My first dentist always called me ‘sis’.

He was tall with a full head of hair and a perfect smile, of course.  His hygienist always took too long with the fluoride treatment.  I’m not sure why she felt it was a good idea to leave a child with so many cavities alone in a room with shiny curiosities in every drawer and cabinet.  Clearly, with that many holes in my mouth, I did not have a history of good decision making.

Nonetheless, it was not totally on my account that a new family dentist was necessary.

The breaking point was over a bill that was not unlike other bills for cleaning, x-rays and cavities.

“That dentist is ripping us off! How can she have so many cavities, year after year?  There’s no way.  I’ve seen her brush.”

“Yes, I’ve seen her brush.  You’ve seen her brush. That dentist is a hack!”

They went back and forth, egging each other on in their dental self-righteousness.  Really, how dare that dentist tell them what they needed to do with their swarmy kids.

My next dentist was deaf.

He confirmed my parents’ worst fears; the first dentist wasn’t ripping them off.  I was a bad brusher, a lazy flosser, and a secret late night candy eater.

The chairs in his office faced a wall of glass windows towards the woods where 6 or 7 different types of bird feeders were set up.  I watched cardinals, wrens, and finches hop amongst the feeders with an occasional blue jay swooping in to scare off the little birds.

While preparing her tools for a cleaning, his hygienist noticed me watching the birds instead of the tv hung in the corner of the office. “Those are the doctor’s birds,” she said with a smile.  “He feeds them the best seed that why they are so bright, that what he tells us anyways,” she finished with a laugh.

One time a deer wandered up while I was in the chair and looked into the window with sad, brown eyes.  “Why so many cavities?” she seemed to ask without judgment.

That dentist will always hold a special place in my heart for those birds and that he never caused me to give a shriek of pain that he couldn’t hear.

From there, I went to Aspen Dental for a cheap, fast exam and treatment.   Much to my surprise, it was not a nice experience or cheap or fast.  No one called me sis or took the time to feed the birds outside.  It was like sitting in the BMV waiting to have my license renewed.  I was just a number with a set of good teeth to drill and bill.

Now, I’m back to an independent dentist with a no fuss, no muss approach to dentistry. I’m going in tomorrow for a check-up that is just a year overdue.  Toothfully, I’ve going in because the old familiar pain is back and I suspect a cavity.  It reminds me that I’m alive, even while my teeth are experiencing a slow death.  Tooth pain gives me a reason to reflect on dentists of days-gone-by and an even better reason to floss, at least until my new cavity is drilled and filled.

5 thoughts on “Drill ’em and bill ’em

  1. My dentist had the same solution to calming his patients down during their “visit.” By gazing out the window and watching birds as they feasted on primo seed it lowered my blood pressure. Like you, I would be making fists, tensing up shoulders, and wiggling all over the chair, but when I looked at all those birds, I felt better. I might not have had many cavities, but I had all the same anxieties. Sorry about your tooth.


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