I’m scared of dentists, but not because of drills, or root canals, or cavities. I’m scared of dentists because I don’t trust them. I’m at the point where if a dentist tells me I have a cavity (even a tiny one) I’m heading for a second opinion.
A few years ago, I changed dentists because I became unhappy with my previous one. I sought out the internet to help with my search. I sifted through reviews and found a dentist near me, who, by what was written, many people seemed satisfied with. So I called and made an appointment.
The office was located in the downtown-area of town, near the train station amid small-businesses and family-run stores and restaurants. I opened the door to a fashionably modern office. Shiny floors, no carpets. Music playing through over-head speakers hanging on the ceilings containing words – no elevator music here!
In the corner was a Keurig machine sitting on a table stacked with k-cups of flavored coffee and tea. I took my seat in the waiting room and thumbed through a magazine as background noise from the flat screen TV hanging on the wall and people chatting at the front desk filled the air.
The door leading to the back of the office opened and a pleasant looking middle-aged woman appeared and she called my name. I followed her down a hallway and she welcomed me into a mini-sized room.
A documentary of some sort was playing on a small-screen monitor a few feet away from me. I settled into my chair, ready for her to start cleaning my teeth, but the friendly woman told me to sit tight and she’d be right back. My attention swayed to the monitor and I listened as the narrator explained the danger of mercury – especially the mercury in our fillings.
I admit. I have a mouthful of silver resulting from a childhood of eating taffy and drinking endless gallons of pop. Who knew sugar caused cavities? Apparently, not my mom. And I’m sure it isn’t good to have all this mercury in my mouth, but I was left alone to watch this film for twenty minutes. I never had to look back so many times before in my life.
Where was this woman?
Finally, she popped in and casually asked how I was doing, as though only a few minutes had gone by, and then she reacted super surprised at something the narrator said in the film. “Oh my god!” she griped. “I didn’t know that could happen!” Whatever that was, I was to believe it was so horrendous that if I didn’t get these fillings out now, I would die… Like, right now, die.
I had resented so much already about my visit and I hadn’t even “opened wide” yet. First, I resented being forced to watch this film. They got me in the room, tucked me into a chair, laid a thin cloth around my neck, and I felt trapped. I had nowhere to go and they knew it. I resented that they used my time to force me to watch a film to scare the hell out of me so they can get a lead into selling me more service.
I’m sure replacing silver fillings isn’t cheap. Cha-ching!
I also resented that the woman thought I was stupid enough to believe that she didn’t have that documentary, the one replaying over and over with every patient she saw, memorized by now. I wasn’t buying that she was “shockingly surprised” by anything that narrator said. Needless to say, their scare tactic didn’t work. Silver fillings still shine brightly in my mouth and I will decide when it comes out.
Finally, she started cleaning my teeth and immediately a look of concern covered her face. “Your gums are very red,” she stated. “I really recommend a deep cleaning process. This isn’t good.”
“Okay,” I answered, unsure what this all meant. I knew good health began in your mouth, but when she started talking so fast and all I could make out were “heart” and “early signs” and “insurance doesn’t cover” and “four-hundred and fifty dollars”, I stopped her. This is the first I’d heard about my gums being this bad and never had I needed a “special” kind of cleaning and I am a regular dentist goer. I wasn’t buying this traumatic bit so I asked her nicely to just give me the cleaning that my insurance would cover.
I could tell she wasn’t happy with my decision, but didn’t say anything more about it. She started with the regular cleaning and, back in pleasant mode, she asked how old I was.
“Thirty-seven,” I replied.
“Do you have children?”
“Are you married?”
Huge head swing down toward my direction and she looked at me with astonished eyes. I felt so worried for her that I had to reassure her that I was okay with not being married or having kids. Seriously, lady. Here’s a paper bag. Take a deep breath. These things happen.
She quickly agreed that it was no big deal and carried on about the perks of being single and free. I was sure her act was an attempt to cover herself in case I took offense by her reaction. I didn’t, but some women may have. Hopefully, she has learned to keep a neutral facial expression when she has a patient in the chair.
When that lovely experience was over, it was time for me to meet the doctor.
A young, pretty brunette draped in a professional white doctor’s coat greeted me at my side. She offered her hand, as well as one of the best fake, forced smiles I’d ever seen. She spoke in a manner that immediately made me think – sorority girl.
She reclined my seat back and instructed me to open wide…as wide as I could, and then she and her assistant, sitting on the other side of me, went to work. I lay on the chair with my eyes closed as they chatted away. In between the two women’s banter, the doctor would tell me how wonderful I was doing and then, since it was December, asked about my holiday plans, while her fingers and some object sucking my saliva was in my mouth.
It wasn’t a great time for a conversation. But she hadn’t seem to notice as she carried on about how she wished all her patients were as wonderful as I apparently was being. (eye roll) Oh, and the office had some great items for sale that would make excellent holiday gift bags! Seriously. My dentist couldn’t say enough about how said items were the perfect present.
“Right,” I thought, because nothing would make me more popular than stuffing someone’s stocking with dental products. It’s what everyone wants for Christmas!
“Thanks Alicia! How’d you know?” My lucky recipients would ask while tugging the stocking close to their heart.
Yes, that’s exactly how that crappy gift would play out.
She didn’t find any cavities, but she did notice a small space between a couple of my teeth and a slight overbite. I told her I wear a retainer at night and she immediately asked if I’d heard of Invisalign. I had. She went on her sales pitch and I told her to give me the information. It cost three thousand dollars – that was all the information I needed to decide I was out, but she continued with her spiel.
She showed me some brochures and I said I’d take them home with me — to throw into my garbage. She left me alone with the assistant for a couple minutes and then came back, all smiley-faced, and asked if I was ready to make the molds.
I was suspicious. “Molds for the Invasiign?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she smiled. “We can do that right away.”
For three thousand dollars I was sure they could do anything right away.
At that point, I was very upset. I had been perfectly clear when I stated that I needed to think about it. The entire office had felt like one big bully, but I remained cordial, and told her again that I would need to think about it.
Her pretty smile wasn’t working on this lesbian.
As we were wrapping up the appointment, the doctor offered me a Starbucks gift card in exchange for a review of my experience. “We thrive on reviews,” she explained, and, I could conveniently use the office computer!
I left without writing a review because my review wouldn’t be one she’d want to reward. Seriously? Reviews for coffee? I walked to my car, grimacing my freshly-polished teeth, knowing I’d been sold out by reviewers for a cup of coffee. Damn you Starbucks!
Dentists, please don’t bribe me to write a positive review for you. Bribery makes it seem it’s the only way you can get a good review, and judging from my experience, it probably is the case for this particular dentist.
Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net