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breeden
ursulav

I Love My Dentist

I needed two fillings today. Actually I needed one at first, and then the dentist got in there and muttered a bit and said “You’ve got kissing cavities…they’re right in contact and they’ve both decalcified and you’re already Novocained up, so why don’t I just do this now?”

I, like most people, lived in stark fear of the dentist for many years. Having braces pretty much ensures this. The dentists themselves didn’t help with this much, and having lived much of my life in relative poverty and being in an insurance-free field, I tended not to show up until they had something to yell about. Preventative care is for people who don’t worry where the next check is coming from.

And then Kevin got me on his dental insurance, and found this dentist.

Who is only a few years older than me, who goes to Ren Faires dressed as the Tooth Fairy, who is a huge My Little Pony fan and who spent the morning grilling me about which Wacom tablet to get while shooting Novocaine into my gums.

I went in at first with trepidation. I had not had dental insurance since my divorce. I floss on alternate Thursdays. My gums have been a wreck my entire adult life. (And tangentially, they got MUCH worse when I went off the Pill. Man, hormones do EVERYTHING.)

I went in expecting shame and degradation to be heaped upon my head. I slunk into the waiting room like a criminal.

And she looked things over and said “Looks like you’ve done as good as can be expected, given the circumstances. I’ve seen way worse.”

And scheduled a really serious cleaning and a follow-up exam a bit later when my gums were recovered. And they put that numbing gel they use when they’re going to shoot you with Novocaine on the gums first so the cleaning wouldn’t hurt.

O Readers, it was like going in for confession for the first time in a decade and spilling out your guts to the priest—ALL the sins, not just the skipping Easter mass and the unpaid parking tickets, but the deep meaty ones about envy and lust and despair and what you REALLY think about your sister’s kids—and as you sat there in quivering silence, waiting for the axe of judgement to fall, hearing him say “Is that all? Pfff, don’t worry about it, my child, you’re only human. Say a couple Hail Marys and we’re having a blood drive on Friday if you’re free.”

Some months later I found myself having lost a filling and I went in. Fearlessly. Knowing that there would be drilling. Knowing that there might be big needles. Knowing it wouldn’t feel good. It was about the same level of stress as a pap smear—”Yes, this will be physically uncomfortable, but then it will be over until the next time, and it’s not THAT bad.” I was filled with resignation, not with dread, because however much it might suck, nobody was going to yell at me.

When I think about all the things I would tell my younger self if I could, a lot of them I might wind up not saying, because maybe not knowing at the time was important. I don’t think I’d tell younger me that I would someday be successful beyond my wildest dreams in a field I never expected, because maybe I’d just sit around waiting for it to happen. I haven’t got a clue what I’d say about love. So many opportunities involved being in the right place at the right time, I’d hate to jinx it.

Ultimately I might just go with “Life will be better and stranger than you ever thought, and you really will get over the bad bits.”

And then I’d add in the caveat “And someday you’ll find an awesome dentist and that bit won’t suck any more either.”

 

Wordcount: 15750

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


How sad is it that healthcare professionals yell at the people who are PAYING THEM TO CARE FOR THEM.

Yelling? When I was under 10, the pediatric dentist, when I had stuff in my mouth for a filling and apparently bit him (I don't remember this well), dragged me into his office and spanked me. My mom was in the waiting room and had no clue till after.

In retaliation, I took 2 toys from the chest. >_>

As an adult, when my kid needed some teeth pulled? There was no way I was going to leave her alone with someone I didn't feel comfortable with -- and especially when he walks in and says, "Mom, out" and talks over me loudly when I attempt to explain. So I took my kid and left. Eff that noise for a lark.

(Worked out that we got her a different dentist, and while I did stay in the waiting room, as near as I can tell they were really wonderful and patient -- even when it turned out that the sedative they'd prescribed for Miss High-Strung took down her intellectual defenses against emotional overload. There was literal screaming and sobbing about the thought of the pliers coming near her mouth... and when they finally got 'em, no pain. *facepalm* And now we know that particular sedative trick is probably a bad idea.)

Dear Lord. (Anonymous) Expand
I have a dentist appointment on the 27th to replaces a filling that fell out. I'm on Medicaid so I can only hope this won't suck.

Did you know that you can buy temporary dental filling over the counter at the drug store?
That is one of the best inventions ever!

I am envious. The last two rounds I've gone with a dentist cost a lot more and were way more problematic than just two fillings. I like the most recent guy more than the last set of dentists I tried out, and it's certainly nice to have one who cares enough to genuinely numb the crap out of my face and who largely treats me like an adult, but... geez, for that kind of money, I can't shake the feeling that it's 2012, I ought to have nanites repairing my teeth or something.

GOD, YES.

I swear, medical science has taken leaps and bounds, and the practice of dentistry still seems downright medieval.

I went almost ten years wihtout getting my teeth cleaned just because I hadn't taken very good care of them, I didn't have dental insurance for quite some time and I was terrified I was going to be yelled at something awful.

I kind of was yelled at, actually. And had a deep cleaning. Which sucked so horribly badly I haven't missed an appt since (though not with the yell-y dentist again, life is too short for that crap) Thankfully out of all my family I have ridiculously good teeth so after that I've not had a single filling.

I am currently in the same situation.

I haven't had dental insurance in several years, and having grown up with good insurance, I now find myself trepiditious of anything in the medical field for fear of the cost.

I have also become a tooth grinder. Nay, not just a tooth grinder, I apparently have taken up the profession of trying to rid myself of teeth altogether when I sleep. Consequently, I, too, am nervous of going to the dentist.

Compound that with a dire case of TMJ (mouth, open? HAH!), and flossing and I haven't been on good terms in years. I try, but I don't succeed very well. AND the gag reflex... yeah, I'm a dentist's worst nightmare.

However, come two weeks ago I was struck with this searing pain in a tooth. Terror filled me. Oh no, I thought, I'm going to have to go to the dentist. Went in to a dentist I had never met before, he took x-rays and poked around and flinched in sympathy when I nearly jumped out of the chair. He gave me the good drugs, oh yes. But he also said the dreaded r-word. Root canal.

It was only a possibility, mind you. I went back in a week later expected a several thousand dollar bill, a lecture, and a LOT of pain. Instead, I got a prescription for a muscle relaxant and a lecture about wearing a mouth guard when I...play video games?

...Wait. What?

Yes, my dear reader, my dentist is a Halo player. He apparently does the same thing to his teeth when he's playing FPSs as I do when I'm raid healing in WoW. He confided in me in that follow-up appointment that he was bummed he couldn't take the day off because it was the release day for Halo 4.

Suddenly, I'm nowhere near as trepiditious about going in. The only lecture I've gotten is about the importance of getting a REAL mouth guard and not a shitty cheap one that I bought from a drug store.

Having someone about to torture you that you can identify with? Priceless. ;)

Bah, root canals aren't that bad. Heck, I like them more than fillings! Er... Well, I suppose I dislike them less than fillings. *laugh* I've had seven or eight root canals, ten teeth pulled, and more cavities than I can count. I dread going to the dentist because no matter how well I brush and floss and take care of my teeth, they continue to rot. *sigh* Stupid weak enamel.

Get the guard (Anonymous) Expand
Hmm. My experience with dentists has been very little yelling. Like, can't remember it ever happening.

I don't think I take particularly good care of my teeth--though I do actually floss which my dentist was very enthusiastic about.

Maybe some dentists have found that praising the good parts keeps people coming back and expanding on the actions that got praise?

"Preventative care is for people who don’t worry where the next check is coming from."

Even people with insurance worry about this. Gods, it's so damned expensive.

And dental insurance covers so very little.

I've been yelled at several times at different dentist's offices. Most memorably by a school dentist in middle school (back in the day) who left me in tears and bloodied both mentally and physically. To this day I don't take very good care of my teeth; even though the current dentist doesn't yell I still have all the negative flinch responses ingrained.

And they wonder why sedation dentistry is such a growing business.

I'm on the opposite side of this. I had a great dentist for years, then I had to move. I've got OK insurance, but it's been almost 2 years since I've gone, because I have no idea how to find a good one here, and I'm terrified of a bad one. My last dentist, when the hygienist pointed out my slightly-inflamed gums, didn't berate me about brushing, but asked if I slept with my mouth open (yes) and said they were probably drying out overnight, and if they haven't gotten any worse in 15+ years it was probably no big deal.

So how do you find a good dentist in a new city anyway? Most of the people I know are either students who go when they're back home, or don't go for lack of insurance. I'm about to start asking my teachers for reccomendations.

Check yelp. I believe they list doctors, so they might list dentists, too.

Sorry, someone has to say it; you have to floss every day.

Re: Floss EVERY day!

I have an awesome dentist... I needed one in the DC area, and friend #1 who was native to the area suggested Dr. August. I went, dentist was quite good. Friend #2, who really hadn't been to see a dentist in, um, a while... well, he took our suggestion and went there too.

Consequentially, the hygenist had to scrape on him for a rather long while to get through all the plaque. They tend to brief the dentist out in the hall, so Dr. August knew that Friend #2 hadn't been taking the best care he could. The doc came in, sat down and had a poke about, as they do. Checked the gums, looked at the front and back teeth, all the while, chatting with Friend #2, what do you do, have you been having any pain, does it hurt when i do this, etc... the doc got to "how often do you floss?" and Friend #2 sheepishly admitted that he didn't floss very often.

At this point, the doc wanted to have a look at the lower teeth where the tongue normally covers them up, so he takes some gauze, and asks my friend to run out his tongue. Dr. August took a gentle but firm grip on my friend's tongue, and said "now repeat after me. 'i will floss every day.' "

My friend: "AH WIW FWASS EVVEWY DEY"

The rest of the appointment went swimmingly.

Upon his relation of this story to me, we came to the agreement that Dr. August is pretty damned awesome and knows how best to engage a good and useful long-term memory.

Having a nice dentist can make such a difference.

A friend of mine is a dentist who advertises with the tagline, "No judgment. No lectures. And we'll never ask you questions with instruments in your mouth," or something to that effect. I've always felt that, if I lived nearby, this would sell me completely.

FWIW, she actually practices a pretty short bus ride away from my neck of the woods. I'm thinking of calling her up at some point, once I get preventative insurance again.

When I was elevenish, I went in to have my braces taken off (I wore them twice, and two expanders, with a gap of a few years to let teeth grow in, they pulled three of my canines thinking it would make the permanent teeth come in...yeah) and it should have been a happy day...

And then the doc started to grind away the glue still stuck on my teeth, he kept hitting my gums and it HURT, which I told him so. He merely told me to quit whining it doesn't hurt. Five minutes later, I'm sobbing my eyes out and the hygienist finally takes pity on me and goes to get my mother.

Needless to say I found a new orthodontist for the rest of my braces. Who was great...but I still hate having my mouth messed with.

I've never had a dentist yell at me, but I have the devil of a time getting them to listen to me. I had one tell me once when I said no about something that I had to get right with God before he could treat me (I got up and walked out, and never went back). I had one try to hoodwink me (disguising what he was doing by telling me it was something else completely) into doing something completely unnecessary (and expensive) and when I called him on it he told me I needed to find another dentist. And the last one I quit going to had naggiest staff I've ever dealt with. The dentist herself was great, but the last time I went to see her, no less than four separate people looked at my record and asked me the same two questions I'd already answered. This was about the third time that happened, and no. Just. No. No, I freelance. I'm sorry I can't schedule my next appointment six months out, but a) I don't know my schedule that far in advance, and b) I don't know if I'll have the money to pay for it. Yes, I know you're keeping an eye on my back right lower molar, and that it will need to be fixed eventually when it actually needs it, but no, I'm not going to pay you over $1000 to fix it pre-emptively. Four times. Each question.

Why don't they mark it in the computer record and train staff not to do that sort of thing??? Do they really think if they ask enough times I'll change my mind? It's not like I didn't tell them I'd already been asked that, thank you. Several times.

Sorry. I probably shouldn't have ranted all over your blog, Ursula. I'm glad you've found a dentist you can work with, I really am.

On the subject of getting the same question multiple times, you are probably completely right about it being poor communication, especially if it was that same exact question. However, sometimes in a clinical setting, there's actually some intentional repeat--not because they want you to change your answer, but because sometimes people remember to add something they forgot the first time that ultimately helps. Again, though, it sounds like this was just them being repetitive.