My neighbor said the other day, seemingly for no reason, that her dentist was the most expensive in New York. Would you like a referral to someone more reasonable? I asked, just to be responsive, even friendly. Oh, no, my friend said, I couldn’t leave him, he’s an artist, a perfectionist. I couldn’t do without him.
No, I didn’t return to the question of cost. I simply dropped the subject, though I was tempted to ask what he had done for her mouth that was “artistic.” I would have been glad to see the work. But I have discovered that few people will talk about their teeth in any detail, though those I have tried to question are quick to praise the worth of their particular dentists. The dozen people I have talked with recently consider their dentists irreplaceable; they would not go to another dentist even if his service were free.
I am not surprised, for after moving from Baltimore to New York in 1971, I continued to see my two Baltimore dentists (teeth and gums) for the next 16 years, as though there were no possible replacements in all of New York City. Only when my dentist, Dr. Smith, died did I search for one in Manhattan, and then asked Dr. Nemerov to send me to his periodontist for my gums. He sent me to Dr. Pollack, who is still my gum doctor and surgeon, and who, after Dr. Nemerov retired, sent me to his dentist, Dr. Murphy.
I raise this subject in a blog because I would like to collect anecdotes of good and bad dental treatment—names are not essential, indeed, probably ought to be omitted. I’m writing a long essay on “Teeth,” for a new memoir to be called What I Left Out, and I’d like to include experiences beyond my own.
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