Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Damn Dental Dilemna

Moving to Brooklyn from Oneonta, NY has proven to be a challenge in many cases.  The fact that my new job doesn't offer dental insurance is just one of the problems.

I guess I've been spoiled by the amazing dentists in Rochester, New York.  I can say that I've had really good experiences there in spite of my fear of dentists.

When I was a kid, my entire family went to the same dentist.  At 12, I was the 3rd of four kids to get braces.  My orthodontist was one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.  His name was Dr. Zysik.  One of the necessary evils of fixing my teeth and smile was that I had too many teeth for my mouth.  Dr. Zysik recommended an extraction of four teeth.  I went to my childhood dentist for the first three extractions.  They seemed to go fine.

The fourth one, on a separate visit, was where my true fear of dentists was born.  Although my memory may be faulty, I seem to remember the dentist kneeling on my chest as he tried very hard to yank my tooth out of my mouth.  The pain, in spite of numerous shots of novocaine was beyond description. He ended up having to bust up the tooth to get it out of my mouth.  When I left the office to go out to my mom in the waiting room, she almost cried because I was so white.  I had gone into shock.  The pain had been greater than any I'd ever felt at the dentist or the orthodontist before.  Milkshakes and liquid meals for two weeks didn't help much.

Just a week later, three weeks after that fourth painful extraction, I visited Dr. Zysik to have him readjust my braces.  He looked in my mouth and started poking around...."Eric, somethings not right here.  Does it hurt when I press here or here or here."

I winced at each touch.  My pain had not subsided.  Earlier in the year, I'd had three teeth taken out and within three weeks had my braces back on.  After this last one, only one tooth, I couldn't handle the pain in my mouth.  Dr. Zysik then got up from his chair and called my mom in from my the waiting room.  He had her look in my mouth and explained to her and me that he thought my jaw was broken.  He took me to his x-ray machine and confirmed that when that tooth was removed, the jaw underneath had cracked in a few places.  It was a few months before Dr. Zysik could go back to my braces.  I didn't go back to that dentist again.

In College I had to get my wisdom teeth out.  There, I found a nice oral surgeon to do the work.  I hadn't been to a dentist in four years.  He suggested that I go to a local dentist.  I took his advice.  The local dentist's wife worked in the College Admission office.  His practice was called "bearable dentistry."  He was funny, kind, and good at explaining everything to me.  He took care of my mouth.  I hadn't spent the time needed to care for my teeth and he filled a bunch of cavities.  It was fortunate. After having him care for me, I found dentists every year.  In Connecticut, I found a nice dentist who did a cleaning.  In Rochester, I had a great dentist and hygienist (she was rough but thorough).  When I took a job consulting, I found a good dentist on Wall Street, one bad one and one good one in Chicago, and a nice dentist in DC.

Ten years later, I moved back to the town where I went to college.  I immediately looked him up to get dental care again.  Unfortunately he had passed away.  The young dentist who replaced him was charming.  A year later, she left.  The new guy was so bad that I left in the middle of a procedure.  Then I found an amazing lady dentist.  Most of the staff from the dentist I used to go to had moved over to their office.  They were the best people I'd ever had for dental care.

Through all of this, I've explained my fear of dentists to them.  I have my blood pressure checked before and after each visit.  I make sure the dentist explains what they are doing and is careful.

Moving to Brooklyn, it seems like there are dentists everywhere.  There is no dental insurance at my company so I purchased my own.  Being organized, I went to the insurance website and pulled a list of dentists near work that "accept" the insurance.

I've called two dozen dentists.  Most of them have no answering machine and no receptionist.  When I do call and leave a message, no one returns calls.  The one dentist who did and scheduled an appointment for me, freaked me out.  when I got there, she spent the first 15 minutes yelling at her receptionist.  She took me into her chair and had me open my mouth.  She then explained that she needed to check my insurance for some advance cleaning and treatment that she wasn't going to clean my teeth that day.  I had just gone to a dentist six months before.  I explained that it was fine as long as she checked my insurance.  She couldn't do it that day and never got back to me.

Today, I called seven more dentists to see if I could get into one.  All of them were on the website saying they did take my insurance.  The first three didn't have voicemail.  The fourth had a lady answer who didn't speak english or Spanish and asked me to call later.  Numbers five and six answered the phone, but couldn't tell me if they accepted my insurance.  Number seven was where I reached the dentist himself answering the phone.  He also couldn't figure out the insurance thing.  I didn't realize this was so complicated.

I just wanted a simple cleaning and a check-up.  I didn't realize it was this complicated.  Brooklyn yet again confounds me.  Tomorrow, back to the drawing board.  Maybe one of them will call me back.

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