I rarely use my writing as a way to put assholes on blast, at least once a year someone will call me and tell me about some injustice generally racial that has happened in our fair state and ask me to write about it for my regular writing gig at the Phoenix. I rarely do because stories have to have wide appeal and not be one sided but today I am going to break with my own way of doing things to put someone on full blast.
If you follow me on Twitter you may know that yesterday I had a dental appointment, if you are a regular reader, you can read this post to refresh your memory but long story short, there was a root tip left from my wisdom tooth that was pulled years ago that had started to abscess. If you know anything about abscesses they are not something to play with. Which is why when the general dentist I went told me it needed to be pulled and that he had to refer me to an oral surgeon, I didn’t argue or try to shop around. There is also the pesky fact that since I lack dental insurance and need to pay for all this out of my own pocket without benefit of insurance I really was not in a position to go and get second and third opinions. That’s basically $100-200 a pop just to be told you need to have the tooth removed. Now I did ask the general dentist if the guy he was referring me to was good, he assured me that he was.
I won’t lie I was hesitant, since I don’t exactly have a long term relationship with this general dentist and in the two times I have been to his office, each time I was charged more than the quoted price. Guess I get the uninsured special which is more than what insured patients get.
Look, I will be the first to tell you I have a complex relationship with dentists, I was well into my teens the first time I ever went to a dentist and that first visit was at a free clinic that resembled a torture chamber. This free clinic was also the place that told me at 16-17 I had hepatitis, the kind you get from drug use and or sex….they were wrong but not before they loaded me up on a shit load of drugs. Drugs that at one point had me damn near hallucinating.
I learned early on in life that when it comes to healthcare in this country you get what you pay for. By the time I was on my own with good dental insurance, my teeth were a mess. Thankfully I started going to this dentist who is what I lovingly call a dental God. My old dentist, who is also an oral surgeon, he did crazy amounts of work on my teeth and got me over my dental phobia, in fact he was so good that when I knew we were moving to Maine I was truly sad about losing him as my dentist. He worked through my phobia issues treating me as a human, if I said I was in pain, he stopped and addressed the issue never belittling me or making me feel crazy. Yes, he was expensive but it was money well spent.
Well yesterday’s experience was hellish; the oral surgeon I went to was a chap by the name of Mark Britten. Prior to the appointment I tried getting additional information but despite the fact this is 2011 this chap has no website, even by Maine standards that’s a tad strange. Instead that lack of website was a sign of things to come. I was totally calm until I arrived at the office and was taken to the room….this room looked like it had not been upgraded since the late 1970’s. Nothing in there said oral surgeon in 2011, when Dr. Britten came in, he looked like the guy in a horror movie ready to pull your teeth with pliers and a blow torch. I wish I could say I was kidding. I started by explaining that I am an anxious patient and if that was okay with him, he told me “I will give you Novocain and then you will hear scraping and feel pressure” I admit part of me wanted to get up but knowing that this fragment was causing an infection I felt like as a grown up I needed to make a wise decision and get it out after all how bad could this be?
Sometimes the first thought you have is actually the best, I should have left at that point before he started anything. Well I get the Novocain shot, and 7 minutes later he starts working and I am feeling a lot more than pressure I am feeling naked pain, agonizing pain, feeling like someone is in my mouth with pliers yanking. I cry out and he stops, I explain and he says you can’t be feeling pain its just pressure. Mind you I have given birth two times, once without benefit of drugs I know pain, this was pain on that level but in my mouth. Dr. Britten proceeds to tell me that he pulls 20-30 teeth a day and if he hadn’t stopped we would be done…..is that supposed to make me feel good? I won’t go through every detail but will say by the point he offered to just stop my guns were already open and bloody. I was in tears, I started having flashbacks to a date I had many years ago that went wrong where I was almost sexually assaulted. I felt my body and mind breaking apart in that chair…I prayed, I did deep breaths and I finally sent a text message to my husband who came to the office and demanded to be brought into my room. (The hubster was less than a mile away hanging out with kidlet at the library hence his speedy arrival)
By the time the Spousal Unit arrived it was clear that Dr. Britten had wished he had never laid eyes on my Black ass, but the Spousal Unit who in real life is a medical writer/editor spoke quietly to the dentist and explained that he needed to take me serious and some white guy medical babble that I swear had an impact. (the fact that Britten took my husband’s words seriously could be a post all its own…got privilege?) Next thing I knew Britten was back in my mouth this time far gentler and actually got the tooth out without the extreme pain of earlier and nope he had not given me another dose of Novocain. It took him longer than his usual but I can’t help thinking that had he started off being gentle after I explained how I am this situation would not have escalated.
I am still processing this whole experience but am already planning on contacting the folks who license this man as well as lodging a complaint with the local dental society. I also have no intention of going back to the dentist who referred me to this jackass. If that is their idea of good, I would hate to see what constitutes bad but sending me to a guy whose personality was lacking with not one iota of patience and antiquated equipment is not my idea of a good surgeon.
This whole dentist experience has me seriously thinking either I need to plan a week long vacation back to Chicago to see my old dentist for the other $2000 worth of work I need or maybe I need to go to Mexico as many Americans are now doing for dental care. Maine is a state that has a shortage of dentists, it’s not so bad where I am but the situation is grave in more rural parts of the state. It’s not uncommon to see people with teeth in bad shape with clearly rotting teeth, at least not for me though this may be a side effect of the work I do. Granted I worked with a similar population in Chicago and rarely saw teeth in such bad shapes. I do think the side effect of having a lack of dentists is that the ones who are here have almost a God complex at least the ones I have encountered and it’s really not cute. At the end of the day I have the right to be treated with dignity and compassion. I won’t let this stop me from taking care of my teeth but I will be a lot more discerning about who works on my mouth and trust my instincts.
When the dentist finished he just walked out the room and didn’t speak to me nor did he come back instead having the assistant give me the follow up instructions.