Whatever Happened to the Simple Yet Cost Effective Dental Office Visit?

A few weeks ago one of my back teeth, a tooth crowned and capped a number of years ago, started acting up and became sensitive. There was no apparent swelling in my jaw and no pain but I decided to make an appointment with my dentist and let him investigate the problem further. After all, I thought, my dental professional has the tools, the expertise and the training to recommend a course of action for me to follow.

I had not visited this particular dental clinic (the former word office now seemed so gauche and out of place) in quite some time. Dental surgeons and not dentists populated the building now. The physical remodeling of the building combined with a staff restructuring left me at the mercy of a supposedly knowledgeable receptionist who would eventually connect me with a dentist who would help me with my problem. So I thought.

My own dentist had departed company with this mega dental office/clinic and they were reluctant to give me either his new telephone number or office address. He was an honest professional and empathised with his patients and their financial situations.

When this same tooth acted up the last time he recommended that I brush a bit more frequently, floss around the tooth carefully and then gargle with salt and warm water for a few days. Gold crowns are sensitive he told me and the gums and tissue area surrounding the crown must be treated special. End of story.

The new dentist who was appointed to help me this day was described by fellow staff members as being “a young graduate”. He was a top gun professional and the receptionist and a few of his patients were raving about his work. My worries were over I thought. Here was a dentist worthy of my trust and support. What more could a patient desire in a dentist?

After a few minutes waiting time in the patient lounge one of his associates led me to his office. The patient standby area had the latest magazines to read and a few high tech computer games for the kids to play. Impressive I thought…high tech toys to take your mind off the stress of the moment.

As I sat in the dental chair getting mentally comfortable with the situation a team of dental associates swarmed about me. One female hygiene assistant dressed in a blue smock clipped the white dental serviette around my neck while another associate in a white smock prepared the tools for a potential oral surgery. A third dental professional dressed in green prepped me to have a few X-rays taken of the troublesome tooth. A patient can get totally overwhelmed by this kind of attention.

These attentive females left the room at the same time. I think it was an orchestrated event to let a patient know that he is in the presence of competent, professional care givers. The silence gave me the opportunity to catch my psychological breath and mentally prepare myself to meet my dentist.

My dentist finally entered the medical arena. He exuded confidence, expertise and experience. He also looked to be about 25 years old. My former dentist was middle aged and someone a person in my age range could readily relate to and trust.

He was polite enough and affable. He interpreted my X-rays and told me that in his opinion I would need another root canal operation to clean the infected area, extract the old crown and place a new gold crown in its place. The cost for all this would be roughly $2400.

He assured me that my insurance company or company medical /dental plan would cover a good portion of this amount and I would be responsible for the balance not covered by my insurance plans.

He momentarily excused himself from the room and told me that he was also doing a root canal, inserting a crown and prepping a patient for oral surgery. I thought this was admirable that he was so professional he could multitask and still keep his sense of perspective. Admirable qualities.

His personal dental assistant informed me that my dentist was the newest member of the dental team. He was a go getter and would soon be made an associate of the clinic if he kept performing at this rate.

He returned about five minutes later. This gave me enough time to make my own evaluation of his performance. I concluded that he was much too expensive for any patient on a fixed income and that his speed with the dental drill could one day cost him his career and license.

I told him that I would consider his appraisal of my dental situation and that I would contact him at a later date. We parted on amicable terms. The cost of the X-rays were charged to my dental plan.

I went home and for the next few days I brushed, flossed and gargled with warm salt and water like my previous dentist had recommended. The treatment worked and my tooth is now sensitive free. Sometime young and overly aggressive medical professionals lose touch with their patients and place ambition over medical care and treatment.