So I was having coffee with a very attractive woman last week and I was telling her how I was going to Seattle to finish having my teeth fixed (I had gone in July to have 3 teeth prepared and impressions and temporaries made and now I was returning to have the permanents bonded in). She put down her coffee cup (it might actually have been her latte cup I think), pointed a well manicured finger at me and asked quite understandably-“Excuse me? Why are you going all the way across the country to have your teeth fixed??!”

I smiled and settled into my dental instructor mode; my kids know this mode- it means that I am going to answer a relatively straight forward, seemingly easy question with a philosophical, slightly meandering answer that fills all the spaces of the question.” Alright”, I began,” lets start with the misconception that all dentists are about the same (or as the saying goes- a dentist is a dentist is a dentist…) The truth is that there is a huge range out there of dental competence in terms of knowledge, artistry, care, skill and judgement. I can tell you because I teach around the country and I meet many dentists along the way- some good, some not so good but few truly outstanding clinicians who are not only excellent caregivers but genuine artists with their dentistry.”

“Next, let’s talk about the whole insurance issue. The vast majority of dentists who accept HMO or PPO dental plans are actually accepting a lesser fee for their dental services in order to get more patients. Now, I know that this may not be a popular concept in today’s health care morass but the unvarnished truth is that dentistry is a labor intensive industry. In order to make a crown (or root canal or veneers), the dentist has to take his/her time in order to do the best job possible- there are very few short cuts that don’t compromise the end result. So, those dentists that are working faster because they are not getting paid their normal fee have to make some tough choices- cheaper materials, cheaper dental laboratories…. well you get the picture.”

I could see the eyes of my coffee partner start to glaze over so I tried to wrap it up. “Let me finish”, I continued, “with my personal philosophy about being the best dentist possible. It’s all about constant learning and reeducation- staying on top of new technology and new materials. To that end, when I need dental work (after all, I had a real sugar tooth when I was a kid- I loved Bazooka bubble gum and Big Buddy foot long gum, in both cherry and bubble gum flavors; not mention sweet tart lollipops!!….. but I digress) I look for the top clinician that I know of and travel to their office so that I can see how they do their work and what can I do to improve the care I give to my patients.

So, in 2011, it’s Dr. Gregg Kinzer in Seattle Washington. Dr. Kinzer lectures extensively and I have had the pleasure of hosting him in my office over the past 6 years where he presides over a study club that reviews cases and presents new information. My first appointment at his office in July was an amazing experience and I picked up several tips that I was able to incorporate in my office. I am looking forward to a similar experience this time and exceedingly excited about being able to chew gum again!!” At this, I finished my rather lengthy answer and picked up my coffee cup, feeling very proud of my passionate answer and being able to communicate my outlook on excellent dentistry.

Except, at that point, my friend said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that, I was texting my daughter- what did you say??”…….Ah well, for those of you who were following along,  I will write of my final Seattle appointment tomorrow. Thanks for listening!!