A friend sent me a semi-hilarious list entitled Top Ten Reasons You Hate Your Dentist. I’m no dentist; I own a San Francisco 3D dental imaging center. However, I spend enough time with dentists (huddled around cone beam x-ray images or around bottles of wine) to empathize with their plight. So I wrote a response for that small 90% of patients who might not get it…
Top 10 Reasons Your Dentist Hates You Too
10. I’m a lot sorrier than you that you’re late. You’re upset there was a red light, dirty diaper, chatty boss, or trivial errand that prevented you from showing up on time. I’m upset I have an expensive staff and half million dollar office and equipment loan that I need to pay for, and we’re looking at an empty chair while you check Facebook one last time before leaving home. Now I have the ethical choice of treating you in half the time (with twice the chance of sacrificing quality) or giving you the full treatment and inconveniencing all of my patients and staff for the rest of the day. It’s a tough choice.
9. I am sincerely sorry you’ve been sitting in the waiting room for 30 minutes. You have a right to be upset. Direct that anger at the patient who showed up late (see above Reason 10) and take it out on him in the parking lot. Next time if you’re late and a patient punches you in the parking lot, you’ll know why. If you miss an appointment I may punch you myself.
8. No, you can’t pay me later when you have the money. You can’t buy a venti carmel frappachino without first surrendering $4.65 plus tax. I know you know this; I just scraped six months of Starbucks film off your teeth. By the way, a daily Starbucks adds up to $1,300 per year and causes tooth decay. You somehow found the money to cause the double-shot non-fat extra-whip problem; you can find the money to fix it.
7. I know you’re in extreme pain and you feel it’s a do-it-right-now emergency. In your mind this probably has nothing to do with my recommendation last month of “do it right now or you’ll be in extreme pain.” In my mind it’s a lesson, and at 10pm on a Friday it’s also annoying. Did you think I was joking when I showed you the ginormous cavity on the x-ray, or did you think I’d rather miss my kid’s ballgame and see you on a Saturday? Go medicate yourself and pray my kid wins the game so I’ll be in a good enough mood to come in early Monday morning.
6. I didn’t break it, and I don’t really care who did. If your tooth is broken it’s hard to claim it’s not your fault with a straight face. If you try I may leave your face crooked. More to the point, I don’t care unless I ask (and I won’t). If it’s your tooth in your head then it’s your responsibility and you’re paying to get it fixed. Don’t think that because I placed the crown twelve years ago or put in a filling two teeth over that suddenly I’ve insured your whole mouth for life. Or if you think it, don’t every say it. I’m the guy holding very sharp things near very sensitive places.
5. Yes I know you can get this service cheaper somewhere else. You didn’t think I knew about the 19-year-old down the street with the semi-legal dental license who offers $195 crowns? I pay my lab more than that for the crown. The cheaper guy pays $19 for crowns that were used car parts in a Chinese junk yard last week. He also spends 12 minutes on the total procedure; I spend an hour and a half. I’m sure my quality and his are comparable to apples and asphalt, but since that doesn’t matter I suggest you call him on your iPhone 4Gs then hop in your Mercedes SL and go see him to save a buck. In addition to tattoos, car seats, and airport security, your health is a fine thing to bid out to the lowest bidder.
4. Of course there’s another, better treatment to what I suggested. I based my opinion solely on a long and ongoing education and lifetime of experience, but I understand you’re looking for something faster or cheaper or less detailed. Let’s extract the tooth. Yes, Plan B is to yank the whole tooth out of your mouth and it will never bother you again. That’s dentistry in most of the world and you seem like a worldly person. Would you like me to do it, or do you have pliers at home?
3. You treat my bill like it’s the decaying filth I just spent an hour scraping out of your mouth. Do you really think I’m stealing your retirement savings so I can buy a third vacation home on the French Riviera. I’m lucky I can afford a croissant. I came out of dental school with $300,000 in debt and then paid another $500,000 to buy and modernize my practice. My staff refuses to work for free, the landlord demands rent, and I have foolishly decided to buy thousands of dollars in brand new disposable items for each operation–when recycling cotton rolls and gloves and needles would lower the cost for everybody. You’re paying a very fair price so smile with those teeth I just fixed.
2. You’re really upset insurance isn’t paying for all of it? What about my feelings? I’m King-Kong-with-dandruff furious that insurance is forcing my fees down to those of a semi-retired dentist/goat herder in North Dakota, while forcing me to hire an employee just to decrypt the codes for submitting eighty-one forms to get my meager insurance reimbursement four months from now. You suspect insurance is short-changing you, but I know it’s fleecing me. Yet somehow you believe the shoddy contract between your employer and a multi-billion insurance company is my fault.
1. Wow, I hurt you. I did it intentionally because I became a doctor to hurt patients rather than help them. I only blew a puff of air on your diseased gums and exposed tooth roots… and I’m the one causing the pain? That’s like blaming the nasty hard telephone pole for ruining your car, as you were driving 20 mph and 1.2 blood-alcohol over the limit. Introduce your mouth to 1870s technology: brush and floss. Then I won’t hurt you as I try to repair years of oral neglect.
I know you hate your dentist. It’s mutual. I’ll see you next week for your appointment. And thanks again for your referrals.