The Dental Industrial Complex

Do you give the name of your previous dentist ?

Hola a todos. This article is not about the outrageously expensive costs of dental work these days. That would be an article in itself.

This article is mostly about this: When and if you go to a new dentist, do you answer that question at the end of their form asking for the name of your previous dentist and your reason for leaving him or her?

I used to answer that question until it backfired on me in a very uncomfortable way.

To begin with, there is absolutely no reason a dentist needs to know the name of your previous or former dentist. A medical doctor doesn’t ask the name of your previous MD. They don’t seem to care which physician(s) you saw before coming to their office. And a new dentist will take all new x-rays anyway, so that question they ask is really “fishing”/data-mining for information that should be private. So with dentists, it’s none of their business which dentist you saw previously.

The reason that question is on the form is for their office to do a background check and a credit check of sorts on a new patient by contacting the former dentist and asking if the new patient paid his/her bills in full, or did s/he leave a balance due and come to the new dentist expecting to do the same. In other words, the office is trying to find out if their new patient goes from one dentist to another leaving unpaid balances, all of which should be private information. Because of privacy issues, dental offices should not be allowed to disclose anything about a patient to another dentist.

A dentist I saw over the course of maybe two years asked this question on his form and I made the mistake of answering it because I was taught from my corporate office experience to “never leave anything blank because it shows a lack of thoroughness.” Yeah, well these days I deliberately leave some things blank because the question they’re asking is none of their damn business. With this new dentist I saw, I wrote on their form my former dentist’s name and the reason I gave for leaving him (which they also asked) was because his work was falling apart, which was true. I didn’t think at the time that I’d have any reason to see the former dentist again nor did I think this new dentist would contact my former dentist. Wrong. Months later, I had a crown come off that my former dentist had done the work on so I went back to him to have him re-cement the crown thinking I wouldn’t have to pay (or pay much) for the office visit since he did the work. Well, when I went to his office to have him re-cement the crown, that was the most uncomfortable experience I’ve ever had in any dental office, ever. He was like a very different person. He was somewhat hostile but tried to hide it to a degree. He then came at me with rather overt anger. For the first time in my history with him, I felt very unsafe in his office. When I sat in his dental chair, he disagreed with me over which tooth I had come to see him about. Duh. I knew which tooth the crown had come off of and my tongue knew which tooth it was but he disputed that because he seemed to know better. Then after he realised I was correct about which tooth it was, he proceeded to put the crown back on. But the way he was going about it left me feeling threatened. I couldn’t wait to get out of his office. I had never felt that way around him before. It was as if he had flipped out. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and I left his office asking myself: “What just happened? I’ll never go back to him again.” Later, I remembered that I had written his name on the dental form at that new dentist’s office so I could only presume that they called him and that’s all it took for this major change in his behaviour. If I remember correctly, he charged $150.00 to re-cement the crown, reflective of what I call The Dental Industrial Complex. $150.00 for cement and roughly 5 minutes of his time (in an angry manner) to put a crown back on? I suspect that charge also reflected his anger and rage with me. Sometime after that office visit, the crown came off again, but I had no thoughts of going back to him.

In the past when I’ve seen that question, “Name of your previous dentist” I’ve thought — and I think many people probably think — the question is on the form for the new dentist to make contact with the former dentist to get x-rays. One should not think that. As I said earlier, most dentist prefer to make a fee by taking their own x-rays. So I’ve learned the hidden agenda behind that question. It’s not to get x-rays. It’s really to check you out to see what kind of person you are and if you pay your bills. And frankly, it’s none of their business especially when, in my case, the new dentist required all payment up front so there was no way to have an unpaid balance. That’s one thing I found annoying about the new dentist’s office. Also with this new dentist I went to see, a few seconds after I arrived and they said “hello” to me, they would blurt out: “Would you like to pay now?” It came across as rather desperate. I did pay at that time to keep things “smooth” with their office, but I was also thinking, “Well no, like with anything else, I’ll pay after services are rendered.” Mi amigo/My friend tells me that with his dentist he always pays after the work is done and they never ask for payment as soon as he walks in the door.

I wasn’t with the new dentist very long for many reasons: He was extremely expensive. Well he had to pay the rent in that expensive San Francisco Financial District office somehow! I went to him in part, because of the school from where he claimed to have graduated from which I won’t name, and assuming he wasn’t lying about that. Although I don’t remember ever seeing degrees/diplomas on his wall. I also went to him because he advertised on his website that he used dental laser treatment claiming that many procedures can be performed without a shot or a drill. Curiously, during my appointments in his office, I never saw the dental laser treatment equipment. I asked another dentist about that (a dentist who studied piano with me) and he said: “You can’t miss it; it’s rather large equipment. It sounds like he doesn’t have it.” He never used it on me if he did. I mentioned the dental laser treatment to his staff on occasion but they remained silent when I brought it up. I don’t remember any of them saying, “Yes, we have it” or “Yes, we use that.” So I came to think that he didn’t really have it in his office or use it. So why was he promoting laser treatment on his website? He also only worked was there 4 days a week and I noticed he started subletting space to other dentists to help pay the rent. His office was all about “fee, fee, fee, fee, fee.” I got so tired of hearing about fees. It became so ridiculous that I started referring to one of his staff people as “Ms Fee.” (Not to her face of course). Mi amigo/My friend would ask me “Who called?” I’d say, “Oh that was Ms Fee from that dentist office.” The new dentist didn’t do any work on me at all the entire time I was with him (roughly 2 years), which I found odd. Instead, he outsourced all work to specialists and I suspect he got a kickback from them (a referral fee) for doing so. Other patients said the same in their online reviews of his office. I questioned his receptionist about his outsourcing of work on one occasion. I said, “Dr _____ is not doing my root canal?” The receptionist said, “Oh no, we leave that to the professionals. It would take Dr ______ all afternoon to do a root canal.” Really? I thought: All afternoon to do one root canal? WTF? What did he learn in that well-respected dental school he claims to have graduated from? (The receptionist’s comment wasn’t speaking too highly of their dentist. Did she not realise she had just said that their dentist was not a “professional?” LOL). Then there was this: If you got a cold just before a scheduled appointment, they expected you to be at your appointment regardless of how sick you were with your cold germs and all. They didn’t care about cold germs floating around their office and infecting other people, or whether you couldn’t breathe well because of sinus congestion. None of that mattered to these cold, indifferent people who were all about dinero/$$$$$$$$$$$. The Dental Industrial Complex. Instead, they sent a patronising reprimanding letter and threatened the patient with a large fee (I think it was maybe $50.00) should this happen again. I received a letter like that after having to cancel my appointment on one occasion. I didn’t give them 48 hours’ notice because I couldn’t. I came down with a bad cold the day before an appointment. I respect people and their time so I was not lying about having a bad cold. And again, they wanted my bad cold germs floating around their office. Unconscionable. And I really resented their attitude and their reprimanding letter written in a style if they were speaking to a child. I had never cancelled an appointment before. In the end, I didn’t stay with them long because I sensed that the dentist did not enjoy being a dentist but rather preferred office management instead, since that’s all I ever saw the dentist do. This dentist didn’t even clean teeth. A hygienist did that and I did have a good rapport with her and I had a relatively good rapport with most of the staff. Although I came to cringe whenever I got a call from or saw Ms Fee’s face. Ugh. With their office, it felt like it was all about dinero/money and high fees. That’s why I refer to the Dental Industrial Complex.

Another annoying thing that the Dental Industrial Complex is doing — aside from their outrageous fees — is sending these automated “Happy Birthday to you” e-mails on the day of a patient’s birthday. If these birthday wishes were sincere it would be one thing. But they are nothing but automated spam and even at the bottom of the “Happy Birthday” email there’s this language about what programme sent it. All they do is put the patient’s e-mail address into their “Happy Birthday” programme (presumably as soon as a new patient registers with their office) and on your special day this programme shoots out this cold, shallow and superficial birthday wish to their patient. In reality they don’t even know it’s your birthday because a human is not sending the e-mail nor do they care it’s your birthday. It’s very tacky.

Since that experience with that new dentist and how he ruined my rapport with my former dentist, when a dental form asks for a previous dentist, I now give them the name of my childhood dentist. He was a previous/former dentist and then I write “retired” in parenthesis after his name so there’s no way possible they can contact him, considering I think he’s probably dead now. Chau.—el barrio rosa