You know how you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair and then the hygienist leaves the room for who knows what—maybe to fart—and so you’re there without a goddamn thing to do except look at those posters that you see in every single dental office? I’m not talking about the posters with a goofy, colorful cartoon personification of a bicuspid giving you the thumbs-up to brush. No, I mean the ones with the people smiling brilliantly with perfect teeth as they look down at you as if to say, “You don’t have enough money to buy a smile like ours. And you never will. Sucks to be you.”
Well, the other day I was in that situation, alone with those people gracing the walls. My eyes landed on a young douche bag in his 20s. I could totally kick his ass. That couple over there that appears to be in their late 60’s? He has erectile dysfunction and she pees a little every time she sneezes. And don’t get me started on the professional looking bitch on the wall to the left.
You may have a dazzling smile, but I have a dazzling personality.
I know they’re only models, but I hate them. I always sit there feeling their scorn. Even though I brush my teeth a hundred times a day and stand in my bathroom like an idiot flicking tooth crap onto the mirror as I floss, every time I go to the dentist they peer into my mouth and can barely contain their excitement as their dream of owning a Ferrari becomes just a little closer to reality. And the people in the photos know it.
I have soft enamel, so I’m told. I just figure I have Irish teeth. Very expensive Irish teeth.
I’ve had a hard time finding a dentist I like here in Las Vegas. I’ve said before that between my last dentist and her staff, I always walked out of there feeling like I’ve been insulted. Remember this little gem of an exchange?
Hygienist: “Your overbite is really bad. Have you ever noticed that your top teeth completely cover your bottom teeth?”
Me: "Oh, really? I never noticed that, you stupid fucking moron. I only look in the mirror a hundred… no, make that two hundred times a day. Thanks for clueing me in.”
So last Tuesday I tried out my fifth dental office in the eight years I’ve been here. I was quite pleased with the clinical staff, even though it took them forever to do x-rays and a dental exam; I had to make another appointment for a “deep” cleaning because they weren’t pleased with some of my gum measurements. Super. Of course, they found a million other things to work on, and once out of the chair I was directed to meet with the benefits coordinator to go over my insurance coverage.
Holy crap, that woman was as aggressive as a used car salesman, talking wildly and answering my questions in the most roundabout way.
“The laser part of the deep cleaning isn’t covered by my insurance. Do I really need that?” I asked.
“You have gum disease,” she said, eyes piercing into me, and then launched into a discourse of how out of the goodness of her heart she knocked this much off that service and that much off this one. Silly me, I didn’t know pricing of dental health care was as negotiable as a trinket at a garage sale. I’ve never thought to ask a dentist, “Is that the best you can do?”
After 2 hours and 45 minutes, I limped out of there with a $5400 treatment plan and 0% interest funding through a third-party for 18 months. I think I might also hold the title to a timeshare.
“Most people like to put everything on one invoice one their first visit and pay it off over the 18 months,” she told me before I left. “That way they don’t get confused when they get more than one bill.”
? “Why would it be confusing? There’s more than one date of service, right?”
“Most people find it easier.”
Yeah, right. Easier for you to get all your money up front. Not today, sister.
I got home feeling I’d been had. I considered canceling my appointment for the deep cleaning on Thursday, which was to cost me over $500 out of pocket, but I showed up as scheduled.
“Look, I don’t want you to do anything that’s not covered by my insurance,” I told the hygienist. “No laser.”
I expected her to push back, but she cheerily said, “No problem! I can tell you take good care of your teeth. There’s just a couple of pockets I need to clean out.”
Oh, really? Funny how she didn’t see the situation nearly as dire as the benefits coordinator, who I’m thinking must work on commission. She did a fantastic job on my teeth, and an hour later I paid a mere $104. How about that.
I’m telling you, the experience was a real eye-opener. Because I’m happy with the clinical staff, I’ll go back and have them do whatever’s absolutely necessary and only if it’s covered by my insurance. In fact, I asked for a separate treatment plan reflecting just those essentials. My out-of-pocket cost? A little more than $800.
These days you have to be a savvy consumer at the dental office. Please keep that in mind. And do me a favor next time you're in there--draw a mustache and funny glasses on those smiling faces on the wall.