“Sorry for being late,” I said running up to the counter still somewhat out of breath. “I have an appointment for 1 o’clock with the hygienist.”
I give her my name and appointment time to the young brunette with the navy blue scrubs with the words “dental hygienist” emblazoned on her right breast and she just shakes her head and asks “are you SURE you’re a patient here? I’m not showing anything for you or any appointments for 1pm.”
“My name is Bonnie,” said the older blond-headed woman in the lab coat standing behind the counter. “I’M the hygienist, and I don’t have any appointments this afternoon.”
“Wait, are you ‘Jonathan,’” the brunette receptionist asked. “First visit was in February and last visit was March the 12th?”
“Yeah, I guess…” (as contrary to popular media stereotypes, not everyone with Autism has a photographic memory for dates and times).
“Okay, great… but it’s still not showing you as having an appointment today.”
“Bah, whatever,” Bonnie said walking away from the counter exasperatedly. “Just bring him back, I don’t have anything for the afternoon anyway.”
When I met her on the other side of the reception area, I explained to her that I had been trying to get an appointment with her for the past week (which I’m told is pretty good for a hygienist).
“Oh, of course,” she said. “First our voicemail went down, and now we can’t get e-mail. I swear, the whole system is a mess.”
As she led me towards the treatment room, I explain to her how loud, high pitched noise drives me mad, and is one of the primary reasons I try to avoid dentists. In fact, I could hear her working on someone on my last visit, and it was pure torture for me.
“Thankfully, I have nothing to worry about as I was just here for a simple cle-”
“‘Cleaning,’” she asked incredulously as I sat down in their long vinyl chair. “Honey, your file says you’re here for a prophylactic supragingival scaling for removal of plaque infected calculus [yes, I looked it up]. Your dentist should have explained that to you, but that doesn’t matter now. I’ll be back with a copy of your chart and a rough cost estimate…”
Pro-galactic super-ninja sailors are infecting my plaque with Calculus?
I knew math was tough, but this was getting scarier by the second. Her insistence on touching my shoulder “reassuringly” during the exchange wasn’t helping. In fact, it makes it worse, but there is no real way to tell her that without sounding like a jerk.
“It is $285 per quadrant with insurance, plus the cost of anesthesia. Yes, I know that SOUNDS like a lot, but I don’t have to do your entire mouth in one sitting. You know, I’ll be back in a few minutes, and you can give me an answer then.”
In fact, most dental websites I visited to write this post recommend NOT doing the entire mouth at once… but I didn’t know that going in so I said “half” mostly because she said a “full treatment” would take “between 2-3 hours.” Heck, that extraction was only 40 minutes, and my jaw was sore for the rest of the week.
“First thing we’re going to do is take some measurements,” Bonnie said in an innocuous way that sounded more and ominous as she continued. “That way, we have a record so we can watch you and track your progress between visits.”
After several uncomfortable minutes of poking, prodding and scraping with a bonus “burning” smell, she stopped what she was doing momentarily, and I rather naively asked if that meant we were…
“’Finished?’ Oh, honey,” she said putting her hand back onto my right shoulder. “I haven’t even started yet. Now put that tube back in your mouth and bite. I said ‘BITE,’ now open so I can continue with your procedure…”
Every once in a while, she’d stop again for a few seconds to give my mouth a douse of cold water which was not at all “refreshing” but painfully clear that she was actually washing blood away from my gums. Moreover, it gave me a false sense of hope that this uncomfortable ordeal was finally over and I could go home.
Finally, she lifts the ugly beige chair up and hands me a small mirror to hold while she lectures me about how to “brush my gums” (which I’m told is pretty much standard on a first visit) with a child-sized orange toothbrush. Damnit, not only are my teeth more crooked than I remembered, but I forget to shave this morn-
“You’re not watching. You NEED to watch this so YOU can maintain good oral hygiene until your next visit. If you DON’T maintain good brushing and flossing than you WILL have more problems down the road.”
I get it’s supposed to be “empowering,” but it came off as condescending and felt more pre-emptive handwringing. In other words: “It’s now officially YOUR fault if YOU need any further treatment beyond the 2nd half of your cleaning and upcoming bridge work – which were also YOUR fault.”
No cherry lollipop (seriously, what kind of dentist doesn’t have lollipops?), but at least she “let” me keep the tiny orange toothbrush. Yah, I get to throw away something she would have otherwise thrown away herself – THAT’S empowerment, baby!
Okay, yes, she gave a REAL toothbrush too, along with a small pack of floss… and a bill for $589 due immediately upon receipt which the pretty, brunette receptionist who wasn’t sure if I could pay via check.
Whatever, I’ll let them work it out, after all, I have a sore jaw and a tiny orange toothbrush to get rid of…