I’m no blogger. Anyone who hangs around here long enough will realize that. But something happened today that I need to get off my chest. Since I couldn’t go back to work and no one is at home I turn to you – the void (nothing personal, I just don’t know how else to define the intended recipient of these ramblings).
One year ago I began a very expensive and painful process to replace four teeth with a state-of-the-art all-ceramic bridge attached to three titanium posts screwed into my skull (see: What are these tiny screws in my jawbone?). Well today I was told that my $10,000 dental procedure was a complete failure. My dentist apologized and reminded me that as much pain as this has cost me it hurts him just as much. Before you cast judgement on the sincerity of his statement lets just be clear on how much pain we’re talking about here.
Let me backtrack some months and share with you my journal entry from my first visit with this dentist – let’s call him Dr. Szell. I was referred to him by the specialist who did the fist half of the procedure. This is what I wrote when I got home.
I just got back from the mouth mechanic Dr. Szell. I don’t know where to begin. My head is still reeling from the surge of endorphins my brain released in a humbling attempt to protect me from the pain inflicted by this man. In a word he has bad hands. Its as if he is working with mittens on. No subtlety, no finesse, no elegance. His hands have a four-word muscular vocabulary: tug, yank, jerk and shove. Its more like visiting an auto mechanic than a doctor. No, let me restate that. Its more like making a pit stop at the Indie 500. He’s in such a damn rush to get you out of the chair you feel he’s only focused on breaking his previous speed record.
He acknowledges that he hears you, but you get the distinct impression that he doesn’t actually listen to anything you say. He never explains anything or tells you what’s happening. Its as if its none of your damn business.
And then there is his special gift – inducing pain. I don’t care how innocent or routine the activity, he won’t retract his mitts from your mouth until he’s hurt something. I have a very high tolerence for pain. But this guys is way outside my buccal comfort zone. Even taking an impression. First he managed to shove the tray so hard into my frenulum I thought he would sever this tether holding my lip to my gums. And when he removed it he didn’t rock it gently to first break the vacuum – he just pulled as hard and long as he could until it came out. It felt as if my good teeth were coming out with it. When he was finished with everything he went to put these screws back inside the posts which are screwed into my bone. He applied way to much torque. I was white with pain then he gave it one more hearty twist and I felt and heard the bone crack – just as it had when they were first implanted. The only difference was that I had local anesthesia the last time someone cracked my maxilla.
And Dr. Szell isn’t alone. He represents a whole swath of society. No regard whatsoever for quality – just the appearance of getting things done. The emotional intelligence of a Q-tip. This type of person was summed up admirably by Demi Moore in “A few good men” when she approaches Tom Cruise on the softball field and gives him a stern warning about the way he handles cases.“But my feeling is that if this
case is handled in the same fast-food,
slick-ass ‘ Persian Bazaar manner with
which you seem to handle everything else,
something’s gonna get missed. And I
wouldn’t be doing my job if I allowed
Dawson and Downey to spend any more time
in prison than absolutely necessary,
because their attorney had pre-determined
the path of least resistance.”
The only difference is Tom Cruise is bright, just an underachiever. I don’t think Dr. Szell and the rest of the people I’m talking about have it in them to achieve because a) they don’t give a shit – they’ve just mastered the art of appearing as if they give a shit and b) they don’t have the mental skills required to do the job in the first place but figure their B.S. appeal will carry the day. And now I’m very disheartened because I realize that is the world I live in. Most people, in business anyhow, are that person. And that sucks. I have the teeth to prove it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m in the last phase of this process I’d never go back to him. But all he has to do is fit the thing. I don’t think switching horses mid-stream would increase the odds of success.
I was wrong about the switching horses thing. I should have. And, as it turns out, fitting the thing is a crucial step in the process. One that requires patients, care, attention to detail and understanding. I knew from day one he didn’t have any of these qualities. I just didn’t know my future relied on them.
Anyhow, at the pre-fitting I told him the porcelain bridge did not fit. My molars could not make contact. He heard me. So since the purpose of the appointment was to see if it fit and make corrections if it didn’t then I figured he would correct the thing. He didn’t. Couple of weeks later I’m back to have it installed. He gets it in and, again, I tell him it doesn’t fit – my back teeth aren’t touching when I bite. Again, he hears me but chooses to ignore me. He says to try it out for four weeks and come back for him to check on it. I do that.
When I’m back after four weeks I sit him down before he starts his mad dash. I explain in detail how after a week my molars started to regain contact and that means the prosthesis and my bottom teeth are accommodating each other so my bottom teeth are being shoved back and the prosthesis is being shoved forwards and that can’t be good. Plus both my upper and lower gums ached as if that were happening and the bridge felt a little loose. He nodded thoughtfully and looked around for a moment as if in deep contemplation and then said “Good, OK lets get on with things now.” He looked at it in a split second, declared the implant a success and sent me on my way.
Ten days later the bridge feels really loose. I inform him. He can’t see me for another two weeks. That was two days ago. Today I’m in the middle of the office giving a presentation. As I’m speaking I feel the bridge getting looser and looser. Then it feels like its gonna drop out. So I excuse myself and head to the dentist office. When I arrive I explain the situation to him – for the fourth time. He didn’t believe it was anything until he started to poke around. Then his tone changed. What followed after was 30 minutes of extreme pain. First he had to remove the prosthesis. That hurt like hell. Then he needed to poke and prod each of the posts to see just how loose they had become. That hurt even more. Then he tried to tighten them. I was trying to manage the pain but finally let out with an animalistic “agggghhhhh!”. I thought I was going to pass out.
Then he decided to give me an injection of lidocaine. He told me it would hurt then poked a large needle into my top gum. He paused a moment. Sopped up some of the blood from my mouth then got right back at it. There was no difference after the injection. It was killing me. Then he started to extract the posts from my skull. The lidocaine (or whatever he used) had absolutely no effect. “agggghhhhh!” So he gave me another injection. As he pumped the stuff from the syringe, I felt he was injecting it too high. I had a bolus under my right nostril that felt like it was the size of a quail egg. He paused a moment. Wiped up some more blood that was dripping down the side of my face then went back in and dug out all three posts. The pain was unreal. It was medieval. When he finished he acknowledged that it was painful because my gums were extra sensitive. That was BS and he knew it was BS. He probably knows he’s lousy with a needle that’s why he never uses it. You could not be that bad with your hands and be good with a needle to the gums. I felt around my mouth with my tongue and realized what had gone wrong. I had complete sensation in my tongue and gums. No numbness whatsoever. I had no sensation on my nose, cheeks from my nose up to under my eye, and upper lip (its 6 PM now and the sensation is just starting to return to my face). He injected the wrong nerve – twice. He hit the infraorbital nerve when he should have hit the superior alveolar nerves. As it turns out my infraorbital nerve doesn’t have much say for what happens in my gums. As a consequence, he extracted three titanium screws from my skull with no pain killer whatsoever.
If this could have gone more wrong I don’t see how. OK, no infection – knock on wood. He looked all crest-fallen at the end and said “I know this is tough on you but it is awful for me. I feel really bad.” It worked, I felt for the guy. I explained how for four visits I told him this was happening and I know he heard me because he acknowledged that I said it. He agreed. “But” I said “you chose to ignore my input. Repeatedly. And that is why I am in this situation. And that is why I am disappointed.” He shrugged his shoulders and said those three little words Swedish doctors are so good at: “I’m sorry“. Here is Sweden no matter how gross the negligence nor how horrific the outcome for the patient that simple mia culpa is supposed to lay the whole issue to rest.
I hate top say I told me so, but I told me so. I knew he was sloppy and incompetent but I went to him anyhow. This is the price. It sucks. Feels better to get it out on “paper”. And that’s how I got my blog on.