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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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you would think this is self-evident
children of dune - leto 1
I finally went to the dentist for my broken front tooth. Even my vanity, of which I have much, was not proof against my instinctive hatred of visiting the dentist. It's hard to explain--wait, no, it's not, it's easy. It goes like this.

Dental Guilt.

You know what I'm talking about. You go in still carrying the memories of all the flossing you didn't do, the fact you skipped your six month cleaning, and all the coffee and soda you drank. You sit down and brace yourself when the dentist comes in. Because sure, he may not say it (but he does, every time), he looks it.

Well, mine always said it.

The thing he does not get--though he's seen my entire family now--is that I am engaged in a dental war for my teeth. I come from a long, endless line of people who have none once they hit their forty-fifth year and my youngest sister lost all of hers before her twenty-fifth birthday due to malformed enamel (there is a medical term for this; I don't remember it). There are pitched battles, crushing defeats, truces, and vicodin. My dental work all on its own raised my tolerance for vicodin from "whee colors" to "I could get a better high from aspirin", okay? I could have put a kid of his through like, first year Princeton on the strength of my dental bills.

But every time, every time he looks in my mouth with this pained expression, like he can't believe his beautiful, flawless work is stuck in my mouth, where I obviously don't appreciate it.

Which makes me skip going to the dentist and double up on my dental coping mechanisms at home and blah blah blah, the cycle continues.

However, today is Saturday and I needed my front tooth that seriously broke fixed. There's a nearby clinic (like, one mile away) that specializes in Medicaid and CHIP clients. I work in social services; any dental clinic that can keep up a steady stream of repeat Medicaid customers for several years in general is a good bet. My clients were always my best source of customer service information; in general, and possibly in specific, any place where undocumented workers were comfortable going regularly with their kids is basically the gold standard of customer service. We don't lack dental clinics that will take Medicaid, including several frighteningly nice ones with LCD TVs and equipment I'm pretty sure is in the direct ancestry of Skynet, so the fact most of them still chose to go to this much smaller and less sophisticated one was a pretty good indicator it was a good place. Also, they were open on Saturday regular hours.

My impressions:

A.) The tech guy was hot as hell. I tried to admire his tattoos subtly.
B.) Everyone else was a woman. (There was one other male dentist somewhere? In theory? Never saw him.)
C.) I'm pretty sure they did a good job on my teeth; I'm not in pain and they look normal.

I just can't get over the fact I didn't have to wait and wait and wait and wait forever, the dentist showed up fairly fast and smiled in a non-patronizing way, she and my hygienist cracked jokes and weirdly, apologized if I showed discomfort. That was weird. My other dentist wouldn't notice anything less than me grabbing his wrist. I barely twitched (it wasn't even like, hurt, just the vibrations made me jump at first) and they both paused to check on me. I love this place.

(Two thirds of the way through, she stops abruptly and looks into my face; "Are you okay?" I didn't realize I'd relaxed that much; I usually have to seriously fight to keep still and my gag reflex like, triples in intensity. Apparently, I was approaching some kind of dental coma of relaxation or something. This is the first time my jaw wasn't killing me from clenching down on the rubber thing to hold my mouth open, and she did this genius thing with tissues so I didn't have to check in every few seconds to make sure my lips weren't trying to close.)

I can't quite put my finger on what was different. I mean, it was definitely the professional but genuinely warm attitude (as opposed to professional and genuinely patronizing) and the friendly way the staff all talked to each other in the halls as they passed, and the way she actually like, listened to me and gave me options on what to do (at this point, I need to pony up and start the long and expensive process of capping and be done with it with my family and personal history, especially with my sister as an example. Short term expensive; long term a bargain, considering).

Also? No dental guilt. I like her. I seriously have to find out if they are taking new patients anytime soon. That was the single most pleasant dental experience I have ever had.

Personal bias: all three of the front desk clerks were bilingual and from what I could overhear, the tech and at least two or three hygienists were too. That probably made my first really positive impression of the kind of clinic this is; if you are going to build a practice in Texas, especially in Austin, if you don't have bilingual staff, I think less of you. I'm not fluent by any means (at all; I am not good with languages spoken; reading I'm a little better) but I still try to read and practice it enough to understand and communicate on a basic level, and I don't get any business here that won't at minimum get at least one or two full time staff who are bilingual.

Must check for new patient openings. I really don't feel that a lack of LCD tvs on the ceiling is like, a problem.

Also, my gums don't hurt. Okay, this is freaking magic now. *awed*

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It's very heartening for me to read a positive dental work story.

I'm at the age where my childhood fillings are falling out. I don't have dental insurance and I can't afford dental work without selling something important to me. I've been avoiding the problem for a long time. Your post doesn't suggest a solution (except for moving to Austin and trying to qualify for Medicaid) but it's inspiring to read about someone else's dental success.

This might help?

Care Credit - the third section is about dental credit? I was looking at it too because even with insurance this is going to cost me.

Forgive me if you've already looked into these options; these are the ones we explored for my sister when she was without insurance.

1.) local dental school is a good place. A lot of kids newly in the Foster Care system are sent to the one in--I think San Antonio?--to get dental work done and I've had coworkers go there too.

2.) free dental clinics - they're rare, so it's something you'd have to research, but there are some and some that work on a sliding scale/payments option.

3.) There are dental plans that are ridiculously cheap monthly and so the discount on dental work is pretty huge. Some credit unions have access to them as well. If you find that option would work for you, when you go in you can ask for an evaluation (those are usually free if you have dental insurance) and set a schedule by affordability. Basically, they'll give you a list of everything they want/need to do with the prices (and alternatives sometimes) and you can do it in increments.

I hope that helps. If I can think of any other options, I'll come back and add them.

Just chiming in on what Jenn said. We were a big family with a lot of bad teeth and no insurance at all, growing up. The dental clinic with the sliding scale (based on income) was truly amazing...the dentist I had there was so good I still use him, even after he moved to private practice!

And they were great about payment plans, and Care Credit saved my butt when I needed a root canal but made too much money to qualify for lower sliding scales.

There are a lot of options out there. I let my teeth go for ages and it was a fight to get them back into anything approaching decent shape...I wish I'd started earlier!

You see, there's a reason I will drive to Temple to my dentist-in-law. (Sister-in-law's brother.) He's funny, a frickin' magician with the novocain, and really knows his stuff.

Plus we get to share lots of family gossip.

Nice. I have had good luck with dentists. They've all been very careful with the Novocaine.

I think a LOT of dental issues are genetic, like your sisters. If your enamel just doesn't form right, you're screwed. If the wrong type of bacteria like to live in your mouth? You're screwed. That does not absolve anyone of brushing and flossing, but it does render dental guilt... annoying.

I experience dental guilt when I hear tales of suffering like yours. They're a little crooked, and I have some very mild gingivitis that comes and goes, but otherwise I'm gifted with nearly unassailable teeth. I've never had a cavity. Heck, it took the orthodontist several go rounds to realize that the reason why my brace brackets kept falling off, was that the surfaces were too strong and needed to be etched extra long first. The guilt comes from that I've done absolutely nothing to deserve this - I've never done anything to them other than a desultory daily brushing.

Finding a dentist that treats you with care and respect is really awesome. I love my current dentist; her practice is all about providing a caring experience, and they really take the promise to do that seriously.

Dental guilt-tripping is so lame and will only make patients avoid dentists more. I had a mean dentist who used to do that to me as a kid (back when I drank soda too much), and he effectively scared me away from the dentist for YEARS. I'm glad I was able to get over that a few years ago, because again, my current dentist is AWESOME. I'll continue going to her even when I move out of the area. So worth the drive!!

The dentist I went to for most of my childhood was also a professor at the state dental school; he made me feel happy and at ease even when removing teeth. When he retired (to run a free dental clinic in Haiti, for the love of all that is AWESOME), his former-students-now-partners really stepped up. No guilt-tripping, no two-minute rush exams, no PAIN. They need to move their offices, but I'll be happy to drive an extra fifteen minutes to keep getting that kind of care.

We used to have the world's best dentist. No kidding. When your young child has to have the first filling of his life, and then at dinner you ask him what was the best thing that happened to him that day and he says, "Getting a filling!" you know you have the World's Best Dentist.

Alas, he moved many states away and now we just have a very good dentist.

Oh my god, isn't it MAGIC when you find a NON-SHITTY medical professional? SERIOUSLY AWESOME. I am so glad for you!

Also, I really like your selection process.

I'm very fond of my current dentist. Had a tooth crack, called the next morning, they fit me in at 11:30. *And*, when I said "I know this tooth really needs a crown (it's basically an eggshell around a bunch of filling), but I'm currently unemployed and so can you just fill it and we'll see how long it lasts", he not only filled it without arguing, he comped me!

Yay! Happy outcome! Sounds like you deserved a good experienced just based on dental karma.

I love my current dental practice (even though the smoking hot dentist left). The hygenists are so gentle, and even though my teeth apparently expired last year (no cavities for 28 years, *11* in the last year), the dentists are really nice.

I FALL ASLEEP WHILE THEY'RE WORKING ON ME. They have to wake me up because my jaw goes slack and my mouth isn't open enough. And they check on me all the time and apologized profusely when the novocaine shot made me cry once.


STAY WITH THESE PEOPLE. Good dentists are way too damn rare.

We invited our dentist to our wedding that's how much we appreciate and love ours. I've got teeth that are like granite and so I'm pretty low maintenance but my traumatized dentist-phobic hubby appreciates all the care and gentleness and the dentist's tiny little hands!

Good dentists are made of awesome. I need to remember to call and apologize to mine - I missed my last two appointments because I was sick and was, actually, so sick I couldn't call and say 'Sick, sorry, must CX.'

In re 'no dental insurance' - I'm in the same boat. I needed about $5k worth of dental work because, like our blog host, I've got serious dental guilt. 10 years' worth of it, actually, and thus serious issues.

Found a dentist I liked.

Found out the estimate.

Had a near heart attack.

Asked if they had a dental insurance recc: They did. It's run by Humana, runs about $300 a year here in GA, and has SPECTACULAR coverage.

URL - http://www.humanaonedental.com/ , click on 'need individual coverage?' It has -REALLY GOOD- information about what it covers (in GA, everything), and how much the customer's cost is going to be (awesome).

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