Turn & Spit

Over the course of the last 50 years I have had only three dentists. All of them were Mormons, as it happens, and all three were excellent. Coincidentally, my current dentist bought his offices from the first dentist when the latter retired. Today I get my teeth cleaned in the same room where these fillings were done when I was a teenager.

In a couple of months I’m scheduled to go into the Medicare system. Kaiser Permanente offers supplemental Medicare coverage that pays for a dentist. (At present, I’m paying cash, because I only need the routine cleanings.) The supplemental coverage is through an HMO plan called DeltaCare Dental. DeltaCare has three dentists in Livermore, so this morning I drove around to check them out.

I was not impressed.

The first office I stopped at was closed, although the sign in the window alleged that it’s open on Wednesdays. The third office was also closed, and the sign in the window indicated this was normal. (Closed on a Wednesday?) The third office was in a strip mall, tucked between a hair salon and a donut shop. Not a promising location in which to find a great dentist.

The second office was open. I didn’t have a lot of questions on my agenda, but I asked how long the two dentists practicing there had been in that location. “Since February,” the young woman said. (It’s now June.) “Before that they were down in the South Bay.” I’m thinking, why would they relocate? No patients? But I didn’t ask that.

The office looked and sounded, frankly, deserted except for the woman behind the counter. “How many hygienists do you have working here?” I asked.

“No hygienists,” she replied. “Just the two dentists.”

Okay, so these two dentists have so little business they’re doing the routine cleanings themselves? And the other two offices are closed on a Wednesday morning. I think I need to talk to somebody at Kaiser about this. It smells a little fishy.

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