Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Visit To The Dental Authorities

At first, I was angry with my dentist when he told me he was going to retire. This is a man who’s known my mouth far better than I, for the past 22 years. And he’d kept it running through thick and thin, extractions, root canals, crowns, threats of bridges (avoided), fillings, and cleanings. I was selfishly convinced nobody could take care of me the way he had, but realized the day was soon coming when I’d be talking about “retiring”…in whatever form that may take…and my selfish anger quickly dissipated.

We met, Dr. Buescher and I did, the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday, a cold day in January of 1988. I’d moved to Madison from L-A in July and hadn’t yet needed a dentist, but woke up with a whale of a toothache that morning. I simply consulted the yellow pages (remember when we did that, before the internets caught on?) and found the dental office closest to work, and it turned out to be Dental Health Associates on Wingra Street. I called, pleaded my case, and Dr. Buescher’s people said he’d see me at 1:30. He promptly drilled out the cavity, put a filling in, and handed me his business card. He wrote his home phone number on the back, and said “don’t hesitate to call me at home if it gives you any trouble this weekend.”

Who does that?

My visit to my new dentist, Dr. Sweeny, yesterday morning, illustrated how far dentistry has come since I first sat in Dr. Buescher’s chair back in January of ’89. A few years back, the dentists built a huge new palace on Chapel Valley Road in Fitchburg. Dr. Buescher was deeply involved in the financial aspects of the practice, and he was rightfully proud of the new building as he gave me a tour shortly after they moved from Wingra Street. A couple years later, when he retired, he introduced me to Dr. Sweeny, who’s continued my excellent care.

Now, when you have x-rays taken, as I did yesterday morning, they still drape that ridiculous lead blanket over you, but about two minutes after they take the shot, it’s up on a computer screen a few feet from your face. Whatever “developing” of the x-ray they do, is done automatically, and a digital image is generated, and the detail is scary good. Dr. Sweeny pointed out the issue he was concerned with, on tooth #20 (somewhere in the back of my mouth) and I could clearly see the cause of his concern – a dark-shaded area near the root, which he said was a sign that it was full of bacteria and the nasty critters were slowly eating away the bone surrounding tooth #20. That particular tooth has a dandy root canal and crown, courtesy of Dr. Buescher, but Dr. Sweeny said it’s going to have to come out, probably early next year. Ouch. Double ouch, financially – extraction and then implant.

But that wasn’t why I was there yesterday morning. I was there for a filling. It used to take an hour or so to get a filling done, but now – much quicker. A little gel to numb the gum, a quick shot of Novocain, ten minutes later, he’s in with the drill, his assistant whips up a quick batch of amalgam filling, he puts it in and shapes the filling, and you’re on your way in about 20 minutes. I make it sound simple, but I know there’s tremendous skill involved in this.

All this high-tech stuff comes at a price, of course. My insurance will cover most of yesterday’s procedure, but I can’t wait to find out what I’ll be on the hook for in January, when I have to deal with the oral surgeons for the extraction and implant.

1 comment:

  1. Remember that both your health AND dental insurers will have a piece of the action.