at least I got to stretch my legs a bit. Another few minutes later, he came back to look at the x-ray and resumed drilling, splashing, and bending my nose sideways.
The dentist who is not my dentist built a makeshift dam in my mouth to fill with whatever they make fillings out of these days that has to be dried with a UV light. After he formed me a tooth, I got my 20th x-ray of the day in the other room and waited another few minutes for him to come back. The dentist who is not my dentist actually gave me a very dorky double thumbs up when he saw his work in x-ray form. It did, in fact, look solid.
An hour and 41 minutes after I arrived (at least 45 minutes of which was spent waiting in various angles of recline), the dentist who is not my dentist asked if I wanted to forge on with the second filling or if I’d like to come back. No part of me wants to come back, but I chose that option since I had already wasted enough of my work day lying slack-jawed for one afternoon.
As I was walking to my car with a fat stack of parking validation passes, I thought that when they confirm my next appointment, I might just ghost the dentist who is not my dentist, but since I only have one appointment left for the year, I might as well go. I can tell you this much though, if my dentist isn’t back in the office by the time my benefits roll over again, I’m going to have find a new one. The dentist who is not my dentist is not my dentist.