Lucky Me

Today I’ll be returning to the dentist for a pleasant change: just a routine cleaning. Because of my failure to do this regularly in the past, I’m on the three month schedule, so they can check for cavities as often as possible. As my previous dentist, the Butcher of Broad Ripple, mentioned I “have tartar like an old man.”

It’s taken me about two months to get this last root canal and crown taken care of. First they wanted to make sure I actually needed a root canal before they began an $800 procedure with a $600 permanent crown. Then they discovered it was infected and gave me the root canal. At my next appointment, two weeks later, it was and discovered I didn’t have enough of my natural tooth left to create the device in the office. Then, once the crown was actually made, it was sent to their other office, which was off for vacation that week. When I came back for the official placement, I had a nice card and a Starbucks gift certificate waiting for me, apologizing for all the inconvenience and saying how nice I’d been about all of it.

Little do they know what a relief it is to see a dentist who’s nice, calm, patient, and kind, and the Starbucks card is totally pointless. I get the gesture and it’s a thoughtful one (someone there knows I like coffee, they just didn’t realize I work for a competitor), but I’m just grateful to be a patient in an office where no one’s a sadist.

I’d gladly trade all of last summer’s endless hours spent having my gums poked in fascination by a woman who has no sense of time or urgency (and an office full of assistants who are too busy looking at their fingernails against different backgrounds to know what tool she’s asking for), and who enjoys drilling on arbitrary teeth for no reason. She at least gave me bite blocks, but there were several appointments where I was supposed to get one thing done and she accidentally started on the wrong side, or would work on a different area saying “Oh, I just like to pick!” This is what my insurance got maxed out for? No wonder United Healthcare dropped her; it took one root canal, one crown, and one cleaning before I had to pay full price there. At my new dentist, it’s been two cleanings, two root canals, two crowns, and one filling. And I think I’ve got another $150 left to go before I reach the annual maximum.

I made a card to give to everyone at the office when I go in today, thanking them for the gift and the gesture. But I did mention that I have not felt in the least bit inconvenienced by the missing devices or a couple of appointments where I showed up, didn’t have to get shots, and just went back home. What matters is being a patient in an office where all the people care what happens to you and call you from their homes after a procedure to make sure you’re feeling well.

I think I’m really lucky to have both a dentist and a doctor who seem genuinely concerned with my well-being, I don’t think a lot of people have that luxury and I’m not sure, if they don’t suffer from anxiety, that they realize how important it is for some of us.

I’m sad that we’ll be losing health insurance soon. Although my GP is covered through IU’s health insurance, my dentist is not, and the insurance is really expensive. I can afford the routine cleanings on my own, but if anything negative pops up in the future, I know my dental anxiety might return as I sit, sweat beading on my forehead, heart racing, under a 24-year old student whose hands are shaking just enough to make my stomach do flip-flips.

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