September 2, 2013

Rinse and Spit

I am the George Steinbrenner of dental patients. He went through many Yankees managers; I've been through more than my fair share of dentists. The good news is that I've now been seeing the same dentist for several years. But I've taken a long and winding road to get to him.

The first reason why I used to change dentists so often has to do with my previous career. When I worked in television news I lived in five cities over a ten year period. Obviously when I was only living in the same place for a year or two, I rarely went to the same dentist more than a couple of times before I was forced to find someone new.

I moved to the Austin area in 1999 and have been here ever since. Unfortunately, during my first few years in town I had to tell a couple of dentists to take a hike. If I'm remembering correctly, the first dental office I went to here was a chain called Castle Dental. It was conveniently located near both my home and workplace, so it seemed like a great choice. But I only made it through two appointments before I gave Castle the old heave-ho.

My first visit was fine, but then Castle really ticked me off six months later. The hygienist was doing her thing, and there was nothing out of the ordinary happening. When I finished, I was expecting the dentist to come in give me a quick exam. That's how it always happens, right? When the hygienist is done with you, the dentist takes a look.

However, the hygienist handed me my chart and told me to give it to the receptionist at the front to schedule my next cleaning. Wait a second. Why was she sending me out? The dentist hadn't seen me yet.  

I said, "I haven't seen the dentist yet." She replied, "Everything looks good, so you really don't need to see the dentist today. But if you still want the dentist to do an exam, you will need to schedule a separate appointment because he's not here today."

They seriously expected me to schedule another appointment if I wanted to see the dentist. I had never heard of the hygienist's cleaning and the dentist's exam not happening at the same time every six months. What if the hygienist missed something that the dentist would have caught? Now they wanted me to disrupt my work schedule and make another appointment. Sorry, Castle, but you're fired!

Rather than picking my next dentist at random, when I was due again in six months I asked a few coworkers for a referral. One gave me the phone number of her dental office and said how great they were. That sounded good to me. But I only lasted a couple of appointments there too.

Here's what happened. My appointment was coming up in a day or two when I received a call from the dental office. They said that there was some sort of scheduling problem and asked me to reschedule my appointment for the following week. That was kind of annoying, but things happen, so I agreed to push my visit back one week.

On the day of my new appointment, there was a severe thunderstorm moving through. The office was about 20-minutes away in normal weather, so I left early. As I was about halfway there, my cell phone rang. It was the dental office. They were sorry to tell me that something came  up with the dentist and they would have to cancel my appointment an reschedule. Are you serious? They cancelled my first appointment, and now I was on the way to the rescheduled appointment in the middle of a monsoon, and they cancelled on me again. Sorry, but you're fired. 

Yes, it's true. I fired my dentist over the phone while I was on the way to my appointment. The receptionist on the on the phone offered me an appointment the following week. I said no and never went back. For the second week in a row, I had juggled my work schedule in order to accommodate the appointment. And while the storm certainly wasn't anyone's fault, I'm sure it contributed to my quick decision to cut the dentist loose.

At this point it was time to go back to the random method of picking a new dentist. I happened to notice that there was a dental office in a small shopping center right down the street from my neighborhood. Despite the creepy bear rug on the floor of the waiting room, I was satisfied with this dentist for a couple of years. But it didn't last much longer. I'm happy to say that I didn't fire her. She retired and sold her practice to another dentist. I just seamlessly kept going to the same office with a new dentist as if nothing ever happened. But this dentist didn't last too long either.

The "new" dentist at this location suddenly announced that she was moving out of state and selling the practice. This was starting to remind be of those "cursed" restaurant locations where restaurants never last very long before going out of business.

The third dentist at that same office made a few changes. He retired the bear rug and added a patriotic theme and name to the office. You see, he was an Army veteran.  In fact, he served in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. I've always jokingly wanted to ask him if he pulled our soldiers' teeth or the enemy's!

Anyway, after a few years, the Army dentist moved his practice to a bigger and better location down the street, and I've been going there ever since. I really appreciate that the hygienist and dentist don't force a lot of conversation on me. I was just there for an appointment a few weeks ago, and for the most part, they just asked a some routine small-talky questions, like this:

How is the family? [Fine, thanks]
How is your summer going? [Fine, thanks]
Have you had enough of this hot weather? [Yes]

Maybe they noted in my chart that I'm an introvert so they remember to keep the chatter to a minimum. That's a good way to keep my business.

Now, as a bonus, here's Weird Al Yankovic's song "Cavity Search," sung to the tune of U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me."

(Lyrics courtesy of

Listen to the Muzak
Hearin' people scream
Sittin' in the waiting room
Readin' crappy magazines
With a toothache
This is it, pal
Root Canal

My molars are impacted
I'm gettin' gum disease
I'm gonna need some fillings
Got twelve cavities
Can you help me
Have mercy
Doctor, please

My teeth are a fright
Got a huge overbite
Numb me, drill me
Floss me, bill me

You jab at my nerve endings
It's driving me insane
Just give me nitrous oxide
Shoot me up with Novocaine
 Help me out here
'Cause I'm in severe

Please stop for a bit
Let me rinse and spit
Numb me, drill me
Floss me, bill me

You validate my parking
I think that I'm okay
But you make one more appointment for
A week from Saturday
'Cause you came upon
A little problem on
My x-ray
Oy vey!

It's getting absurd
Well, I hope I'm insured, now
Numb me, drill me
Floss me, bill me

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