The Arcane Mysteries of Dentistry


With all the other appointments and stuff I’ve had to schedule since moving to Ottawa, I hadn’t gotten around to arranging for a visit to the dentist until today.

I don’t like dentists. Most people don’t. For some people it’s the pain that scares them, but for me it’s the fact that I don’t have a clue what they’re doing or what they’re talking about. And I always wonder what sort of person chooses to do something like this for a living.

If you have a medical problem you can do some research, find out all the implications of your problem, join an online forum, look at alterative options for treatment and so on and so forth. And most of the time your doctor only recommends invasive measures if there’s really something wrong with you. Dentists, not so much.

You go to a dentist and they tell you all the stuff is wrong and you have no way of knowing if they’re telling you the truth or if this is just an opinion or on what this opinion is based. Oh, they’ll “explain” things to you in their own special patronizing way, knowing full well that you’ll never understand them or be able to make an informed, intelligent decision based on anything they say anyway.

Today, I met my new “dental team”. The team consisted of a bevy of young ladies all named something that ended with an “i”, it seemed. First there were Kelli, the receptionist and Ami – the hostess who proudly introduced me to the rest of the staff and to the high-tech space capsule they call a dental complex/office.

Mandi was “my billing clerk”. She actually said, “Hi, my name is Mandi and I’ll be your billing clerk today.” She took me to a dark office with leather chairs and gave me an enormously long breakdown of all the costs I’d be incurring today, since this was my first visit to their office.

I almost left at this point, but Mandi had a little chit-chat with my insurance company and they both agreed that there would be no undue hardship for me. She was very soothing and her dulcet, hypnotic tones convinced me to agree to everything she suggested. So off we went.

Toni, the x-ray technician took me into the Panorama Room where she had this crazy new-fangled gadget that took panoramic x-rays of the whole bottom of my head. Then I had a few regular x-rays, in a regular x-ray room too, for good measure.

 Then I went to another room with Kalli and someone who may or may not have been named Barbi. One of them spent the next 45 minutes probing, poking and prodding parts of my mouth whilst mumbling stuff about linguals and labials. This ordinarily might have turned me on a little, but she was very unloving about it and totally ignored all my frantic quips and questions. I’d say, “So, 1.5 labial…that’s pretty good, right?” and she’d just go have a little huddled conference with Barbi.

Eventually, someone came in to start cleaning my teeth – Cori, maybe…I don’t know. She’d barely started when the star of the whole show strolled in – the dentist. He seemed not to have a name because everyone just called him The Doctor and introduced him as The Doctor.

The Doctor was very jovial and casual and relaxed with smiles and kind words for everyone. All the young ladies burst into sunbeam smiles of their own for The Doctor and giggled girlishly when he spoke to them directly. He was tall and swarthy with dazzlingly white teeth and a full head of jet-black hair. He spent 38 seconds glancing at the lovely panoramic x-rays of my lower head, asked me if I had any problems. I said no and he left with a little wave for the assembled company.

 Everyone sighed.

Then – ooops, wouldn’t you know it, time was up and I was hustled off to meet Danni, the appointment girl who kindly scheduled a follow-up appointment with me so someone could actually clean my teeth. – which is what I went in there for in the first place.

By now the morning was shot and my VISA card had had quite a workout. One of Rockettes told me there would be further revelations during the next episode/visit, but that The Doctor was quite happy so there shouldn’t be any problems.


I left feeling totally perplexed, befuddled and confounded.


30 responses to “The Arcane Mysteries of Dentistry

  1. How very very odd.
    I went to the dentist today and he did exactly what he had planned before. I had the last of my wisdom teeth removed and so, although I knew that was what was going to happen, I’m now afraid I won’t ever understand anything else ever again.

  2. Dr Who (The Doctor) confounds and befuddles everyone.

    Seriously though, that sounds like quite the set up he has. No soft music or enormous shades?

    One place I went to had a tv hanging from the ceiling and I was fitted with earphones and a remote! The one I have now keeps telling very funny one liners which make me scared to laugh what with the machinery and sharp instruments he keeps pointing at my mouth during his comedy routine with the assistant (who btw is named Heidi).

  3. That is bizarre. I love going to the dentist…then again, I’ve never had a cavity, and I just go in for a cleaning every 6-months. I’m in and out in less than an hour.

    I had the same hygienist for 8 years, and I was so SAD when she moved away. We still exchange Holiday Cards. LOL!

    Claire has her very first “Happy Visit” in December. She gets to meet the dentist and the hygienist and she may or may not get her teeth cleaned, depending on how it goes. It’s basically to get her used to the idea of going to the dentist.

    She is SO excited about it. I hope it’s a good experience for her. And, if you ever wondered why I have a ‘tag’ on my blog that says, “preschoolers are weird but we love them anyway”…now you know. 😉

  4. Bandobras – Dentists in general are always very sad to note that my wisdom teeth are perfectly fine and fit in nicely with the others. I actually think they are leeching goodness from all the other teeth — which is pretty wise of them

    Violetsky – Oh ya, there were big shades and a TV on the ceiling, but it wasn’t on. I think it’s just for kids. I did get to wear the big shades though.

    CP – I took my daughter to the dentist when she was very young, too and she’s always happy to go. Wait until she has to start paying the bills herself. Then things get really scary.

  5. I’m very bad about making sure that I get to the dentist…, one of the things that I invariably put off. In the past it’s been to the point that I had some very serious issues that had to be taken care of.

    The guy I go to now, Dr. Dalton, has a slogan of “We Cater to Cowards.”

    I take an anti-anxiety pill the night before an appointment for dental work, then another in the morning and my wife drives me in. Once I’m in the chair I get gas before the Novocain.

    I’m pretty much out of it while they are working on me.

    I have 8 o’clock appointment for checkup and cleaning, long overdue. I made the appointment last week when I had a bad toothache, but the dentist was out of town.

  6. I need to borrow some of Mr. Goad’s meds there. Dentists petrify me. They are the boogie man. Just reading this post makes me all nervous and thinking I smell burning teeth. Hold me.

  7. Wow. That’s quite a performance! Here in archaic old Scotland I have been with the same dentist for the last 20 years. He works out of two rooms in an old building, answers his own phone and doesn’t have a computer. All his records are handwritten in a card index. (He sometimes actuallys stops in the middle of looking at your teeth to answer the phone!) On the rare occasions when he has to send you a bill for something, it is HANDWRITTEN. In FOUNTAIN PEN. I love it.

  8. You know, I’m the daughter of a small town dentist (originally from Scotland). My dad opted to retire early because he was hating was the profession was becoming – essentially a racket. He refused to do cosmetic dentistry if it wasn’t absolutely necessary (he wasn’t into glow-ey teeth). He didn’t like the pressure to raise his prices so his colleagues wouldn’t look bad. He really loved the practise of dentistry as ârt of the treatment of one’s health….nothing else. He was my dentist as well, and I tell ya, I now DREAD going to the dentist, and have yet to find one I’m comfortable with.

  9. LOL! I could swear you were at my dentist office except that I live 1,400 miles from Ottawa.
    I found your blog in the Old Hippies group on NaBloPoMo. Our dentist is young and all the “flight attendants” swoon when he comes in the room too. I’m not sure which is worse the dentist or to OBGYN!

  10. Mike – Holy moses. Here I thought you were an Indiana Jones adventurer type and you’re that scared of dentists. These guys are the nerds you used to push into lockers in middle school. Now they’re taking their revenge…

    OTC – Ya, where does Mr. Goad get all those good pre-dentist drugs? I’ll come hold your hand next time you have to go, okay?

    Grandy – Remember the good old days when you went to the dentist only if you had a toothache and the dentist was also the barber and village blacksmith and he’s just yank the offending tooth out? By the time you were 35ish, if you didn’t have enough teeth left to chew properly you got falsies. End of story.

    Geewits – That’s kind of what it was like. They all had smart little uniforms – black & navy if I remember correctly and were all always smiling and talking in soft voices. I’ll go finish the cleaning next week, but then I’m going to go look for a human dentist.

    Loth – Okay, yours is a bit scary, too. I had a nice old guy in Halifax – also worked out of a big old house – one room for fillings/extractions and one room for the hygenist who was sweet and just a tad younger than the dentist. They had a part-time woman to come in and do the billing; but only, I suspect because billing to insurance companies all had to be done online. He used to give me a little punch in the arm whenever I left and said, “take care, kiddo”

    Meanie – Thank you so much for saying that. I was beginning to think I was just paranoid. It really does seem like a racket to me and I always feel so helpless and vulnerable and totally, totally clueless when I go to places like this. You’re really completely at their mercy. I just heard yesterday about a dentist called Dr. Glantz who is supposed to be a nice (if somewhat gruff) old-school dentist on Beechwood. I may check him out.

    Marye – Egads! I think this is the future of dentistry. Like it wasn’t bad enough before, now they make you feel completely disoriented as well as scared to death. Welcome to the blog, Marye and thanks for the comment. I hope you’ll be back often!

  11. LOL! its so true. they are always the ‘doctor’

    i dabbled in dentistry stuff, if you have questions start writing stuff down and ill explain it to you next time 🙂

  12. I’ve been going to the same dentist for over 30 years now – that’s a record! He’s only a little older than I am and he keeps up with the times and learns new techniques as they are developed but doesn’t go overboard. He also keeps his fees down. He is sweet and soft spoken and never utters a complete sentence so half the time, I am not sure exactly what he is saying. I floss every day (not once in a while) and I only go in for cleanings once every couple of years and even then, there’s not much to clean. FLOSS!

  13. I think with the “fluoride” generation, dentists have to create more work for themselves. The days of cavity filling as their bread and butter are over, which is why they are so focused on other “problems”. And the cost of their overhead must be crazy – some have plasma t.v.’s mounted on ceilings, x-boxes in their waiting rooms, and like you mentioned, a ridiculous amount of staff to keep things running “smoothly”. Seems excessive to me. I find I’m going through sort of the same thing with my dermatologist. My last visit she hinted at a non-OHIP covered treatment, strictly cosmetic (hey, my frown line is there for a reason, how else will people know when I’m displeased about something?)

    let me know about the beechwood guy.

  14. Ohhhh how I loathe those girls. Every time I get my teeth cleaned the hygenist starts lecturing on the importance of flossing and goes on and on and on even though she admits I have hardly any plaque. So child, obviously I’m doing this right, non?

    The next time I think I’ll have to take one of them in a headlock and tell her that I’m probably older than her mom so she’s not impressing me at all and the next time she lectures me I’ll have to kill her.

    God they are ANNOYING!!

  15. I hate dentists – liars and thieves represent a fair share of them. Mine retired so I went to a new one who told me that he had to pull a perfectly fine silver filling out – sheepishly I said OK.
    4 years later he’s had to fix the damned thing 3 times – so I went to a new one – and this guy then told me that the WORST thing that the other guy could have done was pull the damned thing out.

    Worse then lawyers in my book.

  16. I have only ever had one bad dentist in my life, and only went once to him, and quickly dropped him.
    All the rest have been great. I enjoy going to the dentist, and always refer to my issue at hand in their language when talking about my teeth with them. “I seem to have some pain around the 2-5. It feels like I’ve got a bit of a malocclusion, for some reason. Maybe I lost a piece of amalgam. I know it’s probably due to my bruxism, but I still don’t want to get a bite plane.”

    Love the dentist. It interests me, and it all makes sense to me.

    Right now, since moving a couple of communities away from our current dentist, our family needs to change dentists, to make it more convenient – especially for the kids…but my soon-to-be-ex-dentist will be missed, because he’s such a great – and not condescending – guy. We’ve already found a replacement in our new city – a very nice Polish (as in ‘from Poland’, not ‘tooth-polishing’) woman who has a wall full of pictures in her office of all the kids she treats. My wife already had her initial appointment yesterday, and reports that she is very impressed with the doctor’s chair-side manor. The kids will be going in later this month for their first-ever visit.

    You may already know:
    Dentists also have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. Probably due to the crap they see in people’s mouths every day, combined with knowing that most people fear and slander them.

  17. Bandobras – You’re a poopy head

    Jobthingy – What do you mean, “dabbled”? Like it’s a dark art or something?? IS it a dark art? Is that the secret? What I really want to know is if they can actually tell anything on these x-rays or if they just make stuff up to charge you more.

    Julia – I floss. I floss. I’m obsessed with cleaning my teeth. I floss, I brush about 5 times a day, I have a proxil brush to brush between teeth. I have dento-picks to scrape off any remaining tartar and I have one of those rubber gum thingies to keep the gums in shape. I use them all every day. I really never have anything for the dentist to clean — this one made a big show of trying though.

    Meanie – Oh ya, they’re pushing the whitening, the night guards, the veneers, the replacement fillings, the crowns, etc…

    Jazz – They’re like like dentally programmed robots with their unnaturally brilliant teeth and chirpy little voices. I wonder if it’s bad for your teeth to speak clearly and above a whisper??

    Lebowski – Never get fillings replaced.

    Helen – Don’t worry, if you don’t have a dental plan they’ll hardly even speak to you, let alone perform any costly dental magic on you.

    JB – Oh shut up, Mr-I-have-the-best-of-everything-in-the-world!! I’m soooooo freakin’ happy for you, I really am. I hope you enjoy your lovely relationship with with your new dental professional like you’ve enjoyed all your dental professionals since you know soooooooo much about dentistry and everything. Nya, nya, ny-nya, nya!!! No, really, I’m glad they’re not all suicidal kooks. But, who’d want to be a dentist, anyway?

  18. Incredible… It looks like you are talking about some kind of semi-god there!

    May be she is, given how fast they take your money after (almost) nothing!

    Have a great day XUP!

  19. i took a course.. glorified medical/dental secretary in college. so when you take such a thing you have to know it all.

    so no there is nothing dark about it and yes they can see stuff.

    dont worry, they dont drill ya for nothing

  20. Guess again. I was the skinny nerdy guy that got picked on — the guy who took all the college prep courses and accelerated math — which I couldn’t do today if my life depended on it.

    Well, my tooth that was aching can’t be rescued. I’ve got an appointment for surgical extraction in 3 weeks and, yes, I’ve got my Xanax prescription. Then I’ve got a consultation set up for proactive dental work to address some other developing issues that were found.

    Fortunately, at almost 57, this will only be the second tooth that has been pulled, though I have quite a collection of caps and crowns. I never had my wisdom teeth pulled, because, as I was surprised to learn 20 or so years ago, I never had any. Apparently, 25 to 35% of Caucasians have less than the “normal” number of teeth, usually the wisdom teeth.

  21. I have a really good dentist… much simpler than the fancy schmancy dude you went to. Drop me a line if you want her contact info. (The Boy likes her too.)

  22. Guillermo – Thanks. Yes, dentists are very, very important and godlike. We are at their mercy.

    JB – No, actually nobody HAD to say it.

    Jobthingy – Okay, now I feel much much better and vow to love dentists from hereon in. Thank you

    Mike – Ouch. I feel for you and I’m sure the entire blogosphere will be feeling your pain.

    Nat – Thanks. You have my email. Send her name along.

  23. Three words to look for on a dentist office wall: No Pain Clinic. I’ve loved my new dentist ever since she said “if you feel anything at all just raise your right hand and we’ll stop.”

  24. Gabriel – Ha! Like I said, I’m not worried about the pain. I have a pretty high pain threshold — it’s all the mystery and uncertainty and stuff that creeps me out.

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