May 27th, 2006

I Heart My Health Care Providers

Last Tuesday the 16th I decided that maybe I'd better try and use my health insurance before it went away at the end of the month. Armed with lists from my insurance company's website, I started out by calling dentists. I hadn't been to any kind of doctor in a long time, but the dentist appointment sounded like the least threatening, possibly even fun. (I never understood why some people dislike the dentist. I like the dentist because they give you free stuff, and because some of the time, at least, you leave healthier than you arrived. Instant gratification.)

I'd sorted the lists in order of distance from my house, and the first one on the dentist list was only a 15-minute walk away. I called and explained what the deal was with my insurance, wondering if there was any way they could fit me in for an dental exam during the next two weeks. I was transferred to someone else, who, after a bit of checking, told me that not only could they do it, but that they had a spot for me the very next day! Nice. Emboldened, I decided to try calling optometrists next. I called the first one on the list and told the same story to the woman on the phone, swapping "dental exam" for "eye exam".

", you just called here a little while ago, didn't you?"

I looked back at the list. Sure enough, the number for the optometrist's office was exactly the same as that for the dentist's. Huh. They must share an office. She scheduled me for an eye appointment the following week, and we hung up. Five minutes later, she called me back -- she'd just talked to the person who'd scheduled my dental appointment, and it turns out that they could do the eye appointment right after that, if I wanted. Two with one stone! So of course I agreed.

When I came in for the appointment, I saw how it worked: one building, two practices, one big desk where both of the patient coordinators hung out. I immediately recognized Amy, the one who had sussed that I was, in fact, one person and moved my two appointments to be next to each other. She was the younger one with the cute shoes. I had a full set of dental x-rays done, which took a while, and then the dentist, who introduced himself as Ryan, had a look at my teeth. Maybe they do this everywhere now, but I was pretty amazed when he popped a tiny camera inside my mouth and live video of my teeth showed up on a flat-panel TV over our heads. It was really interesting. He showed me the results of my ortho work as a kid, and the places where I still had some sealant left in my teeth from years ago. The bad news, though, was that both of my remaining wisdom teeth had cavities. I'd never had a cavity before and felt kind of guilty about it, but he told me that considering I hadn't been to the dentist for three years, I was doing pretty well, and also that the topography of my teeth was such that it would have been hard not to get cavities in those teeth.

He said that he could do fillings, but that we might as well just pull the offending teeth, since they were my wisdom teeth and would likely have to be extracted eventually anyway. When he said that he thought he could do it before my insurance ended, that was all the encouragement I needed. The last time I'd had wisdom teeth pulled it wasn't too bad, and hey, might as well milk the insurance for all it's worth, right? Besides, I could tell that he really wanted to pull my teeth. Heh. So we made a couple more appointments, one for a regular cleaning and one for the wisdom teeth.

Then I went over to the optometrist's side of the office. The optometrist was awesome. She gave me a very thorough, professional eye exam. I had thought that an eye exam was an eye exam, but this was about a million times better than LensCrafters. I was interested in getting contacts, so she did some extra tests to make sure my eyes were suited for it, then gave me a free pair (!) to start out with. And to top it off, her assistant noticed that my old glasses were rather bent and fixed them up for me at no charge. They felt like a new pair.

Everyone at the office was sympathetic to my insurance situation. They made sure that my two additional dental appointments were scheduled before the end of the month, and they knocked something like $45 off the price of the eye exam. They even wanted to give me a discount on new frames. I had a moment of revelation: "Damn...these people really want to help me! They don't like health insurance companies any more than I do!" As I was leaving, several people from both sides of the office were there making sure that my new contacts were working out and that I had my unbent glasses and both of my appointment cards. It felt like the frickin' Coalition for the Improvement of Lindsey's Health. This is going to sound cheesy, but, well, it was just so cool. I felt so...cared for. Then they gave me a carnation from a vase they had on the counter, and it was just too much. "Why are you thanking me? I should be thanking all of you!" I said. "You guys rock!"

This week, I came back for the cleaning and the wisdom teeth. Keiko, the hygienist, got on my case a little bit -- and rightly so -- about not going to the dentist for so long. "You are still young; your teeth, still very good. But next time, if you wait this long..." Stern look. So, yeah, I'm going back to see her in six months. As for the wisdom teeth, it was really easy -- even easier than the first time I had wisdom teeth pulled, which was back in high school. I was awake the whole time. Didn't really hurt. Whole deal took less than an hour. Went home, took Vicodin for a few days, no problem. Now I never have to worry about wisdom teeth ever again. And they even gave me another flower. How awesome is that? The old one hadn't even wilted yet!

The pen they gave me (see? Free stuff?) says "Referrals Greatly Appreciated", so here you go: Powell Dental and Vision, on SE Powell and 75th in Portland. Dr. Ryan Blair and Dr. Christine Gebhardt and their ass-kicking staff. Go see them. They're great.