Dental woes

No one I know enjoys going to the dentist, and it is the same for me. However, it has been some years since I last saw (or rather, was seen by) a dentist, I decided to make the dreaded visit, now that I have some time. This is also in fear of toothaches during my church retreat in Malaysia next week.

With all these at the back of my mind, I made an appointment at Novena Q & M. I was willing to travel from the western part of Singapore all the way to Novena because when I last visited this dentist, he was most patient and gentle. Then he went away for further studies and returned I think about 2 years ago. As such, I was glad to be seeing him again, even if it meant some cross-island traveling.

This was why I was disappointed and very upset when things did not turn out that way. I informed him when I made the appointment that as I was traveling next week, I really needed an appointment and his reception was able to accommodate. Yet, a day before the appointment, I received a call to say that the dentist was canceling his morning clinic and he would be traveling till July. Would I like an appointment after that? No prizes for guessing my response.

Not to be discouraged, I then went through a directory of dentists to locate one in my neighbourhood. When I called to make an appointment, the reception was friendly and helpful, giving me clear instructions to locate the clinic. She even reassured me that the dentist would be nice and gentle, which made me feel pretty positive about this upcoming visit to DentalTrendz.

Sadly, when I showed up for my 11 am appointment, I was repeatedly told to wait. And I had no idea why a clinic can be so behind in their appointments so early in the day. At 1130 am, after half an hour of waiting, I finally asked the dental assistant if the dentist would be able to see me in 5 minutes; otherwise I would leave for my 1230 pm appointment, as I didn’t think I wanted to be late. The audacity of the dentist to show no remorse, with no apology given, and a suggestion to reschedule.

I told the poor dental assistant that I would definitely not be coming back after this experience. Why should I? Furthermore, the clinic photocopied my ID cards without permission nor explanation why they needed a copy, which added to my ire. And me being me, I requested that the photocopies be destroyed in my presence before I left, since I am not their patient.

I then walked next door to another dental clinic and made another appointment for the later part of the day. The receptionist was young but steady, cautiously trying not to rile me further but also not wanting to over promise on the waiting time. I certainly hope I would get to see the dentist with this third try.

Well, you can imagine my frustration when sister informed me of her bad experience with this branch of Q & M at Boon Lay MRT Station. They said she needed 3 fillings which would come up to approximately $200, but when she went to get a second and third opinion, both dentists said she did not need fillings at all. And this certainly made me wonder now if I really want to see this dentist.

Seriously, never would I imagine a simple visit to the dentist can be this complicated.

I eventually cancelled my appointment with this not-recommended branch of Q & M and made an appointment with Vista Dental Surgery, a recommendation from my sister. The receptionist was rather rude and unhelpful but I still decided to give the clinic a try as my sister had a good experience there and has been going back since. However, when I got there, I was told that I needed to sign an agreement stating that all X-ray taken belonged to the clinic. That is right. I was required to pay for the X-ray, but I am not allowed to bring it back because the payment was for taking of the X-ray and interpretation by dentist. To receive a copy, I would need to make additional payment.

Now, I have no idea how much an X-ray would cost and why would anyone want to take an X-ray of a tooth home. But I took issue with the fact, that I was expected to sign the agreement whether or not I understood or agreed with the implications; otherwise I would be refused treatment. They showed me a letter from the Singapore Dental Association, undersigned by Dr Anthony Goh, that supported this stance. However, they refused to allow me to take a photo of the letter for further verification. Does this mean the clinic had something to hide? Was the letter even legitimate? To receive treatment, I told the receptionist I would sign the agreement but I would be taking this matter up with the Singapore Dental Association. I jokingly remarked that let’s hope I would not have to take an X-ray today.

Unfortunately, there were some complications and the dentist did require an X-ray of my tooth. Can you believe it?! The receptionist barged into the treatment room and said that I had problems with the agreement and to tell the dentist not to do the X-ray. The dentist looked stunned and I was flabbergasted. I quite literally jumped up and told all present to not let policy get in the way of treatment, told the dentist to do what he needed to do and told the receptionist since I signed the agreement of course I would abide by it. Even though I did manage to take control of the situation before it went out of hand, I was majorly pissed.

Truth be told, the dentist was really nice and patient as well as his assistants in the treatment room. Even though he was not very skilled and the filling was not that well done, it was overall a positive treatment experience. However, the reception I received from the receptionist was far from acceptable. She called me up two weeks later to request that I return to the clinic because they made a mistake in the billing and would require my original to make amendments. No apology given for the inconvenience on my part and no thanks when I did return to help them with the correction. Overall, I found the clinic staff to be exceedingly unprofessional.

Going to the dentist has never been a pleasant experience and I believe all that has transpired – as shared above – have made it worse. I think I am going to be staying away from dentists a while longer, even though my toothache had not gone away with the expensive treatment.

Note: This blog post was first drafted on 5 Jun and completed on 22 Jun.

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