For the past year or so, I’ve had an on-again off-again tooth ailment. At one point, I actually went to the dentist. But by the time the insurance clearance came through for a root canal procedure, the tooth stopped hurting. Not especially enamored of root canal procedures, I deferred.
But then a week or so ago while I was dining with a friend, the tooth exploded in some severe pain. It was time to go! Of course, it promptly stopped hurting the moment after I made the appointment. But this time, my resolve would remain. And yesterday, I went to the doctor.
Going to the dentist now that I’m 65 is much different than it was from age 30 – 64. In 1980, I was hired to arrange, contract and whatever else a recording project financed by a songwriter/dentist (not necessarily in that order). Joe and I got along famously and he became my doctor from that point on despite the horrible commute to Hackensack where his office is located. It wasn’t so bad. Joe gave me the same discount I gave him for arrangements and such. And I genuinely liked the guy. So I endured.
But then when I arrived at the golden years, my Medicare advantage plan included dental. So that was it for Joe! Not surprisingly with Medicare, you get what you pay for. Medicare dentists aren’t the best (as I’ve chronicled before). The office I go to is on Allen and Delancey. There’s a poster on the window of a lily white family brushing their teeth. But it’s a hustle. The entire clientele and support staff are hispanic. And the dentists are either foreigners of undetermined origin or recent graduates from dental school. Plus, it seems to be pot luck when you go. The turnover in both staff and doctors is alarming! Not a good sign.
So yesterday, I walk into the waiting room on time to see half a dozen patients patiently waiting for treatment as they watch Maury on the television (“In the matter of baby Leroy…you are the father!”). I open my library copy of “Fire and Fury” to read about just how impetuous, uninformed, egocentric and illiterate our president truly is.
Surprise surprise, I am summoned into the office almost on time! Doctor Moye (who I’ve come to like) is apparently no longer working at the office. In his stead I get a mad Russian who walks in and doesn’t even introduce himself. When I ask him if he’d like to hear my symptoms, he actually says no – and then goes on to examine the tooth he knows is at issue from the insurance company’s ok to go ahead.
“You have a gum problem and nerve problem which are feeding each other to cause you pain,” says he. I answer “So it’s a symbiotic thing going on” to let him know I’m an intelligent guy who knows a little biology and a few fancy associated words. He corrects me citing that the relationship is not symbiotic because the two are doing harm. For my part, I know the definition of the word – and know I’ve used it correctly. But I take his know-it-all declaration with the full understanding of the procedure he’s about to perform. That stupid and egomaniacal I ain’t!
I’m happy to say that it appears that he’s a competent dentist. Exactly what he did to land at that shit office in mid-career (he appeared to be in his 40’s), I did not ask! When the procedure was mercifully over, he took his leave. But as I tested the bite, I knew he’d piled in cement way too high and the teeth of my lowers were not properly meeting the uppers.
Pursuant to that reality, I told the dental assistant who’d been working with him about the problem to which she responded that it was the anesthesia that was fooling me. I swirled my tongue around and ascertained that was not the problem. Too much cement was the issue.
After spending five more minutes talking to three different office staff, I finally prevailed and got the doctor to take a look. And with the bedside manner of a bear about to eat a camper, Mengele took a peek while informing me “This is self-adjusting”…which I took to mean that some of the cement would eventually break off and get stuck in my throat necessitating a trip to the emergency room – if I didn’t choke to death before I got there. Within literally 5 seconds, he’d shaved off some cement and completely fixed his omission. I wanted to say “You see? Was that so fucking hard?” But I thought better of it. I have to go back to get a permanent filling and who knows? He might still be there next week!
And so ends yesterday’s adventure with Medicare dentistry. When I checked my watch, it was just noon – a scant hour and a half past my 10:30 appointment. True to my word (that I’d show up time allowing), I rode to the church to do pantry. The staff was impressed “I thought you got a root canal today,” asked they. “I did! Sock me in the mouth, I won’t feel a thing.” Of course I sounded like Kramer from that hilarious Seinfeld episode. But hey! You think the homies or little Chinese ladies noticed? Not hardly.
Anyway…it’s hard to know if the root canal fixed my problem. And I won’t know for a month. If I don’t get a huge and sharp pain in that time period, I’ll assume it worked. In the meantime, I’m chewing lefty. You get the idea.