My first dentist visit in America

26 Dec 2016 Karina S. Henkel

Yup, I’ve lived here for more than five years and I have not visited any dentists in all that time. At first I had the excuse that I didn’t have the proper insurance. The first months I was insured through a German health insurance company that only covered accidents and emergency visits. After I got married and I got all the necessary forms and papers I got insured through my husband’s work. Since he had no clue what was covered through that insurance plan I decided not to bother with any doctor’s visits unless necessary. Then I got my own insurance plan through my employer. Dental was included, but I was naturally intimidated by the whole insurance business, and who likes to go to the dentist anyway?

So, six years went by. I had no problems with my teeth except for the fact that Andrew made fun of me because I spent so much time brushing and flossing them every night. But since I knew about my sin of omission I was determined to be a role model, at least in the area of teeth cleaning.

But then, a couple of months ago, I talked with an American friend about it. When I told her that I haven’t had my teeth professionally cleaned for almost six years she gave me such a disgusted look, as if she were expecting that some green stuff would suddenly grow out of my mouth. And since I noticed that most of the people I know, colleagues and friends, regularly go to get their teeth cleaned, I finally decided to make an appointment.

I called a dentist, got a bunch of paper forms to fill out, and as soon as I sent that back I was on their email list. I received almost weekly reminders for my appointment two months later and they sent me Thanksgiving and Christmas eCards. It felt like spam.

But then the day came. I didn’t expect any differences between German and American dentists and dental hygienists. It was the first time, though, that I didn’t have to leave my seat in order to get an x-ray . They had a portable version of an x-ray.

But there was one big difference. The nice lady who worked on my teeth for more than an hour (no, it was not the cleaning that took so long but the whole procedure of classifying and x-raying every single tooth) was eager to engage in the usual American small talk. Whenever I could answer, she asked me questions which I consider to be private and would never answer if I were still in Germany. When I couldn’t answer because there were several tools lingering in my mouth she was telling me what she was going to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. After more than an hour of constant small talk while getting my teeth thoroughly examined, I was exhausted.

But how must this woman feel after a day’s work talking like that to all her patients? Amazing, these Americans.