Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freebie Dentistry

The weather here in Central Florida is crazy.
It was 85 degrees here yesterday. Unbelievable.
Football is over.
In the fifth grade league, we had our best game I have ever coached on Saturday only to be followed by our worst game of the year on Tuesday. It didn't help that our quarterback couldn't play. So we played with our second string quarterback but in this league every kid can't play every quarter so for one quarter we had to play with our third string quarterback. One problem we don't have a third string quarterback. So we tried one play with this kid and he said to me in the huddle, "I don't want to play quarterback anymore."
The kindergarten/1st grade league...well it was definitely a challenge. Fun but a challenge.
But it is over. I am sleeping again.
Just to let you know we have already signed up for basketball.
The saga with the unhappy patient is over.
Spoke to everyone I could think of to ask advice. I have to tell you the advice was very polar.
I would say 30% of people whose ear I bent said, "Tell him to stick it and don't give him any money back."
The other 70% said to give it all back. Not just the $950 but ALL of it.
Here is my train of thought.
I want it to go away. If I give the guy $950 back it has an 80% chance of going away.
If I give it all back to him there is a 99% chance of it going away.
I have told you in the past I am sensitive. I am probably a lot like most of you.
I am a people pleaser, and I will do anything, even at my own peril, to please people (my wife may disagree).
After much deliberation I decided to give him the whole thing back, yes all $1700 back.
It f@#$%^!ing kills me to do it but I don't ever want to think about it again.
So I called him and told him that I have decided to give him the whole thing back.
But here is the kicker, he said, "Thanks, this is really going to help me with this credit card statement." Then he added, "I hope I can come to you for my future dental needs."
I said, "This I am going to have to think about." Knowing this was the last time I was going to talk to him or see him in a professional capacity EVER.
I wrote the check and the dismissal letter at the same time.
In the letter I told him that I wrote the check not as admittance of guilt but in my last effort to make him happy. I told him I thought the product was superior and my effort was over and above what the average dentist would give.
Good riddance.
I told you I am reading a book called Counterfeit Gods.
It is about how we substitute things such as money, woman, children, our house, etc, for God.
But the funny thing is that we are not the first generation to do this. He backs all the stories about us with stories in the Bible. Stories of people 2500 years ago doing the same thing.
It is short book, but it is intense.

Okay topic,
I have this patient that has really bad teeth. He had gum disease and crowding and his midline was off over 5mm.
I have him go to the periodontist to see what teeth could be saved. The periodontist and I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was make him a denture. We did and he looked fantastic.
A couple of months later his wife came to me.
Let me back up...this is a working family. She is a businesswoman and he is a works for Universal Studios. They have a couple kids.
A normal working-class family. This is my wheel house. These are the people like me.
She comes in. She has some missing teeth in the back and some decay, but in the last 5 years she has been trying to reel in her dental problems.
She had her front 6 teeth redone with all porcelain crowns. She had more than 3 root canals in the same teeth. So from what I gathered, she spent more than $7,000 to have this done, which to their family was A LOT.
She came to see me because one of the crowns came off.
One first look, her crowns really looked good. I went in her mouth and oh my goodness.
The lingual (tongue side) of her crowns were so open. Some almost a millimeter. Now you non-dental people, a millimeter in dentistry is a huge number. Me saying a crown margin is open a millimeter is telling dentists how poorly this work was done.
I basically had to break it to her right then that the work was not very good (I said it professionally, but basically got my point across) and I said that all of this work was starting to fail.
So I didn't hear from her for a while but about a year later another of the crowns came off.
I put the crown back on and reiterated my concerned about the other teeth.
She knows she has to do something but just can't.
Recently she has written me a letter telling me how much she likes me and begging me to go on the dental plan that her company pays for.
There is almost no way out for her.
Okay so what do WE do? I am talking about you and me. I am talking about the patients you see that have a need and you know they can't afford it. I know this scenario is not just happening to me.
I have to tell you that this stuff kills me. I have such a hard time thinking "I can't help everyone. Everyone has a story, and if I helped everyone with a story then I would never work for money again."
Or, "I hate it that they have this problem but what am I going to do?"
My thing has always been that everyone is not the one sitting in front of you.
Meaning this person is the one with the problem. Not everyone else. We will deal with everyone else later. Right now let's deal with this person with this problem.
This year, by leaps and bounds, I have given away more dentistry than any other year.
I probably did more free work this year than I did in the previous three years put together.
I don't know if it is the Dentistry from the Heart day that I do or people have heard about me through word of mouth (maybe I am getting a reputation), but I have received requests from so many outlets this year.
I have received so many e-mails from people I don't know.
"I have a husband that is out of a job and his tooth is hurting so bad. Can you help us?"
Am I the only one getting this?
Then people at church start asking me. Then friends of people at church. Then it is neighbors.
Friends of staff that are down and out. Friends of patients.
It is coming from everywhere.
I have to tell you that I have a heart for people. I want to help people.
What do I do?
Do I just treat everyone that needs something?
I have to tell you, up until now it has been all fillings and extractions but the problems seem to be getting worse and worse.
Does this thing continue to pick up speed and the next thing you know I am seeing everyone?
Do I have to regulate who I take? Do I put in a spot in the schedule for freebies?
Tell me what you are doing.
I will finish up our talk on Friday. I would like some input from you first.
Have a great day, I just keep thinking, 4 more working days left. Then it is 3 days of 24 hours a day shopping (I told you I am a complete failure at Internet shopping, see last Wednesday's blog).
See you Friday,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Word is getting around about what a great guy you are John and people are starting to take advantage of you. I do help certain people out in my office but only the ones I know, not people off the street. What I do to prevent the flood gates of what you are describing from opening is to volunteer at a clinic that is set up to help people in need. This way I help people who need it but it has nothing to do with my office.


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