Life In Our Mountain Town: Switching dentists is not easy in a small town | SierraSun.com
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Life In Our Mountain Town: Switching dentists is not easy in a small town

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

It’s not easy when you live in a place like Truckee to do something as seemingly simple as change dentists.

This was the case for me last week as I sat in a different dentist’s chair, pondering the fact that I probably wasn’t just getting some dental work done somewhere else for a change, but that my old dentist was exactly that – a past tense, previous experience.

I had no complaints with my old dentist. He had provided good solid care for my family and me.

But that’s the way it goes for some of us who for one, have no dental insurance, and two, have a spouse who occasionally swings deals through a system known as bartering.

I went to this same dental office over a dozen years ago, although another dentist used to offer his services there. Then I switched to a dentist down the street because the insurance that we had at the time only covered the other guy. With barely more than a backward glance, my husband and I found ourselves with a new dental plan, and a new dentist.

Somewhere along the line, we discontinued our dental insurance, or they discontinued us.

Still, we’ve been getting our dental care at this other office down the street all this time, until recently when a little asphalt work was proffered for a guy who said, “Hey, do you guys ever barter?” Actually, maybe it was his wife who said that.

And since I needed a crown repaired, and we just pay for our dental work, well there I was, trying to rationalize this whole thing while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” playing on the radio.

“OK,” I thought to myself, “I sure like this dentist’s music better than that easy listening stuff they play down the street.” I started asking myself questions such as: should I feel loyal to my old dentist, or just a little guilty about switching because after all, his whole staff seems to know me over there? Or should I not put too much energy into worrying about it, and just be pleased that we’ve figured out a way to pay for something that would have cost a lot more out of pocket any where else?

My husband says people switch dentists or doctors or hairdressers all the time, and the providers of such services, whoever they may be, shouldn’t take it personally. Maybe that’s the way men look at things. Women spend a little more time worrying about hurting people’s feelings.

However, there’s something drawing me to this new dentist, and I think it has to do with a comfortable, casual approach to living and doing business. While some people may call my new dentist Dr. So-and-So, I just call him by his first name. Since I first knew him as a fellow parent providing humorous commentary along the sidelines of games in which our children played, being on a first-name basis seems fairly acceptable. But I also think that calling your doctor by his or her first name is something that is slightly unique to this area. Many of us call our doctors by their first name, not to be disrespectful, but because we also play softball with them or we see them at every other school function, or if you’re like me, you even hold their hand at church sometimes.

Years ago when the television show “Northern Exposure” used to run, friends of mine who lived far away would urge me to watch this show because it reminded them of Truckee. I never really gave the show a chance, because the first episode I saw featured a doctor who wore a tie, who also insisted on being called Doctor Whatever-his-name-was. I immediately told all those who were trying to relate to my Truckee experience that “Northern Exposure” appeared to me to be a Hollywood version of some outback town, and it failed on at least two counts. Doctors here do not dress that formally (in fact my new dentist was wearing shorts the other day), and they also don’t tend to insist on being called doctor. At least, I’ve never been corrected, and I’ve also never felt as if I was being presumptuous.

I like living in a town where you are not anonymous. But that situation makes the occasion of switching doctors, or dentists, or hairdressers somewhat uncomfortable.

Apparently my loyalties dwindle when insurance, or the lack of it, comes into play. So now I have a new dentist. I hope my old dentist understands.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.


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