A tale of two dentists

Posted by jdg | Monday, March 05, 2007 | ,

One thing Wood hated about our dentist in California was that he would not take her hints about the teeth-whitening. Every six months, she could be assured of some hygienist scraping her teeth for half an hour, a new toothbrush, and a few seconds with the actual dentist who would give a cursory glance at the inside of her mouth, tell her everything looked acceptable, and then start his pitch about his office's teeth whitening services. "Does my insurance cover it?" she would ask.

"No," he would respond, "but it's only $1600 per session and the results are guaranteed."

With me, it never even got to the point of teeth whitening. He'd look into my mouth, wince, shake his head a bit, and poke at my teeth with his scraper: "You're going to need braces or all your teeth are going to fall out."

"All of them?"

"All of them."

I never had braces as a kid, and the thought of walking around San Francisco in my twenties with my teeth covered in metal terrified me more than the thought of walking around a bedentured old man. The fact that my insurance didn't cover orthodontic work sealed the deal, and I accepted my fate as a toothless old man. Still, every time I saw the dentist he insisted that I make an appointment for an orthodontic consultation. I would make the appointment, but never show. So for both Wood and I, that great feeling you get when you walk out of a teeth cleaning, (that feeling like you should go sit in a 1994 cutlass ciara and make out for three and a half hours until the car's more humid than a Turkish schvitz) was always tempered by the knowledge that our dentist thought we were a couple of snaggletoothed troglodytes. Most people fear dentists because of pain. We feared the dentist because of his judgment.

On Friday we had our first appointment with a Detroit dentist. Juniper sat with one of us in the waiting room while the other went off to get their teeth cleaned by the dentist himself. There wasn't even a hygienist in his office. As he cleaned my teeth, I began to wonder if he hadn't just returned from an archaeological dig in the north of England where he'd been analyzing the extant teeth on skulls of sixth-century Anglo-Saxon peasants. "Damn!" he shouted. "These are some mighty fine teeth. When's the last time you had a cavity, when you were eight?" I told Detroit dentist that San Francisco dentist had insisted I get braces. He laughed. "Braces? These teeth are perfect. Perfect enough, anyway."

Similarly, Detroit dentist scoffed at the idea that Wood needed tooth whitening, or even an x-ray. He just looked at her teeth and said, "I won't expose you to any unnecessary radiation. I've been doing this for thirty years and I know good teeth when I see them." We walked out of there with clean teeth, feeling so good we made out in the front seat of the car for like three minutes before Juniper started hitting us in the head with her duck umbrella.

Detroit dentist may be a total quack, but we won't be seeking a second opinion.