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Why my dentist has lost the meaning of the human condition

I had a text today from my dentist regarding my visit there yesterday for a filling. It was a normal visit, for a normal filling – but the first time I have ever had a text asking my opinion on it :

“Hello you visited your dental practice. We’d love to get your feedback through 4 quick questions. Q1: How likely is it that you would recommend your practice to friends and family? Text back 0 (extremely unlikely) to 10 (extremely likely). Please note you will be charged standard network rate”

So. After the hard felt expletives….. I will explain why I can’t answer that question and the reasons behind it.

I have been going to that practice in Derby since 1982. That’s 34 years, on an average visit of at least twice a year for check-ups with the odd revisit for fillings. So, lets say around 80 times I have been there.

I first started going there as I had started a job in Derby, and my Dad used that dentist and recommended I moved to it as it was closer than the one I had been using in Burton on Trent. He had a word with the friendly dentist who agreed to take me on, and every time I went to see him he’d ask me how my Dad was, and we’d have at least a five minute chat about holidays or other lightweight chit chat. His room was a small one with a window that overlooked a small courtyard at the back and had a large tree that was something to look at when you’ve got someone peering into your mouth and calling out comments to the dental nurse. There was always a large calendar on the wall with adverts for local businesses on it, that I could read to take my mind off having a filling. Some years later on the dentist moved into the larger room next door that had more windows that overlooked the street but again there were trees to look at, and things on the wall to read.

Some years later, he retired. I was automatically transferred to another dentist in the practice who wasn’t as friendly as the first one but he was pleasant enough. Then I was automatically transferred to another dentist who I didn’t get on with, but I found out two years later when he left that no one else liked his attitude either. Then I was automatically transferred to a lovely woman dentist who was very pleasant and a delight to be with, who I found left last autumn and now I have been automatically transferred to another lovely woman dentist who seems equally pleasant and I like.

I have no problem with the dentists themselves.

My problem is the way the practice is run. It is still the same building that it has always been. And funnily enough I am now back in the first room that I used to go to, to see the dentist, but the patient’s chair has been turned away from the window to face a wall. A blank white wall. With no pictures on it. There is nothing to look at, or read. I can’t look out of the window and see the tree or the sky. When my head is tipped back all I can see is the light fitting with a dead insect in it above me. I mentioned this to the last woman dentist, who has since left, and she said she had asked for the chair to face the window too, but it hasn’t been turned around.

Last summer I had to return for a filling and had an argument with the more strident of the women on reception who wanted the money upfront for it. I have never paid upfront for dental work before and from what I could gather it was due to them not collecting money in from other patients being the reason that they have changed their policy. But, to add insult to injury, they couldn’t fit me in for two months to do the filling. So, they wanted the money two months upfront from doing the work I was paying for. I told her that I would pay on the day that I got there, before the work was done so that they had their money, but wasn’t going to pay it two months in advance. She grudgingly let me do that, but I have a feeling that next time she won’t.

Infact that in itself has been really annoying, although this might be because of the way the NHS is run. If I needed a small filling in the past, it was done quickly whilst I was there, rather than having to make another journey as I have to now.

I was also incredibly frustrated two years ago, over Christmas when I chipped a tooth, which was incredibly painful, and rang the dentist to get it sorted out, to get an automated message telling me to ring Derbys emergency dental centre, who wouldn’t see me as I already have a dentist. BUT I CAN’T FUCKING GET TO SEE THEM !!!!!! Was my reaction. Not at all bloody helpful when your teeth are hurting, and everyone is having a fun Christmas including the dental staff!!!!

Also, I have noticed in the waiting room, which is the same waiting room that its always been, that they have the blinds shut. You can’t sit and look out of the window. There used to be a picture on the wall that I liked of a pretty garden with a chair and table. Now its a blank television screen that wasn’t on. There are magazines to read but they are hidden away in a dark corner, not encouraging anyone to pick them up.

So, to sum up… the practice is the same as always. The dentists are nice and do their job well. The reception staff seem efficient and on the whole friendly.

But what has been lost in the demand for making it a business, has been the human angle, the one where you feel that you are a person who matters and that going to have your teeth looked at is as much of a pleasant experience that they can make it. Where you have some art on the walls, or nature to look at, or at least a view through a window of buildings and life. Its become sterile and lacking the human element.

So, how do I answer this question

“Hello you visited your dental practice. We’d love to get your feedback through 4 quick questions. Q1: How likely is it that you would recommend your practice to friends and family? Text back 0 (extremely unlikely) to 10 (extremely likely). Please note you will be charged standard network rate”

“0” doesn’t seem adequate somehow! Enigma

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