The Search for an Honest Dentist  


- Worth a gold mine if you can find an honest one.

- Otherwise, you are the gold mine.

Remember Diogenes, who wandered around with a lantern searching for an honest man?

I feel like Diogenes except I am just a simple man with a phone book in search of an honest dentist.

Compounding the problem is that I am something of a dental phobic. 

No, scratch that. I am a BAD dental phobic.

You wind me an outlandish conspiratorial tale concerning dentists and odds are I will believe it. 

I have had too many lousy experiences with dentists to think otherwise.

A Summary of My Dental History

When I was a kid my teeth rather closely resembled that of my favorite character, Bugs Bunny.  I spent several years wearing the latest and greatest orthodontic hardware and got to have lots of fluoride treatments. I don't regret that, other than the fact that the fluoride made me pretty sick.  However, I think it contributed to the fewer than seven fillings in my mouth.

Out of high school and out my own, visiting another dentist was the furtherest thing from my mind. 
I have always been one to brush and floss regularly so I was not concerned with cavities.

My next visit to the dentist was a mandatory one, courtesy of the US Navy. A set of X-rays revealed two cavities in the upper left side of my mouth. 

This was in basic training up in Great Lakes.

A dental tech (probably an E-3) seated me in the chair, put rubber bands, a cover of some sort over my mouth so only mouth was exposed. 

This was prep for the dentist.

A couple minutes later, another dental tech came in.  He was a petty officer, had horn rimmed glasses and was bouncing a tennis ball.  He came over, looked at me,  make a smart a$%$ed comment and stuck his head down close to my mouth to get a better view.

In doing so, he hooked the corner of my mouth with the rim of his glasses and pulled back.  It hurt like hell.

I grabbed the little *&*# by the collar, got out of the chair and slammed the $^^$&##! up against the wall and tried to get out a couple threats but my mouth was full of plastic, rubber bands and other dental crap.

Shortly thereafter an officer came in and yelled at me to back the f&*k off.  I then figured  I was going to be booted out of the service because I assaulted a Petty Officer and I was only a Recruit in boot camp. I was highly pi$$ed at that point didn't much care either way what  happened.

There were lots of witnesses and the Petty Officer got in lots of trouble.  I got a verbal warning and another dentist.

Those two fillings caused me trouble for years.

Trouble first showed up several years into civilian life.  I woke up one morning and had a tooth that felt like it was going to explode.  I called around and found a dentist who could take me in on short notice. 

The dentist looked at the tooth in question and asked who did the fillings on the two teeth. He thought Naval dentists did better jobs than that.  I must have been special.  One filling was incomplete and decay had worked its way under the existing filling.  The other tooth had filling material which had oozed out a bit and had formed a sharp edge in between the the two teeth. This caused another cavity in the adjacent tooth.

The dentist did a good job and told me the two teeth probably weren't going to last a long time.  This particular dentist is the only one I have ever respected.

Several years later, I woke up one day to sharp pain in one of my canine teeth. I was in a different state and needed a different dentist.  I asked around and got a couple suggestions.

I got an appointment, got in the chair and had my teeth cleaned. I didn't ask for that but I needed it anyway.  After that I was treated to a lecture about how my teeth were going to fall out if I didn't get this 'deep root' cleaning where they plane your teeth under the gums in quadrants.  A very expensive and painful procedure that is not always covered under insurance programs.

I listened to the spiel and then said I had a question.  Sure, what was my question?  I said I came in because I had a hurting tooth and why wasn't the dentist (who I hadn't seen yet) not having a look at my tooth?

Shortly thereafter the dentist came in, had a look at my tooth and found nothing wrong. The tooth might have been bruised.

Now, when did I want to start on my dental root planing? 

I passed.  

That was 18 years ago.

Four or five years later I decided I'd better go in and get my teeth cleaned because it had been four or five years. 

I selected a new dentist.

The first thing the new crew wanted to do was take a full set of x-rays, do gum probes and record pockets. 

I stopped it right there and said all I wanted was my teeth cleaned.  They said they would do that but this other stuff had to be done first.

I got out of the chair and left.

A year later I decided I really should get my teeth cleaned and started walking through the yellow pages.  Four or five calls later, I finally found a dental office that would just clean my teeth.

They cleaned my teeth, didn't try to sell me crap that I didn't think I needed and planned a repeat visit six months to get X-rays done and my teeth cleaned again.  Six months later, they moved and I decided I'd take my time making another appointment.

About five years ago I was introduced to a dental phobic's worst nightmare  - the root canal.  One of my problem teeth broke when I was eating of all things, a Wasabi Pea.  I was fortunate in that the first dental surgeon I called had an immediate opening.  One month later I had a very expensive porcelain tooth.

This guy I think did a very good job but my problem with him was that I had no options.  I didn't even know at that point there were options as to what type of fake tooth, the material and so on was available.  I think I ended up paying a lot more than what was necessary, considering where the tooth was.

The dentist did say he thought the adjacent tooth would be a problem later on but nothing to be concerned with then.

He also suggested I get more regular dental cleanings.

I conceded the point and two years later made an appointment for a dental cleaning with a new dentist in another state.  This time around the tech had a cursory look at my teeth and called the dentist. Dentist came over and informed me I needed a deep root cleaning to get me on the road to dental health.

I said, 'Look - I just want my teeth cleaned.  Period.'  The dentist said I really should have x-rays first.  I said NO, I just want my teeth cleaned and that's all.  I got angry and walked out.

A month ago my other problem tooth started feeling like I lost a filling and I did need to have my teeth cleaned.

Four or five dentists Later: 

I found one that would clean my teeth and look at the problem tooth - or so I thought.

I sat down in the chair and a nice  young lady tells me she will polish my teeth, which is a new one on me.
I asked her what that had to do with teeth cleaning and she said nothing, but they did look like they could use some polishing.  I gave in and said ok. 

They also did bite wing X-rays.  I figured that would be ok, being as I had a problem tooth.

Next, a dental tech comes in and proceeds to clean my teeth. A few minutes later she asked my how long it had been since I had my teeth cleaned and I figured it was three or four years.  She finished cleaning my teeth (did a very good job) and told me the dentist would probably recommend Deep Root Cleaning.

The dentist comes in and proceeds to tell me about the benefits of deep root cleaning and how if I want to keep all my teeth, I'd better have it done.  She said considering all the other problems, I should do that first.

She starts all this by saying that obviously someone in my family has given me bad genes when it comes to gums.

It's not my fault.

I get so tired of hearing that kind of crap. I would have respected her much more if she would have said that any perceived problems I have are the result of me not making regular trips to the dentists, not bad genes.

It's not my fault?  No fault divorces to no fault dentistry.  Kids don't  learn, it's not their fault - must be the material, the teacher or the school.  Too fat?  Couldn't possibly be because you eat too much - must be that nasty little enzyme coritsol.

I have a problem tooth.  It's not my's my ancestors. One of them had bad genes.  It is ludicrous.

I sat up, looked at her and said, 'What about my problem tooth?'

She hadn't even looked at my problem tooth, which is the main reason I called anyway.

She looks at me and says, 'What problem tooth?'

Now I am getting exasperated and point to the problem tooth and point to the X-ray. 

She looks at the X-Ray and says I  need a root canal - the tooth is too far gone. 

I said, look - it feels like I lost part of a filling.  Would you have a look at the tooth?

She looks and confirms the filling is cracked.  And it needs a root canal.

Now, when can I start with the deep root cleaning and get myself on the way to dental well being? 

I asked her again - what problems does she see. Other than the problem tooth, there are no visible problems.
However, deep root cleaning will take care of the problems underneath the gum line, which I cannot feel.

I made an appointment and then thought better of it and canceled a day later.  At this point I do not know if I really need a root canal or I am getting sold a bill of goods, as I expect this 'Deep Root Cleaning' to be.

I figure by now with all the dire warnings I've had about not getting deep root cleaning, my teeth should have fallen out at least four or five times.

Next week I am going around the office and getting opinions on dentists - again.

All I want is an honest dentist.

I want a dentist to look at the problem, give me some options and then take care of the problem.

I don't want to be financing the dentist's next exotic vacation via Deep Root Cleaning and other junk most of them seem to be peddling these days when a simple filling and regular cleaning would do just fine.

This deep root cleaning must be a real money maker.

Smells a bit to me like these people are close cousins to annuity salesmen.

June Update - Dentist #4  this month.

The fourth dentist I think is going to be a keeper.  

I walked in and gave the dentist minimal information - a tooth was hurting and I wanted a second opinion. They took one* X-ray of the tooth. She said I had a deep cavity, the filling was broken and it needed to be replaced.

I said, 'Do you think I need a Root Canal'?  

She looked again and said she didn't think so.  If the cavity was too deep then yes, that was a possibility.

So, I had the the filling removed and the tooth filled - almost.

I also found out I am in the 'One in a Hundred Club', where the nerves are wired a bit differently from everyone else.

I had four shots, including one in the palate and there was still a small piece of decay she couldn't get out without me jumping out of the chair.  So, she put in a 'med pack' and a temporary filling, told me to walk around with it for a couple months and see what happens.

The dentist said one poor guy came in and they could not deaden one side of his jaw until they  put the shots in the opposite side of his mouth, which then deadened the side they needed to work on.  

That is one club I wish I didn't belong to.  

An hour and a half later, the dentist asked me if there was anything else.

I said as a matter of fact there is.  Could she have a look at the rest of my mouth and see if I was a candidate for 'deep root' cleaning?

She did, and said my gums looked pretty good, but I needed more regular cleanings.  She also said  that if she
thought I needed that kind of treatment, she would refer me to a periodontist.

This may actually be an honest dentist.  

*Other dentists I have been to insist on a full set of X-rays before they even get started.

For some more real-life stories, click here.


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