Brushing twice a day and flossing every night has meant that my dental visits every six months are pretty routine, but sadly, I do need fillings from time to time simply because of normal wear on my teeth, and because I have some deep grooves that invite decay no matter how good my personal hygiene is. Whenever I see the dentist, I cross my fingers, and while most of them all is well, sometimes, I need one or two fillings.
C'est la vie, etc.
On Tuesday, I had an appointment with a new dental office. I had left the old one in a fit of pique over scheduling difficulties, and figured a fresh start elsewhere was just the thing. So I found myself at Dental Haven in Roseville, not exactly excited--who likes getting their teeth cleaned?--but figuring it would all go well.
And at the start, it...kind of...did.
I wasn't too concerned through the cleaning, though I noticed I could taste blood in my mouth, which was unusual. See, I've had my gums bleed before when a hygienist is using the pick on me, as I have sensitive, but not diseased, gums. Every so often they bleed when I floss, especially if I have something good and stuck in there (usually meat does it). So the blood didn't raise a red flag right away, and only does now as I realize that I've never been able to actually taste it before. There was a lot more of it than usual.
The dentist, a Dr. Cristina "Grace" Maniego, came to examine my teeth. She was extremely congenial and I immediately felt at ease...until she started poking around my mouth and muttering, "Oh, and that one..." She asked a few pointed questions.
"Do you grind your teeth?"
"Do you grind your teeth?"
"Are you being treated for anything?"
"Are you being treated for anything?"
"Well, I'm on blood pressure medication, but that's anxiety-related."
"Oh, well then, you might grind your teeth! You have a broken filling...unless you've eaten something like almonds?"
"That's entirely possible..."
It still didn't hit me right away, but a few minutes later, when the billing guy came back to my exam room, I started to figure things out.
"Well, you need a lot of fillings. I don't like to leave anything to chance and with your teeth-grinding," (I don't actually grind my teeth at night, but they were grinding by now) "you'll need a mouth guard. I'm going to want to do a special deep cleaning, too, and you'll have to take an antibiotic after that to prevent infection."
So I smiled at her, because even though I'm often an asshole in situations like this one, sometimes it's best to reserve that and feel a situation out. I was tempted to say, "Just give me the bottom line, here," but I waited as Billing Man brandished a freshly-printed "care plan" and "Dr. Grace" jabbered on about all the work--so much work, haha!--my mouth needs.
And then I saw the bottom line.
My insurance would pay for $951. I would be responsible for $1,092.
And somehow, by some miracle, I still wasn't mad. I just stared at that number and thought, "That is one-sixth of what I have in savings, and I really want to buy a home this year. Well, shit."
I was dismissed from the exam chair and followed Bill Man out to the reception desk, where we could "go over the Care Plan in better detail." I love that--Care Plan. We care about you! Now give us your credit card!
By now, my initial shock was wearing off and my inner asshole was emerging. I pointed at the list.
"Even with payments...see, I'm looking at this and I'm thinking that I'm going to hate that mouth guard. I don't actually grind my teeth, and I will probably find it uncomfortable. My insurance doesn't cover any of it, and that's $311 of my money for something I won't use, that I don't even believe I need."
"Oh, we can take that off, all of these are just suggestions!" said Bill Man in a slightly-panicked rush.
"And a deep cleaning? I've heard of those, but I've never had anyone try to sell me one."
"Again, just suggestions, but Dr. Grace really wants to make sure you're--"
"I really need to think about all of this before I make any payments. I mean, I have the money, I could pay all of it right now. I just don't think it's all necessary."
"Oh, of course, take the time you need! But let me get Receptionist" (the name escapes me, and by now she was on my shit list, too) "to book you in to get those fillings done..."
"No. No. I'll call you."
"Oh, great!!" By now, both Receptionist and Bill Man were looking a little bit scared--I'll just interject here that Angry Meg is one thing, and Anxious Meg is another, but Angry Anxious Meg is a sight to behold. Guess which one was starting to shine through?
Bill Man gave me a photocopy of my Care Plan, and I gave a not-so-friendly smile to the room at large before exiting to the lobby and saying, maybe a little too loudly to be considered polite, "Holy. Shit."
When I got home, I immediately called (with tail between legs) my former dental office and set up an appointment with the amazing and awesome Dr. Lee. I never doubted her awesomeness, I just had a hard time with scheduling over there. But I've learned my lesson, and I told her that this morning (she was incredibly gracious and happy to have me back).
The bottom line? I need two fillings. Not the twelve Dr. Grace listed on my Care Plan. Dr. Lee never once uttered the words "deep cleaning" or "antibiotics" and she even agreed the mouth guard idea was excessive. She pointed out two spots of decay that have developed on a couple of molars and said, "I don't even need to numb you--these are nowhere near the root, I just need to sandblast a tiny bit and put some filler in."
So I've been leaving reviews for Dental Haven (Dental Hell?) on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, and I reported my experience to the Better Business Bureau. Anyone who asks will hear about this experience. I have reason to believe my one-star review on their Facebook page will be deleted, as they only have five-star reviews up.
I'm not really a vindictive person, but it really twists my knickers when people try to take advantage of me--and to know (via Google and Yelp reviews by other people) that they've done it many times, usually to first-time patients. There are people out there who won't question someone with a PhD., and it makes me sad to think that others have blindly handed over their hard-earned money, maybe even others like me, who are trying to save to buy a home. Or worse, people for whom money is tight. What Dr. Grace and her employees are doing is dishonest and unethical. I believe that others have the right to know what is going on there.