Being Nice Doesn’t Have To Be Like Pulling Teeth

, , , | Hopeless | April 11, 2019

(I study dentistry in France. Like every fourth- to sixth-year student, I work at the dental clinic. It’s divided into wards like surgery, care, emergencies, etc. This way, although unpractical for patients who have to take like three appointments for something a normal dentist could do in one, we can make sure the same person takes care of their patients if they’re nice and/or interesting to work on. One day at the care ward, I get a patient for something that should be taken care of by the emergency ward. After a brief talk with my professor, he agrees I can just take the patient in so he doesn’t have to wait any more than he already has. The procedure is routine and I take care of it in ten minutes; however, it requires the use of something that has a bad taste. As usual, I profusely apologize about it.)

Patient: “Don’t worry; you’re great!”

Me: “Haha, thanks!”

(I get everything wrapped up and inform him that we have to remove another tooth, and that we may have to remove the one I worked on. He has health issues, and I want a second opinion before subjecting him to a lengthy procedure for a tooth he might ultimately have to have removed. I, therefore, offer to show him where the surgery ward is. On the way there:)

Patient: “What’s your name?”

Me: *pointing to my badge* “My name is [My Full Name]. I can write it down if you want.”

Patient: “Oh, yeah! Perfect, thank you! You’re really the best, and I want you to be my dentist forever!”

(I laugh and write my name down, thanking him for the compliment. As mentioned before, I barely even worked on his tooth, so I don’t know how he got the idea I was so great. I tell him when I’ll next be in the surgery ward and he tells me he’ll be there. Fast forward a few days and, sure enough, he’s here. We get him in the chair and start working on the tooth we have to remove. It’s a difficult tooth and we fiddle around with it for maybe 45 minutes before managing to extract it. For comparison, a regular extraction takes five to ten minutes, tops. I also require the help of an experienced professor to remove it. I tell the patient something to the effect of, “It was hard, wasn’t it?”)

Patient: “Oh, not at all! I knew that you really were the best! As soon as you started working on it, bam! It popped right out!”

(I laughed and thanked him again for the compliment. Amongst all the crazy and entitled patients I get, it really cheers me up when I see someone this nice. It reminds me I’m doing this to help people smile!)

Brace Yourself; Parents Are Coming

, , , , , | Healthy | February 28, 2019

(I’m a dental assistant at an orthodontics office where we have several locations, but we switch between locations daily. It’s planned out months in advance for scheduling purposes which doctors and team will be at which location. I’m covering phones for some girls that work front desk because the assistants don’t have any patients when this goes down over the phone. A patient’s Momzilla calls.)

Mom: “My son has a broken bracket again. I need an appointment for today to fix it.”

Me: “All right, well, we’re pretty slow for the next few hours at [location], but if you can come in before the afternoon we can see him.”

(I get the patient info to look at the chart and schedule her son.)

Mom: “You make sure the doctor knows this is an emergency. I have had to come in twelve times already to fix multiple brackets, and he only got his braces on five months ago. This is ridiculous; you all are supposed to know what you’re actually doing there. I’ll be at [location that’s closed] in an hour.”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry about that, but [location I’m at] is the one that’s open today.”

Mom:What? That doesn’t work for me. Didn’t you hear me say this is an emergency? Tell the doctor to come to this office for my son.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but we will be getting busy soon, and our doctor can’t just leave for another location. If you can make it to this one today, I’ll schedule that walk-in, but it’s Friday, and the next day we have appointments at that location isn’t until Wednesday.”


Me: “Okay, well, maybe you should stop letting him have what looks like taffy and caramel popcorn, which we told you he is not allowed to have because it can break his brackets or wire. I assisted the doctor the last three times your son was in, and he also can’t brush out all the bits of those foods from his back teeth, so at this point, there’s nothing we can do if you can’t listen to simple directions.”

(The mom hung up on me, and later called and told the front desk girls that it was no big deal, and they’d just come in on Wednesday.)

Their Real Selves Bear Teeth

, , , , , , | Healthy | February 15, 2019

(I’m at the dentist, and he suggests I go to the hygienist for a clean, etc. I say okay, though I’m not convinced I need it. I’ve not been to the dentist for a couple of years, but my teeth are in great shape, as I look after them well. The following conversation proves me right, and I have not been back since.)

Hygienist: “You know, your teeth are quite incredibly clean considering it’s been six months since we last saw you.”

Me: “Actually, it’s been two years since you last saw me.”

Hygienist: “Well, you really should have come in before now, then! Your teeth need a clean!”

Me: *long pause* “Goodbye.”

Fighting Tooth And Nail To Get Your Money

, , , , | Healthy | January 28, 2019

(I’m on Medicaid since I’m working at an unfunded startup and don’t have any income — I got a sizable equity stake to compensate — nor does the company offer any insurance. I haven’t been to the dentist in a couple of years since my previous job’s dental coverage expired, and I’ve finally overcome my laziness to find a new one. There are only a few dentists in the area I have moved to in the interim who take Medicaid; I look them up on Yelp just to get a general idea of people’s experiences, and pick the one that had the best reviews.)

Dentist: “Your front top and bottom teeth are clicking against each other, when the top ones should be in front of the bottoms. This is causing your bottom teeth to be pushed out of alignment and is producing some gum recession.”

(This seems reasonable, and I have noticed that the gums around my front bottom teeth are thinning a bit.)

Dentist: “This is a serious problem that you should address immediately. You should set up an appointment as soon as possible for us to get you on [Name-Brand Clear-Aligner Orthodontic Treatment].”

(Denti-Cal, California’s Medicaid dental coverage, isn’t that comprehensive; I doubt they’ll cover a multi-thousand-dollar orthodontic treatment for an adult, and I don’t have that kind of out-of-pocket money at the moment. Also, while this dentist does apparently do both dentistry and orthodontics, from childhood I’m used to seeing a separate orthodontist.)

Me: “Thanks for letting me know, but I don’t want to do that procedure at this time.”

Dentist: “You need a deep cleaning since it’s been so long since your last cleaning.” *shows me x-rays* “If we just did a regular cleaning, we might not get all of this plaque that’s built up under the gum line. I don’t see any infection, but a long-term plaque buildup could lead to one.”

(This also seems reasonable, since it has been a couple of years, and the last time I went that long between cleanings I also needed a deep cleaning. At the time this takes place Denti-Cal doesn’t cover deep cleanings, so I have to cover the $400 charge out of pocket, but figure that’s my burden for waiting so long. Wanting a second opinion on the tooth-alignment issue, I schedule to see my childhood orthodontist when I’m home seeing my parents a few months later. I haven’t seen him in at least a decade, and there’s no chance of him getting any business from me since he’s on the opposite coast.)

Orthodontist: “Your teeth have shifted a fair amount since we last saw you. No, that clicking isn’t ideal, but the gum issues aren’t that bad and aren’t an immediate concern. You should probably address it in the next few years, but I’d recommend seeing someone who only does orthodontics, not a dentist who does orthodontics on the side.”

(Maybe there’s some professional snobbery involved with that last comment, but I’m more focused on the so-called “immediate issue” not being that much of an emergency, which I had suspected. At the next dentist appointment:)

Hygienist: “You know, your teeth are rather discolored. I think you should have us do a whitening procedure!”

Me: “My teeth aren’t that bad, and I’m not that concerned about my appearance. Also, in case you weren’t aware, I’m on Denti-Cal, which I’m pretty sure wouldn’t cover that, and which means I don’t really have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spare on a cosmetic procedure. So, no, I won’t be doing that.”

(Ten minutes later:)

Hygienist: “I really do think you’d look so much better if you got your teeth whitened! We’d do a really good job of it!”

Me: “I already said I both didn’t want to and couldn’t afford that.”

Hygienist: “Okay. Well, the dentist recommends you get a gum irrigation while you’re here, for the infection.”

Me: “What infection?! When I was here last time I was told I didn’t have any, and that I should do a deep cleaning to avoid any notable chance of one.”

Hygienist: “Well, no, you don’t have an infection, but the irrigation would further ensure you don’t get one.”

Me: “I was told last time that a deep cleaning was sufficient, and it seems that it was. I don’t like the insinuation that I have a problem when there’s not actually a problem. If I don’t have an infection, this sounds like an unnecessary procedure, and I’m not paying for it.”

(The hygienist finishes my regular cleaning.)

Hygienist: “Are you sure you don’t want your teeth whitened?”

Me: “No. I do not. Want. My teeth. Whitened. I said that twice already in no uncertain terms. Don’t ask me again.”

(The dentist comes in for the post-cleaning check.)

Dentist: “So, when do you want us to remove your wisdom teeth?”

Me: “Is there something wrong with them?! They came in several years ago, there’s enough room in my jaw for them, and I haven’t had any issues with them to date.”

Dentist: “No, but many of my patients get them removed just to avoid any complications.”

Me: “I’m currently 28. My dad didn’t have his removed until his 50s, and that was in response to some tangible problems he was having. I’m on Denti-Cal, and this probably isn’t covered. I’m not paying that kind of money right now to possibly avoid some problem that may never crop up, or may not crop up for decades. Please stop trying to sell me a bunch of unnecessary procedures, especially when you should know, from my insurance, that I probably don’t have much money to fritter away on things I don’t absolutely need.”

(I am rather annoyed by this whole ordeal, but I make an appointment for six months later since they at least seemed to do a capable job of cleaning my teeth. My usual inertia about switching dentists leads me to not find another one in the interim, so I go back. The cleaning is shorter than usual, possibly since I’ve started using a water flosser in addition to brushing.)

Dentist: “You know, that under-bite hasn’t gotten any better. You should really get [Clear Orthodontics Product].”

Me: “I’m still on Denti-Cal. It’s still not covered as far as I know, and I’m still not in a position to afford that. If and when I do decide to fix the problem, I will see a full-time orthodontist.”

Dentist: “All right, then. Next time you come in, you should do a deep cleaning, because I see some noticeable plaque buildup under your gums.”

Me: “I’ve been using a water flosser for several months now. You showed me the x-rays you took before the cleaning and there were maybe two tiny spots of plaque under all of my teeth put together. While Denti-Cal now covers deep cleanings, I’m not going to do that when there’s absolutely no reason to. I’m sick and tired of being pressured and cajoled into all manner of questionably necessary, or flat-out unnecessary, procedures. No other dentist I’ve ever been to has ever behaved like this. I’m not coming back.”

(I actually didn’t come back this time, and when they called me six months later to remind me of my next appointment, I told them again that I was never setting foot in their door.)

Can’t Fight Tooth Or Nail For That Appointment

, , , | Right | January 16, 2019

(I work at a very small dentist office in a very small town. We service at least 1,000 patients with one dentist. It’s a Friday. The doctor is at a meeting all day and I am just here answering phones. We are an affordable dentist office. Nothing fancy here.)

Me: “Dr. [Dentist]’s office; how can I help you?”

Patient: “Yeah, um, I was in there a few months ago and had a root canal. I couldn’t afford a crown, so the doc did his magic, but the filling is really loose and I think it may come out. Can I come in this afternoon and have him fix it again?”

Me: “Oh, no! I am so sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, the doctor is out today and we are completely filled up on Monday. I will be more than happy to get you in on Tuesday around two o’clock.”

Patient: “WHAT?! Tuesday is too long to wait! My tooth is already ruined. If I wait until Tuesday it will be totally ruined! I will just go somewhere else!”

Me: “That’s fine, sir. Have a great day.”

(This happens more often than not. People think they are the only patients we have and that the world revolves around their tiny, sad, smalltown lives. Twenty minutes go by. The phone rings again.)

Me: ”Dr. [Dentist]’s office; how can I help you?”

Patient: “Yeah, um, I’ll take the two o’clock on Tuesday…”

Me: “Not a problem, sir. I’ve got you down and we will see you then. Thanks and have a great day.”

(Sad thing is, he probably called around and found out how much most other dentists charge for simple procedures. You’re paying for his nice new office, chairs, all the pretty assistants, and his new BMW parked outside.)

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