March 2013


It’s time to change dentists.

When it comes to things like the dentist, inertia is my dentist’s best friend.

The fact is that my dental practice here in Berlin is overpriced and incredibly stylish. Stylish to the point that while there I always feel a bit out of place because I don’t wear the finest brand name clothing in the current hip seasonal colors. It’s the kind of place that probably spends $100 per can of paint, and then sends it back when the paint is not the exact right shade of yellow.

I selected the practice because it was recommended by one of my colleagues and, given that I hadn’t liked the first dentist that I’d tried in Berlin, I sort of stayed with the overly stylish dental practice because, well, I had already scheduled the next appointment.

All of this changed in January when I was sitting in the chair and my hygienist, who seems nice, despite the fact that I can loosely smell cigarette smoke on his breath, told me that one of my fillings appears to have minor cracks in it and that I should get it replaced.

What happened next can only be described as a comedy of misunderstanding.

Here’s the deal: I hate getting shots. I despise needles.

It is one of my great failures as a human being, and one that I am well acquainted with. I always feel like a right idiot after the fact, but the mere thought of getting a shot causes me to become incredibly stressed. I’ve had multiple doctors tell me that I don’t deal well with needles (one told me that I “wouldn’t make it on the streets.”), and my inability to cope has, at least once that I can vividly remember, caused a dentist to give up trying to give me a shot after ten minutes.

So I said that in order for the dentist to give me a shot, I would need Valium.

What I got was a second visit to the dentist’s office to have a one-on-one consultation with the dentist who would do the actual work in order to discuss the procedure, or something. I thought it was rather stupid – at least at that moment, when I was told I needed to schedule the consulting appointment.

A week later, I reappeared at the office, and had a short conversation with the dentist. She sent me off to their x-ray machine facility, which was a cupboard under the stairs. It was very Harry Potter-esque.

I sat in the chair, as directed, and then watched the technician struggle with the computer and the equipment. Then, after three x-rays were completed, I returned to the dentist’s office. She was looking at the x-rays (very fancy computer-based data transmission). The first words out of her mouth formed a question:

“I can tell that the technician was having trouble; were you afraid? Were you choking?”

It was about then that it dawned on me that she was under the impression that I was afraid of dentists.

Which really isn’t true.

I can sit in the chair and have my teeth cleaned without any issues. I can have fillings put in and bite down on command – the only problem I have is with getting the shot that numbs the gums, so that when the drill goes some place funny, I don’t feel it.

I responded that I didn’t have any problems at all but that it seemed to me that the technician had been having trouble.

The dentist didn’t like this answer and told me that all of the technicians at the practice were highly trained and that they wouldn’t be allowed to operate the x-ray equipment if they weren’t highly trained. This implied, of course, that it was clearly my fault that the x-rays weren’t perfectly clear and that I should just admit to the fact that I don’t like dentists.

Fortunately for me, a minute later the technician stopped by and explained that she’d been having trouble with the equipment because some of the pieces were missing.

At this point the dentist back-peddled a bit – and said that if I was afraid of shots I should get all my fillings replaced in two trips, and that I should get the long lasting ceramic fillings that were cosmetically matched to my teeth so that I would never have to get another filling replaced (at least that was the implication).

She mentioned the price: 800€. Each.

Two things: First, my fillings are in the back of my mouth. The only people who are going to get close enough to my mouth to look in and see the fillings are either dental professionals or a hook-up. If it’s the former, they’re professionals and they can deal with it; if it’s the latter, their tongue is going to be in my mouth and it will probably be a low light situation. I doubt any hook-up is going to pause mid-hook-up and say, “Hey, I notice your fillings aren’t the right color.”

And Two: EIGHT HUNDRED FUCKING EURO PER FILLING? Yeah, right! She tried to sell me on dental insurance to cover the expense. I told her I would think about it. In truth, as I was standing in her office I was already thinking about the alternatives.

I’ll be stateside a couple times this year and on one of those trips I will visit one of my old, American, dentists, one that I really trust and get his opinion. Second opinions are always good – and, if he thinks I need a new filling, he’s getting the business. I also know that it won’t cost 800€, or even anything close to that in US Dollars.

And at the same time, I’ve decided to ditch the dental pracitce. My next cleaning will be stateside, and then, after that, I will be on the hunt for a new dentist here in Berlin.

I’d tell you who my old dentist is – but I won’t.

However, should you visit a dental practice on the top floor of a building on Berlin’s swankiest shopping street, with uncomfortable red cushioned seating, and dominated by the color yellow, I would recommend that you consider a different dentist.

4 comments to It’s time to change dentists.

  • At that price you could buy a ticket to see me, go to my dentist, get your fillings, enjoy your visit here, then return home.

  • The deal-breaker for me would have been the cigarette stink. Anyone who considers himself to be a healthcare professional should not be a smoker. Period. Bad enough that he smokes, that he should foist that malicious odour on a patient?

  • @Ian – You’d be surprised how many health care workers here in the US are smokers. I think I was one of the only people that was a non-smoker where I worked.

    You’d also be surprised how many of them are heavy like I am. 😉 Of course, I’m doing something about that right now, at least for myself. I can’t tell people they need to eat better and lose weight if I don’t set a proper example.

  • It literally took me years to find a dentist I liked in Florida. I haven’t even dared to venture into the world of German dentistry yet. I’m really not looking forward to the language barrier while someone else’s hands are in my mouth.