Thursday, August 11, 2011

My dental adventure

A month ago I broke a tooth while eating dinner.

I have never had a cavity and have not had any dental issues, and without dental insurance have put off going for several years. No issues equaled no need to go when the budget was tight. I also had an awful experience the last time I went. The dentist was horribly rude to me. So I don't have anywhere to go to have this broken tooth fixed.

A friend is a dental hygienist out of town. I saw her briefly a week after it broke and she looked at it for me and said it felt huge, but was not bad, and likely just needed a filling. Several hundred dollars at her practice. She suggested I look into the dental school in the city for discounted care.

I called and the dental students were on vacation. I could call back in two weeks to make a screening appointment. Done. Two more weeks until I could get screened to see if they would accept me as a patient.

That appointment was yesterday.


The city campus of the medical school, dental school, hospital, cancer center, children's hospital is huge and crazy!

The receptionist when I called to see what building I needed to go to told me "Honey, don't mess with the garages. Parking at that time of day is impossible. Do the valet."

Convinced! So I arrive at the city corner where the valet is located.... and see a big "Closed" sign! I panick for a few seconds and then I navigate the one way streets and find an sign that says patient parking garage. It takes me almost 20 minutes to navigate through the garage, snaking down 8 levels before I come to the booth at the bottom, not having found a spot. It was insane! The booth attendant asked for my ticket and requested $5. I told her I was looking for a spot. She gave me a receipt for comped parking (duh!) and a voucher for $3 off valet for my trouble of facing a full parking garage. I told her that the valet was closed and in English that was difficult to understand she told me to head toward the cancer center- left, left, right.

I began the process of figuring out the one way city blocks, immense traffic and pedestrians (most in scrubs) all over the streets out for lunch. I had left myself plenty of time, but it was quickly ticking away. About ten minutes later I was able to find a sign for another valet and I got in line. They took my voucher, $2 fee, and handed me a claim ticket and I was on my way. Only I had no idea where in the vast complex I was!

I walked on the streets for a block and found a big map with a red "you are here" sticker. Looked up the dental school- there are 3 buildings- and picked the closest one. It was a muggy 97 degrees as I walked the four city blocks to find my way. Thankfully, I picked the correct building and took the elevator up to patient registration with twenty minutes to spare.

I have never been in such a crowded facility before. There were students in scrubs with their name and class of 2012 or 2013 everywhere! I got forms to fill out and took my seat and waited a half hour for my group to be called. I then registered, paid my fee, and waited again. I was in group B. Another thirty minutes passed and we were called to follow a student back to radiology for an xray. After our group of 15 had all had xrays, we were escorted to the exam hall. There were about 20 dental chairs set up in fancy cubicle like areas. I was told three doctors would be examining me. Each one came, looked at my xray, spent about 10-30 seconds looking in my mouth, and left to view the next patient. A nurse came and said congratulations, I had been accepted as a patient of the dental school. A student would be contacting me within two weeks to set up a treatment plan appointment. Then we would schedule actual work at a 1/3 to 1/2 price discount. The entire evaluation process took less than five minutes!

So now I wait to do it all again. At least I know the lay of the land a bit better. I hope this turns out to be a savings over what just going to a local dentist would have been. One of the ten second examinators said he thought I'd need a root canal and crown. When I said "Really? I have no sensitivity or pain at all." He replied, "Hmmm? Maybe not. Your student evaluation will let you know, but if I were a betting man I'd say root canal." Praying that's not the case. Guess I'll know in a few weeks when I make the adventure back.


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