Tuesday, March 30, 2010

At The Dentist's Office - New-Fangled Things and Sticker Shock

I get my teeth cleaned every three months. "My" dental tech got a new, comforter-style pad for her chair. It's thick and soft. If I hadn't had to keep my mouth open, I could have fallen asleep.

Before she even asked me to open my mouth, she took my right forearm and Velcro-ed what looked like a huge watch onto it. "Taking your blood pressure," she murmured. "What? You're measuring patients' terror levels now?" I asked.

What a blissful change from the vise grip clamp of the other way. How can they get a true reading with a patient writhing in pain and stifling sobs?

She has pina colada-flavored gum numbing gel. Previously it was "banana" which I hated. No reason to fear teeth cleaning with these gels. It took at least half an hour post cleaning for my lips, throat and tongue to return to their previous settings.

Did I want to have any deep pockets in the gums lasered? I declined with some alacrity! I don't want someone waving a laser around in my mouth, thank you very much!

Dental lasers have been in use since 1994, but while the FDA has approved them for this use, the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance has so far been denied them. Naturally, dental offices that do use them are pushing them. A laser costs between $39,000 and $45,000; a standard drill goes for around $600.

Next she summoned in The Dentist. He sauntered in, humming a catchy little tune. Astounded, I asked if humming was typical? Astonished, he replied, 'Haven't you ever seen a happy dentist?" Frankly, I can't remember any...

After everyone looked at my x-rays (including a tech from the next cubicle) I was informed I needed to replace three crowns. The Dentist said the front desk would give me an estimate (I almost said, "Don't flush the radiator this time.")

The estimate? With a senior discount of $441.60? Brace yourself: $4,416.00. I could probably buy a used car for that kind of money! For sure, we could visit Paris and Tel Aviv flying Business class!

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