Semi annual trip to the dentist yesterday. Let me go on the record and tell you I’m quite compulsive when it comes to oral hygiene, floss a couple times a day, brush a couple times a day, Listerine etc. Consequently I see a trip to the dentist as a nice confirmation of my fastidiousness habits. And, typically the habits are rewarded, although I’m not sure that the hygienist doesn’t subscribe to the theory that since she’s got no where else to be for the next ½ hour she’ll scrape at nothing anyway. This came to a particular head when she grabbed the dental floss. “Uh.. I don’t need that.” “Oh but I have to do it.” “No you don’t” “Yes… I do, “No, You DON’T”. “Look here, I floss twice a day.. look at my teeth, you commented yourself that I’ve got no gum disease or plaque to speak off”. “Well, I need to floss your teeth it’s part of your treatment.” “My treatment involves booze, I assure you this is no treatment”.
I won that one.
I have, however, noticed a disturbing trend in my dental visits of late. The last three times I’ve been in, including yesterday, the Dentist himself, who swoops in after the hygienist has completed her deal, finds some kind of decay that I had no idea I had. Thanks to X-Rays he’s able to see decay that is invisible to the naked eye.
Which, based on my complete lack of any indicating symptoms, and having happened now THREE times in a row now, I’m starting to suspect something. My darker side is starting to think that old farts with clean teeth who don’t require a lot of extra treatment aren’t much of a profit center for these guys. My last filling, which was the size of a pinhead for example, I’m still not certain that I needed it. I recently read a piece that cited a study where several dentists were given the same set of x-rays to examine. They all found decay.. but all found them on different teeth. Makes you wonder.
This seems to be the new health care paradigm. Now at the dentist I’m going to go with his assessment that I have decay. He took the time to show me how, on the X-ray the tooth looks slightly different than the ones next to it. It’s an old root canal from when I was like 20, BTW- an experience that was so painful and so traumatic that I’ve never been the same person in the chair, even 30 years later.
I digress. Last year I had yet another chunk of skin sliced off and sent to a lab. Got a call about 10 days later that I would have to come in to discuss the biopsy results. People who have had cancer don’t like to hear biopsy or come in in the same sentence, sets off serious panic attacks. When I asked if I could have the results over the phone I was told “you’ll need to come in and talk with Doctor”. Dum dum DUUUUMM. I spent three sleepless nights and angst filled days before I finally had the appointment, where I was told.. “the results are normal, we’re putting you back on the once a year check up”.
Relief quickly gave way to anger as I realized that, 1) I’d been put through needless anxiety for this and 2) the my heath care provider had found a way to relive me of a $50.00 co-pay for something that should have been done over the phone. Apparently that was “policy” in case I had any questions.
While the hygienist finished up and after I had put all my clothes back on, the dentist was out working on the computer, apparently figuring out the bill so he could pre-authorize the procedure he wanted to do. I was pissed to be honest. The hygienist, sensing my anger put on her “caring” face and asked if I was upset about the procedure. “I’m upset about paying for the procedure to be honest.” The reason I’m compulsive about my teeth, and um.. virtually nothing else in my life, is to avoid these procedures. I’ve heard enough old folks like me, sitting in the chairs on the other side of the wall, being told about their gum surgeries and so forth. Saw the brother in law have his entire mouth sliced up to correct years of dental neglect. He’s also from West Virginia where hoof and mouth disease are endemic so I’m not sure that anything would have actually helped, but decades of Pall Malls couldn’t have helped.
I don’t think the lady knew quite what to think of me, based on her look. I walked out to the lobby where the dentist was waiting. “Need you sign these Gar… “ He and I know each other outside the office too, so at times, I’m a bit informal.
“Looks like it’ll be about $1300, insurance pays about half.” Holy shit.. $750.00 American? “just pull the fucking thing” I said. The dentist looked up at me, “no, we’re not ‘just pulling the fucking thing’”. He actually dropped the f-bomb too. “It’s in the middle of your mouth, you’ll look stupid and still have pay for a bridge or an implant.”
“Dr. Look at me, old fat ugly guy, way post peak, why the hell would I give a shit about one tooth here or there. It isn’t going to make a difference in my life. If I’m going to lose my teeth anyway, let’s start with this one.”
He shook his head and looked closer at the x-ray.. “You know, I’m going to send this off to a specialist to take a look. There’s a chance that you’re going to lose the tooth anyway, then we’ll be talking bridge. We could also do an implant but that’s going to be significantly more expensive.” “Wouldn’t a hole be easier to keep clean?”
He responded with, “This could be the dumbest conversation I’ve had in months.. we’re NOT leaving you with a hole in your face to save a couple hundred dollars. Besides, your teeth are healthy, you’re aren’t losing them any time soon.” Ohh. “Ah HA, so I have healthy teeth now, but not so healthy that they don’t cost me $3000.00 a year.
He has more cooperative patients apparently; at least that’s what he implied. The specific language he used to describe me being more relevant in a proctologists office than a dentist, unless we’re talking about washing hands and I don’t wanna go there.
When I got home and explained to Mrs S the conversation we’d had she replied that she didn’t know if she should be more embarrassed about my using the f-bomb at the dentists office or my making a stupid argument about paying for a tooth, or my stand on flossing.
She suggested that she would not be kissing a man with a missing tooth. I suggested that would mean I could finally grow the beard I’ve been craving, the futile hope of a kiss or two being the deal breaker there. If that hope went away.. why no telling what sort of cool facial hair I could sprout, not to mention saving myself $750.00. See, there’s a silver lining to every cloud.