The retail model doesn’t work any better in health care than it does in education. The profit motive drives most physicians to prescribe unnecessary treatments and medications. This is also true in dentistry. I asked my dentist to pull a tooth and he wouldn’t do just that. He said I had to have a root canal and a bridge. Just three thousand dollars with a 3% discount for cash payment in full.
You may be the customer but once you are in the chair with your mouth wide open, he’s the doctor and you are the patient.
It wasn’t his bill that made me nearly shove him through a wall. When I went into his office to have the permanent bridge put into place, I told him I had just brushed my teeth with baking soda.
“Can I rinse with water first?” I wanted that chalky feeling off my teeth. An hour or so after brushing I was also thirsty.
“Oh no. You don’t need to. This should be applied dry.”
I leaned back and tried to relax.
“This is the easy part. It won’t hurt. You won’t need gas or novacaine. I am just going to apply a little pressure until it glues into place,” explained my dentist.
I opened wide. I watched him apply some goo onto the upper surface of the enamel imposter tooth. Then he inserted it into the gaping hole in my mouth. He pushed up.
“AAAAaaaaargh.” I put my right hand up against his chest and shoved him hard. The pain inside my mouth was excruciating.
He put his hands up in the air.
“What the….?” He exclaimed. His assistant grabbed my shoulders from behind and pulled me back. I put both my hands over my mouth and moaned.
“What is that goo made of?” I angrily grunted. “Hunh? What is it? Some kind of acid?”
The dentist looked at the tube and nodded yes.
“I told you I had just brushed with baking soda. What happens when baking soda mixes with acid? Hunh?” I yelled at him.
The volcanic explosion that had erupted in my mouth scarred me from ever seeking any further dental care. I will let my teeth rot out of my head before I will go back for more torture.
Sam had all his teeth pulled out at one time when he was much younger. At age 36 he was diagnosed with periodontal disease; along with his sister and millions of others during a certain dental fad. His sister had her gums scraped. She has all her teeth now and doesn’t have any indication of the disease.
Sam decided it would be easier to get rid of his teeth since they are a common source for illness and infection. He went to the local Trumansburg dentist and told him to pull them all out. Sam was home for a few days from his trucking route. He didn’t plan to get temporary dentures; no one would see him on the road for the next few months. What did he care what anyone thought about him not having teeth at a truck stop? He didn’t.
So Dr. Dore was instructed to pull them all. Dr. Dore told Sam he couldn’t legally do that in one sitting. Sam said he didn’t care. He was going to pull them all or he wasn’t going to pull any.
Dr. Dore pulled the first eight teeth.
“Keep going. Don’t stop.” Sam said.
Dr. Dore pulled the rest from the bottom. Sam was bleeding pretty badly.
“That’s enough,” Dr. Dore said.
“No. Keep going. Do it. Do them all. I will never come back if you don’t pull them all right now.” Sam insisted.
Dr. Dore kept pulling teeth. There were only four left on top when Sam grabbed Dr. Dore’s sleeve.
“Doc. I gotta have a smoke.”
Dr. Dore stopped a minute and helped Sam sit up. He daubed the blood.
“Soldier. Have your cigarette,” said Dr. Dore.
Sam fumbled through his shirt pocket and found his pack of Winstons and a book of matches. He lit a cigarette with his lips wrapped around the filter. He inhaled deeply. Then he exhaled. His fingertips were bloody where he held the cigarette to his mouth.
He had no novacaine. No pain killers. Not even a drink before he got in the dentist’s chair. The nicotine hit him. He took one more long drag on the Winston and handed it to the assistant. She removed it from the room. Only Dr. Dore saw him throw up the blood.
“Get at it. Finish it,” Sam said.
Dr. Dore pulled the rest of his teeth. He sent him home to bed and told him to take a couple aspirins.
Sam woke up a day and a half later and felt fine. He got in the truck and drove for six months without any teeth. He ate nothing but cottage cheese, apple sauce, runny eggs, oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, mashed potatoes and meatloaf at truck stops.
Melvin Mitchell fit him with dentures. Melvin and his family lived less than a mile north on Buck Hill. The Mitchells were one of two black family farmers on Buck Hill. Francis and his wife are in their 90s now but they still live next door to the old Mitchell farm.
Melvin Mitchell still fits dentures in downtown Ithaca today. Sam wouldn’t think of going to anyone else. Sam is afraid Melvin will die someday, so a couple years ago Sam had Melvin make him an extra set.