Dental Visit: The Usual Mix of Compliments and Impending Doom

While I’ve never hated going to the dentist, I’ve always found the social setting to be excruciating. Part medical gravitas, part used car sales, I always feel like anything the dental hygenists suggests is really just a way for the dentist to make more money. They compliment you on your teeth, get you feeling good, and then drop the bomb on you: If you don’t start doing X (which in the past has meant getting plastic caps on all my teeth, for example), all your teeth will fall out. As well, I’ve always been suspicious of their knowledge. At one point in my past, a dental hygenist told me that I was flossing too hard (she could see marks on my gums). I had to tell her I never flossed.

So far, I’ve never had any serious dental problems: no cavities (knocking virtual wood here), no wisdom teeth extracted. Like I said, I never really had a problem with a visit to the dentist. As well, for the majority of my life, I’ve been under the coverage of private health insurance that has paid for all of the dental work. That’s probably why during my brief tenure as a non-student (2000-2002) I didn’t visit the dentist: I felt as though they were shysters and I had good teeth anyway.

The good times may be over, however. It seems as though I have stage two periodontal disease: I have gum “pockets” 4mm deep in places and bleeding gums; the doom here is that as pockets increase in size, more bacteria get in, eventually causing all teeth to fall out.

OK, I’ll accept that diagnosis. However, they want me to spend $900 on a solution. This is where my used-car shyster alarm goes off. They want me to come three weeks in a row. The first two weeks, they freeze one side of my mouth and then clean the hell out of it. They’ll also give me a toothbrushing apparatus called a rota-dent (some magical toothbrush only available from a dentist). The third week I think they just look at the results of their work (and inevitably, compliment my on my “beautiful teeth”). They call it “scaling and root planing.”

I can’t help but think it’s all bologna. First of all, my dentist’s literature suggest that periodontal disease can not be cured: “it can only be managed or controlled.” A convenient way to ensure that you always need your dentist lest your mouth empty of its teeth. Is it too much to expect more than management from a $900 procedure? The rota-dent is suggested as being some kind of gift from the oral gods: the posters on the wall show how a rota-dent is superior to any other mouth-cleaning object.

Regardless, I’ve put in a request to my health insurance to see how much all of this would cost for me to have fixed. We’ll see if I take the bait.

Update: I posed my question on AskMeFi.

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