Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Down with Dentistry!... or at least give me back my $15

Today I went to my first dentist appointment in five years. It was an awful, awful experience.

I'm not afraid of the dentist. The reason I hate going to the dentist boils down to a) having to sit in a chair for an hour or longer, and b) I really hate sitting in the same position for an hour. Also, the idea of dentist as "doctor" sort of puts me off. Dentistry is two steps above cosmetology: own it, learn to love it, ADA. So I wasn't thrilled about calling or going, and only did it because I'm an adult and feel it's expected. Kind of how I try to eat a non-Coco Wheats-based breakfast at least once a week.

When I arrived at the office (after biking there -- and if I can digress, let me just say that it makes me feel very fucking accomplished to run basic errands on my bike, to be riding with a real purpose besides exercise) I knew I might be in trouble when the first thing they wanted to do was take my picture, "for [their] files." Now, I'm not a super paranoid person. I have a picture of myself on this very blog and I am aware that it would be quite easy to Photoshop me kicking it with Gaddafi, or put my head on a naked body, perhaps going so far as to replace my face with a giant boob. That's what living in the 21st century is all about! However, I could fathom no sane reason why a dentist's office would need to have a mug shot of me, especially when I haven't even established myself as a regular client yet. So I said no.

"Well, we just want to take it."
"And I'm just saying no."
"Fine," the receptionist says, frostily. "I'll put down that you refused." She typed a note on her computer, brusquely.

Already I have established myself as a suspicious freak who is afraid that a 200-year-old technology will steal her soul. Awesome! They also charged me a $15 copay for X-rays and cleaning (remember that, kids!), even though they said there would be no copay over the phone.

The dental hygienist takes me back and they take approximately 32,712 X-rays. Really, guys, I don't think those were all necessary. Then the dentist comes in, and I prepare to sit in that fucking chair for an hour. But all he does is look at my teeth and shout out a bunch of numbers. "2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 2, 69, negative 7, pi, 4...." Turns out these are gum measurements, and even though I looked it up when I got home and those aren't terrible numbers for a person of 29 who used to smoke and isn't hyper-diligent about dental care, he made it seem like I am on the brink of total mouthal collapse.

"You got here just in time!" isn't a phrase that you'll hear in a dentist's office very often. Getting there "just in time" is what happens when you rush to the hospital with an almost-burst appendix, not when the teeth that have been serving me well lo these past twenty-three years have a slightly-above-average amount of decay. That was my first tip-off that this place was a scam gallery. The second was the fact that the walls were covered with ads for adult braces, surgical whitening, and various other totally unnecessary procedures. (I'm telling you, it's a form of cosmetology!) The third is that he didn't even give me a cleaning, saying that it would be unsafe to do it without doing the gum treatment. I didn't ask if I should continue to brush my teeth or eat solid food. I mean, if my mouth is in such a desperate, terminal condition, surely those things will harm it too. But I'm not the fake doctor around here.

This fake religion is also bullshit.
Oh yeah, the procedure: even though my gums are only borderline terrible, he is convinced that I need a full work-over, two hour-long gum treatment sessions with bonus tongue scraping ($131) and "prophylaxis" ($88). The whole dealie will cost $369.00, and when I heard that, I laughed right out loud. And thus ended my time at the dental clinic. See you in five years, dentistry!

My husband Rob, long-time hater of dentists and their craft, was neither surprised nor sympathetic, clearly thinking I had burned myself out of my $15 and 90 minutes by dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight glinting off an angled mirror. I've joked that he is to dentistry what Scientologists are to psychiatry. I had been more forgiving (I've never been denied a basic cleaning before!), but now I think I am ready to become the Ron Miscavige to his L. Ron Hubbard.

Even though I didn't actually get my teeth cleaned, I did learn that I have no cavities, which is basically the only thing I care about. Well, not as much as that fifteen dollars. I could buy SO MUCH useless junk for fifteen dollars!



  1. erica, think of all the CANDY you could buy for fifteen smackeroos!

    seriously though, that "dentist" is sketch city. wtffffff. o_O

  2. I'm not a fan either, but given that bad teeth can lead to things like kidney disease, I'd say that dentistry is more than just two knotches above cosmetics :-p This is also why I think it's ridiculous that it isn't subsidised by the government, like a visit to the GP is.

    I just went to the dentist last week and spent $370 on a mini Xray, a filling, and finding out that I'd need another filling in a month's time. Fantastic. Still, better that than tooth-ache or other problems down the track because of rot getting into the rest of my system.

    And my dentist had a sense of humour, which I appreciate.

  3. GP visits... subsidized by the government... what is this moon language??!! :P

    Yeah, I'm gathering that these prices aren't as outrageous as I first thought, but I still hesitate to do it. I'm not working right now and don't have $360 kicking around for a non-emergency health-related situation. (I do however have $360 kicking around for a new bike... priorities, priorities.)

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