Salesmen Instead of Healers
I drove home from the dentist today with my daughters, and I cried the whole way home. My husband called to ask if we were on our way and could hear that I was crying, and asked me what was wrong. “We went to the Dentist,” was all that I could say. It was as if he should know, of course I would be crying.
My eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a big word that means an underdeveloped and decaying tooth, late last year. The dentist had directed us to a specialist and when I discovered that we had actually gone over our insurance allowance for tooth x-rays for my daughter for the year, I postponed the appointment because I knew that they would want to give her more. Not only did I want to wait for the New Year’s coverage, I am also very uncomfortable with x-rays and already upset that she had had so many. She was not in any pain, so I was happy to hold off as long as possible between doses of radiation.
Our office visit today began with several dentists giving my daughter at least twenty x-rays because they could not get the shot that they wanted. My youngest daughter takes after me and her mouth is abnormally small. Because children of her age do not normally have this sort of problem or need these sorts of x-rays, they did not have proper equipment to fit her mouth. I watched her cringe in pain as she tried to bite down on the films that cut into her soft palate.
After all of this, the specialist explained to me that they were going to need to do a series of procedures to grow a root for the tooth, then do a canal, then cap it and on and on and on. As he was telling me all of this I could see him visibly wince at the mention of all of the discomfort that my daughter was going to have to go through. He also told me that they were not sure how well she was going to cooperate in the first one and a half hour session, so he didn’t know if the first procedure would even be successful. When his assistant happily presented me with the sheet explaining the approximate cost of the procedure, and praised our wonderful insurance that would be covering it all, she pushed me to set the appointment immediately. I told her that I would have to check with my husband first and she suspiciously asked me if it was because of scheduling.
Not even once, was it even mentioned that my daughter’s tooth could be painlessly pulled in one visit. Not once, did we discuss the strong possibility that her wisdom would likely grow to fill that space in time. Not once, did we address the fact that her mouth is so crowded already, it might actually be healthier for her to lose the tooth altogether. These people seemed like nice people to me, they did not seem like people who enjoy putting children through unnecessary pain. I think that they must have themselves very nicely disillusioned into believing that they are doing the right thing, when it is absolutely crystal clear that all they are doing is pushing their product. This is not about a dentist manipulating adults into cosmetic improvements that they don’t necessarily need. This is an eight-year-old kid.
We will get my daughter’s tooth pulled, oh yes we will. I had to consider that it is pretty likely that if we had not walked into the office today with our shiny dental insurance, they probably would have recommended that the tooth be pulled right away. Here we are, these parents trying so hard to make all of the right choices in concerns to our children, and we are at the mercy of numerous institutions, most sadly our broken medical system. I didn’t say anything to them about how horrible I thought what they were doing was. I don’t think that it would do any good considering the depth of their apparent denial. I will go back to my regular dentist, and explain that we are not willing to put our eight-year-old daughter through all of that pain and discomfort for one deformed tooth. I will get a referral for an oral surgeon to yank the thing. But what about all of the parents who go along with what the supposed professionals tell them to do because they are authority figures, and we are bad parents if we don’t do just exactly what they tell us to? It absolutely breaks my heart.