I’ve never seen anyone sweat like that in my chair before, Dr. Alex exclaimed to his hygienist after seeing the color of my light grey polo shirt going to nearly black. What gives?
Well that patient was me and what gives is that I had a severe case of dental phobia that started when I was a kid whose pediatric dentist had both a heavy hand and bad
breath – and being a kid, the only choice I had was to grin and bear it .
So why couldn’t I just switch dentists? You see my first dentist, Dr. Marvin, while not a relative, was was married to mom’s childhood friend and college roommate, so getting away from his chair was as tough as escaping from Alcatraz.
But when the right time came – when I was earning enough money that I could pay my own dental bills, I escaped from Dr. Marvin’s clutches, and found my way into Dr. Alex’s office.
Now while some people think Dr. Alex is a bit of a lunatic, he had a reputation for being a darn good dentist. Or at least my definition of a good dentist – a professional who minimized my pain, got me out of the chair as quickly as possible, explained things to me so I could make an educated decision, didn’t compromise his work, and ultimately did work that stood up to the test of time.
But like everyone, Dr. Alex was getting older. And practicing dentistry as well as running the business of a dental practice can take its toll. So he and his partner sold the practice. But as part of the deal with the new owner Dr. Alex stayed on and continued to work on his clients.
Meanwhile the new owner, who had plunked a lot of money down to buy the business and fancied himself a “young turk” type of dentist, immediately started to change things up – after all is said and done he had to get the cash flow going or else he’d have to close up the office.
So he brought on a dental practice consultant who advised him to save money by consolidating the back-office of the combined practices. He also invested in marketing to bring in new business and raised prices for the existing clients.
And here’s where things started to unravel with me. While Dr. Alex had always been at the top end of the pricing scale, to me he was worth it because not only was his work good but I was afraid of leaving his chair. So while price was always a consideration it alone wouldn’t be enough to drive me away. As I trusted Dr. Alex.
The only thing was that Dr. Alex no longer was running the business – he was now a hired hand.
So when the office called to confirm my next checkup I asked a simple question I’d never asked before. The question I asked the new receptionist was “what is this checkup going to cost me? “
Well you’d think I was asking a state secret or something because after huffing she barked out the price. I was stunned when I heard the price, and asked her again saying that I’d been coming to to Dr. Alex for years – and believe me it wasn’t cheap then but now – the price was out of sight.
She confirmed the new price and proceeded to brake it down for me saying that one amount was for the cleaning and another was for the dentist to check my teeth – telling me they did it that way for insurance purposes.
I shot back at her saying I didn’t have dental insurance so frankly I couldn’t care less about their pricing rationale. Then I said I was canceling the appointment to which she replied she’d hold it open for me should I change my mind.
Three days later she called to confirm the appointment and once again I confirmed my cancellation. I’d found a new dentist who I’ll be just fine with. And I found him through good old fashioned word of mouth!
In the course of telling this story I discovered I had many dental phobic friends who were more than happy to give me a recommendation to the dentist who stopped their sweating too!