Friday, May 13, 2011

I'll just keep my crooked teeth, thanks.

I just need to put this story out there, get it out of my system.

My dentist had suggested seriously considering braces during my last two cleaning visits. I have some serious crowding that causes a few of my front top teeth to slant something awful. It makes them hard to keep clean even with brushing several times a day. My dentist says the older I get the harder it's going to be for me to keep them from decaying.

During my last appointment my dentist took a look at my x-rays and noticed that my top right wisdom tooth seemed wonky. The film she took actually made it look as though the tooth was on top of the next tooth in, instead of being on top of an empty space at the back of my mouth. The dentist decided to send me for a consult with an oral surgeon before we started any work related to braces.

I went last week to the consult appointment. I thought the doctor was a little jerky during the appointment, but he seemed to alternate between joking and condescending. I chalked it up to his sense of humor. The first thing he said to me after glancing at the chart the nurse handed him was, "You're about fifteen years too late." I laughed and said, "I know braces at my age, but it's something I think needs to be done."

He kind of chuckled and replied, "No, the wisdom teeth, there's a reason we suggest you have them removed in your teen years".

I thought he was a bit snobby, but not offensive as he went on to explain how the longer you wait to remove wisdom teeth the more of a risk there is for nerve damage. I explained how they never really bothered me and how I hadn't had good dental insurance in quite some time. He seemed to warm up a bit throughout the appointment. I thought perhaps he was one of those people that just gave off a prickly first impression.

We moved onto to talking about the wonky upper right tooth. He seemed to think it wasn't a wisdom tooth and perhaps a growth or a tooth that never fully developed. He asked if I ever had any pain on that side of my mouth. I told him no, not really.

Since he couldn't be sure as to what the deal was with that wonky tooth just from an x-ray, and he couldn't feel where it maybe from examining my mouth with a gloved finger like he did with the other impacted teeth he decided to order a CT scan.

I asked if leaving it alone since it wasn't bothering me was dangerous. He said he couldn't be sure without the CT scan. He also said that the CT scan would give us a better look at the nerves involved with the other wisdom teeth.

I was directed to his office staff to help me arrange a CT scan. The woman who helped me looked at my x-ray and kind of grimaced and said something like, "Oh wow". She handed me a prescription slip with the order for the scan and told me she'd call with an appointment time.

The prescription slip ordered a scan and had the following line at the bottom:


Maybe his prickly demeanor was more concern? Who wants to see the word tumor on something that is related to their head? I hadn't even made it the whole way home, a mere five minute drive, when Dave called to tell me that I was scheduled for scan the very next morning at eight. Perhaps this was a bit more serious? The inner freak-out began.

I went and got the scan the next morning. I called the doctor's office later in the afternoon. I had neglected to ask if I needed a follow up appointment or if I should just wait for a call. I was told they probably wouldn’t receive the information from the hospital until Monday and to expect a call then with further instructions.

Okay, I can do that.
Monday, I waited and heard nothing. I know offices get busy, so I called late in the afternoon just to confirm whether or not the report had made it to the office. I was told that they had got the report and it placed on the doctor's desk for his review. I was told to expect a call the following day with instructions. Tuesday, no call at all. I did not call; I was worried about being a pest. I was still crawling with anxiety though. I knew it was probably nothing, but still I just wanted confirmation. Wednesday, again no call. I called the office in the afternoon. The staff member I spoke to explained that the doctor had an emergency the day before and was in their other office on Wednesdays. She assured me she would check into the delay and call back before the end of business either way. There was no call.

Thursday morning, I called my primary doctor and explain the situation. I ask if someone could call me back with a referral for another oral surgeon. Regardless of what was holding up the calls, I felt uncomfortable with the disorganization of the office. I also called my regular dentist and relayed as much and asked for another referral.

I decided to give the oral surgeon’s office one more try, and if nothing else to ask for my records to be sent to my regular dentist so I could get her opinion. The staff member that answered the phone apologized for the delay. I explained to her I simply wanted to know whether or not I could schedule a follow up appointment or if they were going to refer me elsewhere. She apologized again, and put me on hold to see if she could at least answer that question for me.

The staff member returned to the phone and again explained it was a crazy week, apologized, and scheduled me for an appointment. She explained at the appointment that the doctor will give me his opinion as to which teeth need to be removed. I exhaled a bit, it sounded as though we were just dealing with wisdom teeth.

I guess either my primary doctor or my regular dentist called the oral surgeon to see if they could help me get some resolution. My phone rang about three hours later and I missed the call because I couldn't find the portable. It was the oral surgeon’s number on the caller id. I called back thinking they forgot to tell me something about my appointment. I apologized for not getting to the phone in time, and asked if  someone was trying to reach me about my appointment. They put me on hold. A moment later a voice booms, “I hear you have your panties in a bunch about your CT scan!"
I was taken by surprise. It was the doctor himself yelling at me. He continued to snap, "This is about wisdom teeth that have been in your mouth for 30 years, right? The ones you are concerned about because you want braces, right?"

I was in shock. Was he really talking to me this way? Was this really the doctor?

I tried to explain that I was concerned because I saw the word tumor, I'm not a doctor, and it freaked me out. I was simply trying to find out if I could schedule my follow up, and no one really knew for sure. I was not trying to cause problems.

He snapped again, "You knew you'd need a follow up, you knew there was no tumor, there never was. I just wrote that for the insurance to cover the CT scan."

I again stammered that I did not know that was the case, and that his staff insisted that I wait until I received a call before scheduling a follow up. I misunderstood. I was apologizing to him?!?!? Then something snapped in me, why was I apologizing? Why was I allowing him to speak to me this way? I continued though to stammer and explain myself.

He cut me off, "Look, let me get a word in edgewise this is an apology. I'm sorry you didn't understand all of this."

I told him I wouldn’t be returning to his office. Please send my records to my dentist, and I'll get another referral. Then like a child he responded, "I wouldn't want to be your doctor anyway!"

I hung up the phone in complete shock. I'm not even sure what I said during my end of the conversation. I felt like a child being scolded the whole time. I shook in my seat for a good half an hour. I was so angry with myself for not being able to accurately state my case. I was so angry that I even entertained the conversation as long as I did. I still cannot believe that this happened. I'm still trying to tell myself I did nothing wrong. I had every right to follow up and make the phone calls I made. I wasn't being unreasonable for being concerned about something I didn't fully understand. My health is my responsibility. It's okay to ask questions. Maybe to doctors this stuff is all routine, and the substitution of words to manipulate the situation is commonplace, but to me it wasn't. I have the right to expect an honest explanation.


  1. HOLD THE FREAKIN PHONE. I cannot believe that "doctor" treated you like he did! If *I* had seen tumor written on the bottom of my CT order form, I would've been equally freaked out. I can sometimes understand the delay in getting results to a patient (I know how the "other" side works), but for the doctor to scold you for not getting how *his* office works is ridiculous! And for him to open the conversation with "you've got your panties in a bunch" is so utterly unprofessional - it's amazing he has any patients (or staff for that matter). I'm sorry he treated you like that and I'm so glad to hear that your CT came back negative. My jaw dropped open multiple times while reading your story. Big hugs for you. That doc is a total ass.


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