Uncomfortable Truths About Dentists

Dentist chair

Today I want to talk about an uncomfortable topic: when to fire your dentist.

Does this make you uncomfortable?  I’d guess so.  You see, dentists are just like anyone else.  Or any other medical professional.  They are human.  They make mistakes.  And some of these professionals are just not that good.

In general I don’t like to be negative.  But, life is not always roses and sometimes you need to talk about the bad stuff.

So, I will just tell you how I learned that sometimes, you need to fire your dentist.

I had moved to a new town on the other side of the country.  I didn’t know anyone other than the people I worked with.  I had been living in my new town for about eight months.

I noticed that one of my teeth started throbbing.  It was a dull sort of pain, so I was able to ignored it for some time.  I was able to push off doing anything about my tooth for several weeks maybe months even.

It turned into a full on persistent tooth ache.

I had never had a tooth ache but I figured it was time to see a dentist.  Since I didn’t have a dentist I asked my co-workers to recommend one.  Someone gave me the name of their dentist and since we worked at the same place, we had the same insurance, and the dentist they recommended was “in network” with my insurance.

I made an appointment.  I hadn’t had a cleaning since I’d moved to my new town, so I got a regular teeth cleaning.  At the end of the cleaning, when the dentist comes in to talk to you (not the hygienist that actually cleans your teeth), I told him that my tooth was hurting and it had been for some time.

The dentist examined my area of pain carefully, then he recommended that I get a special type of toothpaste that cost $15 a tube.  This special toothpaste was for sensitive teeth, or for teeth that were in pain, or something.  I can’t remember, but it was expensive toothpaste that was supposed to help with my toothache.

Right away I thought that was bullshit.  Plus I thought the toothpaste was really expensive.  It seemed like I had a persistent problem and expensive toothpaste wasn’t going to fix it.

During the dental exam the dentist saw that I had a chipped tooth.  I caught a Frisbee in my mouth as a kid.  Not a smart idea by the way.  The Frisbee cut my tooth in half.  It had been that way most of my life.

It wasn’t a big deal, but every time I saw a new dentist, they would always get concerned about it.  So this dentist wanted me to see a specialist, I think it was an endodontist, but I can’t remember for sure.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to have the chipped tooth looked at, but I didn’t think it was a big deal because it had been that way for twenty years.

Before I left the office they had made an appointment for me to see this endodontist a few days later.  I left the dentist unimpressed the expensive toothpaste recommendation.  WTF?

It didn’t seem like the dentist cared and there was no sense of urgency on his part.  And my tooth still ached.  I did not buy that stupid toothpaste.

A few days later I was at the endodontist and he checked out my chipped tooth.  He told me the same thing I’d always heard, that it was ok for now, but I need to “keep an eye on it.”  I was done with the appointment and getting ready to get out of the chair when I told the endodontist about my aching tooth.

He wanted to take a look at it so I sat back down and let me look.  He was alarmed and said the tooth was infected.  If I didn’t do anything, the infection could spread and my whole face could swell up.

Let’s just say I was concerned.

He recommended an immediate root canal.  And that’s exactly what happened.  It was not fun, but a couple hours later it was fixed.

I told the endodontist about how the dentist looked at it, then recommended expensive toothpaste.  “Why would the dentist do that?”, I asked.

The endodontist was nice and didn’t throw the dentist under the bus.  He said he didn’t know why.  I was kind of pissed off, but I was happy my toothache was fixed.  And I was glad my face didn’t get infected and swell up like a balloon.

Needless to say, I canceled my follow up appointment with the dentist, then recommended to everyone I knew not to go to that guy.

I fired my dentist.  He wouldn’t listen to me.  He didn’t take my concerns seriously.  Was he incompetent, a jerk, or just having a bad day, or honest mistake?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.

What’s important is to know that you need to trust yourself.  If you dentist or medical professional is not on the same page with you, you need to reconsider your situation.

Not all dentists are bad.  As a matter of fact, that’s the only bad one I’ve had.  The rest have been great.  But the lesson I learned is that I need to feel like we are on the same page.

With that dentist I was not.