Third World Dental Care in a First World Country


It seems my life lately has been relegated to the waiting line. I waited in the infernal DMV line to get my license and thought I'd gone to hell, but wow, the local dentist put the DMV to shame here. I'm at that age (young at heart, but full-bodied) when my old dental work is starting to deteriorate. I cracked another crown recently and had to have it repaired. We participate in a Cigna Plus dental program that offers reduced pricing on dental work, and so far this has worked quite well for us.

I was in a hurry … there's so much going on right now. David found a list of participating dentists and I chose the closest one. I called, confirmed they accepted Cigna Plus and made an appointment. I did not say it was an emergency, but I did ask for an appointment as soon as possible. I did not check references on-line. Big mistake.

I might add we've had first world medical care in third world countries … Chile, for instance, provided great medical care for David in a dire emergency situation. We've had third world medical care in a third world country. In Venezuela, the physician used crystals and aroma therapy to treat my sciatica (didn't work). We've also had third world dental care in a third world country … the dentist in Ecuador who “cleaned” our teeth with a q-tip soaked in peroxide … while she watched a soap opera. Anyhow, I was disappointed, to say the least, in the dental care recently provided and I'm on my soapbox whinging about it.

I arrived 10 minutes early for my Noon appointment as requested to fill our new patient paperwork, a ream of paper and lots of healthcare questions (laborious, but valid). A whole page required me to initial that I understood things like the fact it is possible to aspirate a crown and they'd do their best to recover it. This did not instill confidence. I refused to initial the statement that said they could charge me up to $200 if I didn't cancel an appointment within 48 hours. At 12:30, the receptionist called me up to the front desk. My dentist was leaving at 1pm and couldn't see me, but another dentist was coming in at 1pm … only another half hour. Patience is not my virtue. I was grumpy.

A little after 1pm, a dental tech called me for x-rays.

“I only need one … the one for the broken crown”, I said.

“No, you need a panoramic view, too,”, she responded firmly.

“No, I only need the one for the broken crown”, I replied.

“Step right up and put your forehead against here and …”

Whir, whir, whir … it wasn't working correctly.

Another whir, whir, whir … still not working correctly.

One more set of whir, whir, whirs and she had her panoramic view and I heard cha-ching.

She attempted to take my blood pressure three times, but the machine wasn't working.

“What's your usual BP?” I told her and she wrote it down.

She settled me into a dental chair, took the needed x-ray and put the TV on. “I don't need the TV, thanks.” She left. I got up, turned off the TV and waited. Around 1:30 pm, the dentist walked in.

“What's the matter, dear?”

“Broken crown.”

“OK”, he confirmed after a quick check. “I'll have someone talk to you about the cost of replacing it.” He was gone in a flash.

Lest it takes you as long to read this as it took me to get treatment, I'll hasten the pace.

1:35 – Review pricing and approve … $200 more than anticipated, but ...

1:40 – Unknown person walks in and turns on TV … I shut it off

1:45 – More forms to sign

1:50 – Tech takes impression by loading my mouth with goop which makes me gag and drool profusely

1:53 – Tech sticks long swab with local anesthetic on my gum and leaves

1:55 - Unknown person walks in and turns on TV … I shut it off

2:15 – Dentist administers novocaine

2:30 – Dentist checks to see if I'm numb … “Yes, in fact, it's starting to wear off already.”

2:40 – Dentist completes removing old crown and attempts to do a tooth impression for the new crown, but it doesn't come out well and he blames the tech. It needs to be done again. In the process, much goop is dripped on my face and dental bib. Goop needs to harden before they can do it again. “I'll be back shortly, dear.”

2:55 – Second attempt to get impression is “textbook perfect” says the dentist. He informs me that the tech will make me a temporary crown and then proceeds to instruct me about temporary crowns. My mouth is full of crowns … I get temporary.

3:15 – Tech returns and makes a temporary crown, glues it in place and schedules my follow-up appointment. She dawdles. I'm reclined in the dental chair. I remove my bib, sit up and get out of the chair. Let's get a move-on.

3:30 – I am reunited with David who has waited for 3-1/2 hours. We pay the bill and David notes I have goop all over the side of face.

3:45 – I return home, attempt to wipe off the goop with a wet facecloth and I find I have a bright red rash about the size of a half-dollar on the side of my face that is hot and stinging.

4:00 – A call to the dentist confirms that there is absolutely nothing he could have done to cause this. Keep a cold compress on it and if it persists, call him back (although he doesn't think there's anything they can do since it had nothing to do with them).

Well, I still have the rash on my right cheek, though it's fading. The budget will survive though I hate spending money for replacement stuff (boat or teeth). I haven't quite gotten over the 3-1/2 hour wait, but writing this blog helps relieve some of the pressure. Complaining needs an outlet. I'll put my soapbox away now. I'll wait to get my permanent crown before giving them a rave review.