I don’t try to make bad choices. Really, I don’t. In fact, I don’t think most people set out to do make them either. I think we all end up in a place we hoped not to be and in retrospect say, well, that was probably a bad idea.
Such was my life this past week when I found myself sitting in an orthodontist’s office being handed an estimate for approximately $8,000 (for Invisalign, I don’t want more braces, of which $3,500 would be covered by my insurance), that would essentially correct (or finish) the job I assumed was completed when I paid $4,000 to get my teefus fixed back in 2012. As sad as it is that if I have to pay all over again, how we got to this point is so much dumber than you can possibly imagine.
It all started in 2007 when I told my then-dentist I wanted braces. In order to do so, I was going to have to get my wisdom teeth removed, so I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed at the same time. Can we talk about that for a minute? Yes, let’s. If you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed, you know they can do general (put you out) or local (numb your mouth) anesthesia. Because all of my wisdom teeth were erupted, they opted for local anesthesia. This is where I learned about how my body responds to numbing agents and pain killers. Basically, it doesn’t. My mouth was numb for a solid 10 minutes before I started to feel the orthodontist literally breaking my teeth in half with some pliers.
Nigga. I cried so hard. It hurt so much, but I made it through thinking that I’d get some pain killers and be high off my gourd for the next week. First, they prescribed me Vicodin. It didn’t work. Then Percocet. Which also didn’t work. Literally, my body didn’t respond to pain killers AT ALL. I pretty much had to wait out the pain in the fetal position on my couch at home for a week and some change. After that experience, I put braces out of my mind, because short of checkups, I didn’t want anything unnecessary done to my teeth.
But then (and we’re about to get to the shenanigans now), while riding around in my car in 2011, I heard a commercial for braces and I said to myself, “P, you should get braces.” There was some number to call, so I called it. And it led me to a dentist’s office in Maryland. Well, I live in Washington, D.C., so that made sense. I scheduled an appointment and showed up for my consultation. And no lie when I tell you I was so dumbfounded at this office: the dentist was a black man but his entire office looked like a Pitbull video shoot. I was in an office full of some of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. And they all worked there. As far as medical office spaces go, it might as well have been heaven.
I even remember calling a few of the homies to be like, “If you need a dentist, THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO BE!” I got my consultation and was told the braces would run me $4,000, and I’d walk away with pristine pearly whites. And all of the work would be handled in-house. And I should just come to them for regular dental services. Cool. SIGN ME UP.
That’s where it started going downhill. For one, while I thought the office was unreal, it was easily the most inappropriate office I’d ever been in. The dental assistants were a little too friendly and familiar. I’m not saying it was a happy endings spot or anything, I’m just saying the folks who worked there were super comfortable in ways that I’m not sure are...appropriate. Well, I got my braces and paid the cost to be the boss. Once that was done, and because my insurance changed, that office was no longer an option. Which made me sad, but I also figured that one complaint might take that office off the map anyway, so perhaps it was just time to move on.
I had permanent retainers on the back of my teeth and recently, the retainers on the back of my top row snapped. Because I could feel my teeth almost immediately start to shift, I found an orthodontist and scheduled an appointment the same way I found any new doctors: I checked the list of folks who would accept my insurance and looked for the black folks.
I went in for an appointment, and in the nicest possible way (and without professionally shitting on her fellow unnamed dentist), the orthodontist was like, “Yeah, your teeth ain’t supposed to do what they’re doing, ever, but since I wasn’t there in the first place, I’m not sure if this is accidental or intentional.” You can imagine how hard I clutched my pearls since I JUST got my braces off in 2012. I asked if she was saying the other dentist fucked up my teeth but made it look like the job was done and she would neither confirm nor deny this. I told her that’s what I get for staying at an office because everybody looks like J.Lo.
In order to address and correct the issue, the estimate came back a cool $8,000 strong. I’d feel dumb not getting them fixed since that was a decision I made in the first place and my teeth would just start crip walking again. Mildly, but a crip walk is a crip walk. But I can’t help but thinking I got got by a dentist’s office that didn’t feel right and stuck me for $4,000 out of pocket. And my teeth aren’t terrible, but the new ortho noticed some things that she had various curiosities about.
And it all takes me back to the fact that I seriously picked an office for braces based on a radio ad.
The moral of the story: Don’t pick dentist offices based on radio ads.