Finding a Trustworthy Dentist

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

July 6th, 2009 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

I just wrote a post about my experience of dental trauma two and a half years ago. The saga continued for another half year or so, before resolving. Even though I finally got a crown sturdily in place in my mouth at that time, to this day I have TMJ and weak vocal chords, which were not problems for me before the incident. In addition, I developed a base level sensitivity which was recently triggered when I went in for another crown.

But first a little more back story: As I bounced around from dentist to dentist during the crown saga, I worked with someone who uses “the wand” – a local anesthetic tool that only impacts the tooth being worked on, without numbing any other part of the mouth. Best part about it is that there is no injection. The tool sits next to the tooth and releases anesthetic during the procedure, with no residual effects.

After being traumatized with the novocaine injection, the wand was a welcome relief. The problem was that the dentist did a crappy job on the crown, leaving me in a lot of pain. More about that in another post. The point is that I figured it’s better to have a terrific dentist who uses novocaine injections than a questionable dentist who uses the wand.

So when I moved to Southern California, I called Dr. C, the dentist of a friend who had been through major dental trauma. While living in New York, my friend had slipped on uneven pavement covered by ice and landed on her face, breaking her jaw and most of her teeth. She bounced from one dentist to another until working with this one, who – according to my friend – was super gentle and competent. While it’s not foolproof, there’s nothing like a referral from someone who has first-hand experience with and a glowing review of a specific practitioner.

So I went in for a cleaning  a few months ago. The hygienist was a doll — very friendly, super gentle, and otherwise very responsive, with no energetic drama (like eye rolling, being obviously impatient, commenting on my sensitivity, etc). Dr. C was much more reserved; I didn’t click so much with her on the personality level; and her touch was not as gentle, but I figured it was good enough.

Dr. C turned out to be very thorough. She noticed that four molars were about to blow, and she told me that I needed deep cleaning (above and beyond the regular one) to prevent getting gum disease and oral surgery. The procedures not only involved getting eight – count them, eight! – novocaine injections, which scared the bejesus out of me, but also coast almost $9,000. In this economy.

The cool thing was that Dr. C advised doing the procedures separately, because of my TMJ. I liked it that she was looking out for me, sensitive to the fact that it would be very challenging to keep my jaw open for long stretches. A few other little details gave me the feeling that the staff was caring and patient, and that I was safe — in good hands.

I decided to indefinitely postpone all the procedures, but then a part of one of my molars fell off a few weeks ago. I lived with it for a while, but food started getting stuck in there. It was a mess. I knew I would end up in hell if the tooth completely crumbled, so I bit the bullet (on the other side of my mouth) and made an appointment for the next day.


Genevive Baquet March 15th, 2010

Excellent article . I am editing a website on the best dentists and your information is very welcome.

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