A dentist cannot have a successful practice without a great hygienist. Several years ago, my dentist, an older man with a large-sized abdomen and cigarette breath, came in to perform his biannual routine examination during a dental hygiene appointment. He never spoke much, but the few words he did say were in a falsetto-like tone that did not match his facial expression. It was like he was wearing a “mask.” Hiding something in an empty joy. Anyway, the office was very well-appointed. There was a beautiful stone waterfall in the waiting room, the staff always pleasant, and I loved my hygienist. Plus, he accepted my insurance.
As it happened, the dentist said he found a tiny irregularity starting in a crown located in my upper posterior left molar. I would need a new crown.
“But it doesn’t bother me,” I said. He replied, “It is preventive and needs to be fixed before there are more serious problems.” This is a frequent dental story for me. I fear every time a dentist does something to my fillings and crowns, my teeth weaken. Reluctantly, I agreed.
The following week, I was back. It was worse than I anticipated. Old crowns are not easily removed; it required a great deal of yanking, twisting, and pulling. The procedure left me feeling drained.
Then back again to get my new crown. After the dentist installed it, he checked the spacing with dental floss. The floss did not snap like it usually should. But I figured he knew what he was doing.
To my surprise, a “small salad” was nestling itself into this new gap created by the recent crown after each meal during the next few days. Annoyed, I called my dental office to complain. They apologized and said that the only solution was to replace the crown. That would be too traumatic for me, both mentally and physically.
I was so upset. My mouth was perfectly fine until he subjected me to a procedure that I did not want. I could get revenge by giving him a scathing one-star Yelp review. A horrible social media comment could hurt his practice. But did I want to do that?
Nevertheless, I had to consider my responsibility to warn other patients about his incompetence. Something in my sub-conscience stopped me from moving forward with a bad review. I didn’t want to hurt him. There were hints he already had his personal problems.
I looked him up on the state licensing site. Learned that most dentists are not Board Certified like the majority of physicians. He was in his 70’s. Plus, he was in poor health because he was an older, likely long time smoker, obese, and with his fake voice sent me the message that he needed his job. If I were in my seventies, obese, and smoking, I would spend time on self-care. You can’t get this time back. He had to have been someone for whatever reason, had to keep working. His energy was like a man already on edge. His future patients will have to figure it out for themselves as to his level of incompetence.
As a habit, I always try to find the silver lining when something bad happens. How could I put a positive spin on this? My oral hygiene has improved because now I had to floss and rinse after eating anything that required chewing.
A few days later, the dentist called me and told me he had a solution. He could apply some dental bonding material into the gap.
It sounded like a good idea.
So again, I was on the dental chair as he wrapped a wire around my tooth and pulled on it sideways to create a wider space to allow him to place the bonding material in-between the teeth.
That evening when I went to floss, I discovered he bonded the wrong teeth together! Now I have a gap between two teeth and another two teeth glued together.
I was furious. Truly incompetent! I filed a complaint with my dental insurance company. Still, I could not bring myself to write a bad social media review.
Years before this, I had a boss who harassed me to the point where I felt I had to quit my job. I joked to my colleagues that I had to leave before I strangled him. This was before 9/11, when you could say stuff like that, and no one took you literally.
After I secured a job elsewhere, I filed a complaint against my ex-boss. A couple of years later, my ex-boss committed suicide. When someone you know (or even someone you don’t know personally) kills themselves, it is the most unsettling experience. There are so many unanswered questions. That experience left me with some undeserved guilt.
For my dentist with the empty joy, suicide was not an impossible outcome. Maybe that was what prevented me from writing a bad review. In the balance of everything, I decided best for me to move on and find another dentist.
Over the next few months, the tooth “glue” fell out.
Fast forward to 2019, and my lower teeth were becoming crowded and uneven. Teeth shift over time, and jaws can get smaller. Crooked teeth are difficult to brush and thoroughly clean. It was recommended I get Invisalign to correct this issue.
As my lower teeth were straightened, my upper teeth needed to shift in order to create a new stable bite.
Low and behold, the gap left by that crazy dentist came in handy! With the extra space on my upper left, the orthodontist had room to shift my upper teeth. The gap was gone!
Now my teeth look great. My smile looks better than ever.
This is Karma.
I should apologize and thank that dentist.
And I am glad I never wrote that bad review.