Posts Tagged ‘Modern Dentristry’

“Now if 6 turned out to be 9 — I don’t mind, I don’t mind!”
Jimi Hendrix

Longing for a good scraping

My sister and I share something in common. We both enjoy going to the dental hygienist. There is something about that scraping feeling gives us a reason to return. Well, I like to go to my dentist in LA, which is a challenge living in Prescott, AZ.   But I try at least every four months to make the trek.

It’s been several months since my last visit, so I thought that I would look  for a local dentist to clean my teeth before I could return to California again.  One day, while leaving Starbucks, I saw the sign:

$59 cleaning and x-ray special

Of course, free would have been better, but at 59 bucks, what could possibly go wrong?   I went in and made an appointment for a week later.   After filling out my forms online, and upon my return I was greeted by a business-attractive receptionist who called me ‘sir.’ I guess we all get older.  She asked me to sign an electronic affirmation of my medical history, and again  for something I wasn’t quite sure about and yet again for the HIPAA (privacy) rules.

Instinctively, I brought a copy of Colleen McCullough’s The October Horse – an 1,100-page tome about Caesar just in case I had to wait longer than usual for my first appointment at an unknown dentist’s office.  But it wasn’t but a moment when the dentist came out– a spry looking man who looked like he should be at the at the local tavern playing darts with a Red Bull in his hand or perhaps conducting a sales meeting at the local General Motors dealer rather than exploring my mouth parts.

“So why are you here?” the dentist asked.

“I want to get my teeth cleaned,” I replied.  “My dentist is in Los Angeles, but I haven’t been there in several months so I would like to get my teeth cleaned today.”

“Your dentist is in Los Angeles? How does that work out for you?”

“I prefer a light touch,” I replied with feigned jocularity.

He chuckled politely.  “Do you have any questions for me?”

“No, I don’t. ”

“Well, you make my job easy; I’ll catch up with you in a little while.  Just wait and  the X-ray technician to be with you soon.”

I cracked open The October Horse and began to read.  In a little while the x-ray technician appeared and led me to a very modern looking x-ray room.  She x-rayed my full face (panorama), made individual tooth x-rays and then took beautiful colors portraits of each tooth individually.

“Oh, my goodness you have good-looking teeth! May I ask how old you are? Oh, that old? — that’s just amazing!”

“You Must Be Diseased!”

Now, over to the dental hygienist’s room for a “diagnosis.”  I should have seen what was coming when I saw the flat-screen monitor integrated into the chair with my x-rays already on the screen. Everything was so modern it was hard to believe.  Before I could say hello, the hygienist entered and began her small talk:

“When was the last time you were at the dentist?”

“About four months ago,” I dutifully responded.

She said, “oh, you must go to the dentist that often because you have periodontal disease.”

I said, “no, not to my knowledge. I just like to go to the dentist.”  I continued to educate, “If it were up to me, I would be in here every week getting my teeth scraped!”

She was not amused.

She examined my teeth calling out the gum depth numbers as they appeared on the screen in front of me (presumably for the doctor to use later).

As I had expected, the dentist entered as if on cue.  Now there were three people in the room behind me.  After a bit of a pitch, he seemed to want the hygienist to brandish a laser beam on my back teeth and then replace my fillings with CAD-CAM-generated plugs that he would design on-the-spot.  (The fillings that he wanted to replace were 4 years old).

We turned as a nice looking man appeared — The dentist continued, “This is your ‘benefits manager.’  He will discuss payment and financing.  And I’ll see you later. But first, we are going to retake some x-rays!”

“Turn it up to 125(%) and Make Him Glow!”

The x-ray tech was unable to get the full molar in frame and asked for help from younger x-ray tech who came bouncing into the room with a rather low cut V-neck smock. She bent over, barely hitting my face with her decolletage. She too was unable to get the right angle.

Then, when I overheard her tell the first tech to turn the power up to 125% (instead of the usual 80%), I had had enough:

“Ladies, STOP!  We are done with the x-rays!”

My Failed Exit Strategy

I should have left the office then, but the ‘benefits manager’ was too quick for me.  He brought me back into the hygienist’s room with 4 spreadsheets.

Sensing what was coming, I immediately asked, “Would you like to give me a shot before you show me the prices?”

“Hey, that’s a good idea!” He continued, “I understand you are self-insured. Well, today I can offer you dental insurance $200 which means that the normal $1000 cleaning will only be $650!” (I’m used to paying about $125 for deep cleaning in LA). “Now as for the other doctor’s recommendations –  replacing your existing fillings, we have this figure:  $3400. Just sign right here and we’ll get started!”

“I think I’ll pass.”

“I’m sorry if the price is more than you can afford”

“It’s not the money!”

“What is it then? Have you seen too many faces today on your first visit to our office?”

Again, trying to be clever, I answered, “It feels like I’ve seen half of Prescott!  And the experience reminds me of the old joke about going to the movie theater: ‘Today it costs nothing to get in, but $20 to get out!’ I am sure that you have my best interests at heart, and that your system works fine for most of your patients, but the momentum for me is just a little more than I was expecting.”

“What do you want?”

“I just wanted my teeth cleaned!”

“Oh, you mean the $59 special for just a regular prophylaxes, the normal cleaning?”


“Oh, I guess that I could still get someone in here to do that for you; just sign right here!  How does that sound?”

“At this point I could take it or leave it.  I’ve been x-rayed twice and preemptively diagnosed by your hygienist.   — I think I’ll just pass so that you can give me the ‘bum’s rush,‘ thanks.”

“Well,” he said recovering swiftly, “I still have to check you out, just sign right here and you’ll be free to go!”

Finding My Way Back Home

I had been in the office for two hours!  I could see on the spreadsheet that had I not been under the protection of the $59 Special, that I might have been on the hook for $600 before anyone had lifted a periodontal scaler to fulfill my initial desire and request:  to clean my teeth!

After the visit, I called my sister to relate my experience.  She quickly answered with a slight sense of helplessness in her voice, “the same thing happened to me!” she said.  “I am still paying for the filling plugs they put in that fell out two years later!”

After commiserating, I got in the car, put on Jimi Hendrix and went home.

“If all the hippies cut off all their hair –

I don’t care.  I don’t care!

Dig: Cuz I’ve got my own world to live through

and I ain’t gonna copy you!”

— Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 was 9

Hendrix’ Axis Bold as Love


I still receive unsolicited emails from this “Modern” Dentistry company reminding me of bogus appointments. 😉


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