Friendly trip to the dentist

Category: Travel

In several countries of visits to the tooth doc outside the US, I’ve noted this in common. Less air of elitism. More accessible. Less superficiality. More emphasis on the practical. Less bullshit.

Perhaps in the US the dental profession comes more financially rewarding to the practitioner. The average dental practice employs more roles, hence more jobs and healthier economy. Yet I’ve found the lucrativeness to far transcend the cost/benefit.

In my last visit to a US dentist, I’ve directly interfaced with a staggering amount of six personnel:

  1. The check-in receptionist.
  2. The ‘processor’ of my application.
  3. The hygienist who took X-rays and poked around the teeth for 15 minutes.
  4. The dentist who poked around the teeth for 30 seconds and chatted with me for 5 minutes.
  5. Another hygienist who performed the cleaning procedure.
  6. A check-out functionary.

There were gadgets and displays I wasn’t even familiar with from previous experiences. Attempts were made to sell me a series of expensive procedures, supplies, and a different brand of expensive electric toothbrush. A 3-meter floss sample was handed.

Granted, this was quiet exceptional for even the US. Normally, I can count on one receptionist for both check-in and check-out, one hygienist to perform the cleaning/x-rays and assist in the more serious procedures, and the well-dressed and professionally groomed dentist (who still bestows just the momentary honour of his presence during a regular check-up/cleaning).

Yesterday I visited a dentist in Rio de Janeiro. As general, I found her based on good reviews and a non-tourist location (which tends to directly impact cost). The building seemed fairly old, rustic, nothing glorified, something you may expect of a second-hand book store. The tiny office space consisted of just the reception and the operating suite. Beyond the dentist, I noticed two other women, unsure of their role. Overall, despite the (unoccupied) reception desk present, I interfaced with a total of one person:

The dentist. This woman examined my previous x-rays, poked around the teeth, thoroughly chatted with me on all manner of issues with no sense of haste, performed the cleaning, collected my registration info (afterwards), processed the payment on her cell phone and credit card gadget, and advised me on where to head for lunch (where she later appeared herself). She wore a plain T-shirt, torn jeans, topped by a white ‘medical’ overcoat. At the end, she gifted me 50 meters of floss (a full-length product), and escorted me to the exit.

Now, this was too exceptional. Normally I interface with a separate receptionist for check-in and payment. But the remaining procedure remains the same. Laid-back, no frills, no haste, thoroughness, no glamour, no elitism. This has been the case in virtually all my dental (and other doctor) visits outside the States.

Abroad, I’ve never encountered a separate hygienist to perform the cleaning, and generally haven’t faced over-catered functions, procedures, or manipulative sales strategies. Visit enough dentists, and over time you develop a bullshit heuristic, able to discern quality service from sloppy interiors and (lack of) professional attire.

Now, I’ve encountered an exception or two in the US. Living in Chicago, I was fortunate to twice frequent a Thai dentist in a no-frills neighborhood. The visits resembled my abroad experiences: one receptionist, one dentist, minimal rustic interior, much lower cost. Then the practice closed.

Questions, comments? Connect.