Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dawn: Making Dentists in Central Florida Hate me Since 2011

My dentist stopped taking my insurance at the beginning of this year. I can't prove it, but I suspect the whole team got together to brainstorm ways to get rid of me as their patient.
"Maybe we could get caller ID and every time Dawn calls, we'll just answer the phone, 'Good afternoon, Mario's Pizza, what can I get you?'"
"Good, good, but what if she calls from work or some other number we don't recognize?"
"How about we tell her that we're booked for the next 8 months when she calls?"
"No good. She'll get an appointment eventually even if she has to wait 8 months."

"I know! Let's stop taking her insurance!"
"Yes! That's it! 

So my wonderful HMO which pays for nothing but cleanings, assigned me a new dentist. I was due for a cleaning in June, but finally made an appointment in October. Granted, I didn't actually proactively make an appointment for a cleaning. It was a cracked tooth that prompted me to make the appointment, but still, I think it counts. Especially for someone who abhors the dentist!

So I walk in and see all their festive Halloween decorations. Because the best way to calm anxiety and make patients feel at ease is by draping webs across the seats in the waiting room and perching spiders over their shoulders.

I sign in and take a seat away on a spiderless chair, and glance to my right. I see this.

It's an urn. An urn filled with the ashes of the last patient to die here. Comforting.

I start filling out the paperwork while trying to forget about the spiders, the urn of ashes, and the torture that lies ahead. Then I got to this page of the paperwork . . .

WHEN an individual DIES! What the crap am I signing???? Ohmygosh! Commence hyperventilating! Those really ARE the ashes of past patients! I was just kind of joking before, but at this point I'm ready to make a beeline for the door!

The hygienist appears in the doorway and calls my name. "Dawn?"

I look around at the other people in the waiting room and offer up my spot. "Would anyone like to go ahead of me? Really. I don't mind." They've already seen me taking pictures of the paperwork and the decor, so this pretty much solidifies their notion that I'm unbalanced.

As the hygienist leads me to a room, she remarks, "You really have anxiety, don't you?"

"Whatever gave you that idea?" I try to force some nonchalance into my voice as my eyes furtively dart around and my breathing takes on "code blue" quality.

She spoke to me in the manner you would to a scared and injured wild animal. "It's okay," she purred. "I'm just going to take some xrays. No one is going to do anything today. Just relax." She continued in calm and soothing tones, "Do you tend to gag during xrays?" 

"One hundred percent of the time," I confirmed.

"Okay, I'm going to give you some numbing medication. It's the stuff we use to numb your gums before giving you a shot." She handed me a Q-tip with a glob of the gel on the end. "Just suck on it like a lollipop then swallow so it coats your throat. This will help calm that gagging reflex."

I had my doubts, but did as she instructed. And let me tell you - this was the first time in my life I didn't gag during xrays. I hugged the woman and informed her of her new BFF status.

She lead me to another room where I awaited the dentist while my anxiety kicked up a notch. 

The dentist came in, shook my hand and introduced himself, "I'm Dr. Potter. Potter as in Harry." He scored a point right there. He'd score another 20,000,000,000 points if he could point a wand at my tooth and magically fix it. 

"How are you doing?" he asked.

"Well, I'd rather be at home. Or at work. Or in a pit of venomous snakes."

He took a look at the broken tooth. "Can you just fill it and let me go on my way?"

"No, a filling is not an option."

"Come on. Just slap a little Play Dough in there and we'll call it a day," I helpfully suggested.

To his credit, he laughed a little, gaining him another point. Because really, the most important quality in a dentist is not where he went to school, his certifications, or his ability; it's whether or not he laughs at my jokes. (I don't trust people who don't laugh.)

"You have two options," he stated. He indicated my xray and explained, "This tooth already had a root canal, but you never got a crown on it. This temporary fix was never meant to last. 

"Yeah, I couldn't afford a crown. I suggested a small tiara instead, but unfortunately my old dentist didn't offer that option."

He continued, "See this dark part here?" He pointed to the xray. "That's a sign of infection at the root. This tooth would have to be retreated with another root canal. Then you would need a crown on it. But honestly, this tooth is so compromised that I can't promise it will work or last very long. Your other option is to have it pulled and have an implant placed there. It's entirely up to you what you want to do. We work for you."

"Okay, okay, I see . . . Orrrrr, we could just leave it alone and over time it will slowly erode away with tiny pieces chipping off and eventually the whole tooth will be gone. Voila!"

Judging by his face, he didn't feel that was a feasible option. 

"Could I just get it pulled and have 2 empty spaces back there?"

"Well, your other teeth, towards the front of your mouth aren't designed for chewing like your molars are. You'd end up putting too much strain on them and then you'll start having problems with those teeth breaking."

"Okay, what would you tell your sister to do if this was her?"

"If you were my sister, I'd tell her to have the tooth pulled and get an implant," he stated without hesitation. 

"Great. I always talk about moving back to Chicago, but they'll never let me back in the state if I'm missing that many teeth. In fact, Florida may even kick me out. I'm going to have to go live in Alabama." (No offense to Floridians, Alabamians, or toothless people because I am one of you, my brethren.) They recommended I have a consultation with the oral surgeon on staff at this facility. As I checked out and made an appointment for the consultation, the receptionist assured me, "Oh you'll like this doctor."

"Oh, I'm sure if I saw him in Publix, I'd be all, 'Hey Doctor! How're you doin'? How's the sailboat I bought you?'" Then again, he probably won't stick his hands in my mouth while we're at Publix. Here, on the other hand . . " I trailed off.

So I met with him. He talked over my head in medical terminology, said phrases like cut your gum and bone graft. He didn't answer me when I asked him to explain the process or if I would be out for the procedure because there is NO WAY ON EARTH I can handle that while awake. He seemed exasperated by my questions and called over Dr. Potter to deal with me. Then the oral surgeon outright lied and said, "It doesn't hurt." I swung my head around to look at Dr. Potter with a get a load of this guy expression. "I'm looking at the oral surgeon, but I'm seeing Orin Scrivello dancing around in Little Shop of Horrors," I confided in Dr. Potter who laughed. The oral surgeon looked at me blankly. He left the room right after that.

Dr. Potter stayed and patiently took the time to answer my questions and explain things. 

"So he wants to cut my gum and put bone in it? Where does this bone come from?" I asked while images of the urn in the waiting room flashed through my mind.

"It's cadaver bone." he answered like it was no big deal; like he was simply commenting on the weather. When I said I'd have to drink a bottle, er um, a glass of wine before coming in, he said, "What you do before your appointment is your own business."

After meeting the oral surgeon, I can safely say that I don't like him and even if I saw him at Publix, I'd quickly turn away and feign an exorbitant amount of interest in the nutritional label on the bag of frozen peas I'm holding while half inside the freezer door. "Ohhh look at that. The ingredients in this bag of peas is just peas. That's all. Isn't that interesting, ishegoneyet?"

Before I left I was given a breakdown of how much it would cost to get the broken tooth pulled and two implants. 

Seeing as how the total is literally half my yearly income, I'm going to go with Plan C - do nothing at all until my tooth starts hurting at which point I'll knock it out myself with an ice skate à la Tom Hanks, and then go on the smoothie diet for the rest of my life. I need to lose weight anyway. Win win! Or or, it IS October afterall - I can find a pair of plastic vampire teeth and be all set!

I took Lexi there a couple days later for her appointment. The hygienist saw me and exclaimed, "I remember you!" Then, "Your daughter is a much better patient than you are."

Lexi looked at me, eyebrows raised.

I shrugged and muttered, "I guess I shouldn't have bitten her hand when she tried to put the bib on."

Lexi looked horrified. "You BIT her?!" she spit out.

"No! I didn't BITE her! I was kidding! You believed that?!"

"Yes, yes I did. Because it sounds like something you'd do at the dentist, Mom."

"I'm saving that for the next time."  ;)

Dawn: making dentists in central Florida hate me since 2011.

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