When I was younger, living in New York, I had a good dentist. He had a terrible bedside manner — he was gruff, he scowled, he was almost scary-looking — but he knew his stuff. He kept my teeth bright and shiny for 25 years.

     Then he retired.

     After that, I had trouble finding a decent dentist. I got one who messed up my root canal. Didn’t go back to him. I tried another who charged a lot of money, but the cavity she filled fell apart in less than a year.

     After I left work I found a dental office that was “in network” of my new dental insurance (Delta Dental through AARP). I liked the dentist; she seemed both caring and competent. But she always seemed like she was bring rushed. I felt that the office was pushing her to treat as many patients as possible as fast as she possibly could.

     I finally got a good dentist, recommended by a neighbor. I googled him. He went to Columbia University dental school and was voted one of the “Hudson Valley’s Top Dentists”. That seemed like good credentials. He was not in my network, but he still ended up charging me the discounted insurance rate, which meant he was affordable. He took care of my teeth, filled a few cavities, made sure everything was clean and up-top-date. 

     And then I moved.

     When I landed in Pennsylvania I found a good dentist, right in my own town. He’d trained at the University of Pennsylvania dental school and was voted a Philadelphia Top Dentist. He had a great staff that gave me all kinds of tips about flossing (every day), mouthwash (with fluoride but without alcohol), brushing my teeth (always use a soft brush), and recommended the mini-picks which I still use almost every night, just to make sure those pearly whites are as clean as can be.

     And then this dentist retired!

     I tried the dental office that advertises at our local movie theater. Didn’t like them. 

     Then a friend recommended a dentist a few miles away. “But worth the trip,” she assured me. I googled him, and he too, had trained at the University of Pennsylvania and was voted a Philadelphia Top Dentist. One problem: He didn’t take insurance. So he was expensive.

     He had all the latest computerized equipment; he took lots of x-rays; he was short with his staff, almost rude . . . making me think that he had exacting standards. He was confident, perhaps even overconfident. 

     But then one of my crowns fell out. He said he could put it back, and he did. But ever since, it’s seemed a little crooked to me, and the gum above it sometimes feels chafed. Later, he replaced a different crown. It was never right. It hurt for a long time — about a year before it finally settled down. And even today there must be something wrong with it. It catches food all the time. I have to floss after every meal.

     So now I have yet another dentist. She’s shockingly young . . . at 28, almost a decade younger than my daughter. She went to Temple University dental school, graduating just two years ago. She’s not on anyone’s Top Dentist list.

     But on my first visit she seemed very caring, very thorough. She found one cavity. The tooth already had a large filling, so she said I needed a crown. I went back to her last week for the drilling, and she fitted me with a temporary crown. I’ll get the permanent crown in a couple of weeks.

     I hope she knows what she’s doing. Wish me luck.

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Tom Lashnits Writer, Blogger
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