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Don't kill yourself; your dentist will miss you.
June 18, 2013 3:23 PM   Subscribe

My dentist was made to believe I was dead "Having no idea how or why I got there, I found myself in the embrace of a near-stranger who was overwhelmed with joy just because inconsequential, strange, and silly little me had lived to see another day"
posted by Bluecoat93 (59 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very sweet!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:35 PM on June 18, 2013


First off I almost did not read it because, yikes, dentist! But that was really, really good.
posted by maggieb at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2013


Clearly the lesson to be learned here is that you should always tell wrong-number callers that their party is dead.
posted by darksasami at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the summary I was wondering if this was going to be a parody of the movie M*A*S*H, during which the dentist is made to believe he is dead.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:45 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was good.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:47 PM on June 18, 2013


Clearly the lesson to be learned here is that you should always tell wrong-number callers that their party is dead.

My grandpa is 90 and has delighted for many years now in telling salespeople that he can't speak on the phone right now because he is hosting a wake. :(
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:52 PM on June 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Delighted" is really an understatement.

It's more like "cackles with glee."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:53 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


As an actual dentist who has had patients actually die, I can vouch for this. I had a 92 year old patient who passed away two years ago. The phone call I got from his son to inform me that he was not going to be able to make any more appointments broke my heart in a way that would seem almost unreasonable. The moment is etched in my mind.
posted by swellingitchingbrain at 3:57 PM on June 18, 2013 [53 favorites]


Dusty in here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:59 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Awww.

I see the same dentist I've seen since I was five--the same one who saw my grandparents and dad, all dead now. He's happier for me at every life event than most relatives. When I told him I had a book deal, he said, "I'm so glad you told me! Dentists are proud, too."

This reminds me of that, in a warm and fuzzy way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2013 [44 favorites]


A member of my family called my house a few months ago and was a little surprised when somebody answered they didn't recognize. So they asked for me by name (first name only). And the man on the other end of the line sorrowfully broke the news that I had died. This caused a moment of confusion before they both realized that it was a misdial to someone who just happened to have my same first name.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:11 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't kill yourself. People love you and will be heartbroken.
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:21 PM on June 18, 2013


Wow. Great post. Also:

"This is in black and white to show that this topic is serious"

Ha!
posted by brundlefly at 4:25 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


>Clearly the lesson to be learned here is that you should always tell wrong-number callers that their party is dead.

My grandpa is 90 and has delighted for many years now in telling salespeople that he can't speak on the phone right now because he is hosting a wake. :(


Oh my god, that is the greatest thing ever!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The woman behind the counter at my favorite lunch place has learned I like a cup of ice to go with my canned soda, and I was so pleasantly surprised when today, she had one waiting for me. Didn't have to ask.

I guess she might be a tiny bit sad if she learned of "Cup of Ice Guy's" passing.

In fact, I would be a lot sad if I learned of hers. She's cool. The world needs more cool.

Holy shit, I just now realize I don't even know her name. Have to fix that tomorrow!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:35 PM on June 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


There are office managers and baristsas that think about you. There are Facebook friends you haven’t seen in 15 years and weirdos in your building that think about you. There are dentists and high school lab partners that think about you.

jeez lady, just because you're not dead doesn't mean you can guilt me into accepting all those linked-in connections from High School acquaintances I haven't seen or spoken to in over 15 years.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 4:41 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


My grandpa is 90 and has delighted for many years now in telling salespeople that he can't speak on the phone right now because he is hosting a wake.

I tell them "I can't talk right now. I'm shaving my vagina." In my natural male voice. Usually they hang up real fast. Only once has someone asked if there was a good time to call back. "Yeah, when I'm done." "Do you know when that will be?" "Well, it's a pretty big vagina. How's Thursday around 10:30?"
posted by dobbs at 4:49 PM on June 18, 2013 [35 favorites]


I had somewhat the reverse of this experience on my last cleaning; there was a notice up in their waiting room saying that one of the hygienists had died. (It didn't say from what, but she wasn't very old.) All I knew her from really was making adjustments to my biteguard, but it still choked me up some. Just a really nice person, and not going to be there any more.

.
posted by epersonae at 4:50 PM on June 18, 2013


Oh wow. I once had to undergo a rather horrific dental procedure which involved sawing one of my molars in half and levering it out of my skull.

I swear the special dentist performing the procedure had to climb up over me and leap down to the floor in order to apply enough force.

It resulted in a bent instrument and a horrific crunching in my skull. After that he drilled away several cubic inches of my jaw and filled the void with bone cells harvested from a cadaver that very morning.

Through the entire ordeal my normal dentist sat there and held my hand, telling me that it would be ok, my brain would not leak into my sinuses.

I was touched, dentists are pretty cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:00 PM on June 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


This article and all your comments are making me want to go to the dentist, which I haven't in years. A surprising positive side effect of this post. Thanks guys!

On preview: OK, now I'm not going.
posted by narain at 5:02 PM on June 18, 2013 [40 favorites]


Believe it or not it's a great field to be in, and almost 100% of the reason is the relationships I have with my patients. Lots of people grump, sometimes good-naturedly about how they hate the dentist, but many more share a part of their lives, or their childrens' lives or their grandchildrens' lives with me a couple of times a year, and over the course of a career those stories and those relationships really add up.
I had a mom bring in her teenage son just today. He had recently had a series of seizures, a first for him, and he had injured his tongue pretty badly. He hadn't spoken or eaten since saturday because of the pain in his mouth and hadn't let any of several physicians even have a look. But he's been coming to see me for a decade, he knows me and trusts me. He opened right away, let me asses the damage, and began telling me what he's been going through. He asked good questions and we both smiled at his mom, who sat stunned at the difference that 15 minutes had made.

On preview: Narain yes, you should go.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:27 PM on June 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


That was really lovely, and I like her premise that you can't really comprehend the huge grief of people who will be devastated by your death, but you can get a handle on the people whose day you will ruin. We need smaller anchoring points to understand the big things and help us extrapolate.

And also: "I’ve learned that it is generally ill advised to accept wisdom from a man who killed himself when you are desperately trying to keep yourself alive." Yup.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:34 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cynicism alert. Scroll past if you'd rather not read it.

This is a sweet story, but it makes my spidey-sense tingle in many ways.

-- She went to the dentist on Monday, and between then and Thursday, the dentist called her, heard she was dead, and deleted all her dental records?

"State laws and participating provider contracts generally specify the time following the last patient visit that records must be maintained. There is usually a different requirement for the retention of records of children; these records must be kept for a certain period after the child reaches the age of majority. HIPAA also affects recordkeeping requirements for offices that are covered by generally requiring that such offices maintain patient records for six (6) years and two (2) years after a patient’s death. The dental office should have a records retention policy and all staff should understand it. The office’s professional liability insurance company will likely have recommendations
about retention." -- http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/dentalpractice_dental_records.pdf [PDF]

-- Her dentist (who has at least one receptionist, presumably more, since the Thursday one didn't remember the patient), personally called her to remind her of an appointment? Maybe. I've been to lots of dentists. None has ever done that.

-- How does the author know the dentist misdialed her by one digit?

I don't know if it's all true but just an odd set of circumstances (and, if so, the writer should have explained the weird quirks in her story), mostly true but augmented to make it a bit more dramatic, or totally bogus. But my bullshit meter is pointing towards red.
posted by grumblebee at 5:40 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


OHenryPacey: Don't worry, I will. Thanks for the lovely anecdote, and also for your service to public health in general.
posted by narain at 5:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember when my father died - I called all the numbers he'd left me to call, and in one case I asked for "Ian" - his (most likely) wife brought him to the phone, I gave my little speech - there was a pause and he said, "I'm terribly sorry, but I have no idea who you are talking about."

I actually got a burst of cheer from it. Telling everyone bad news is a drag - but this (probable wrong number) was someone who wasn't affected.

Also, take a lesson from this story. There are plenty of assholes, and lots of people use any opportunity to try to fuck with people's lives. I'm sure it was one of those people - this is very common.

If you call a number and someone suddenly gives you very unexpected bad news, ask politely for a little more information - "Who is this, please? What's the surname of the deceased?"

And if they turn out to be a hoax, let them have it - or remember to call them at least once in the middle of the night and blow a rape whistle in their ear. It's a really creepy creepy habit, and people should be broken of it.

(Of course, make sure it's a hoax first...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:43 PM on June 18, 2013


bone cells harvested from a cadaver that very morning

you are now contractually obligated to inform random people, in an agonized whisper, "i taste dead people!"
posted by elizardbits at 5:44 PM on June 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, go to the dentist. You don't want to end up like me. Half my skull consists of corpse slurry and I couldn't smoke for a week lest I get "dry hole disease"
posted by Ad hominem at 5:46 PM on June 18, 2013


It's worse when the corpsegrafts fail and they have to use your own bone sourced from other parts of your body.
posted by elizardbits at 5:58 PM on June 18, 2013


It's worse when the corpsegrafts fail and they have to use your own bone sourced from other parts of your body

that would have been a-ok because, and I am contractually obligated to tell you guys this, not only do not only do I taste dead people, I taste like dead people. Really does wonders for your social life.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:04 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which dead people? Some of them are tasty. I've heard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:07 PM on June 18, 2013


Speaking of which, after my boss died almost two years ago, for awhile I kept fielding calls from people asking for her, and I had to be the one to break it to them. Occasionally someone would think I was messing with them.

It's not a pleasant position to be in, I must say.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:11 PM on June 18, 2013


It is a gentle blend. I asked for something in a sleepytime with a hint of oak and overtones of coffee and tobacco.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:13 PM on June 18, 2013


Cynicism alert.

Oh, grumblebee, what would it take to make you a smiley happybee?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:33 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder what would happen if I started greeting rare acquaintances that way. "You... you're alive! [tears welling] . They told me you were dead. Can I have a hug?"

That might be a good way to let someone know how much they mean to me, even though I rarely see them.

On second thought, I don't want the Kroger cashier filing a restraining order on me.
posted by surplus at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2013


grumblebee, my thought is that her record wasn't literally deleted from their system, but flagged as deceased which hid it from all the receptionist's normal screens. Probably not very often that they need to jump through the hoops to access a deceased patient's records, and even less often that they need to set someone's status back to alive.
posted by superna at 6:42 PM on June 18, 2013


Oh, grumblebee, what would it take to make you a smiley happybee?

A cure for Colony Collapse Disorder.
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 PM on June 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


grumblebee, my thought is that her record wasn't literally deleted from their system...

It's certainly possible. Several people in the articles comments have the same suspicious I do, and the author replied to one of them, coming up with explanations for each of the points I raised. All possible, but I'm still skeptical. Too many little bad smells.
posted by grumblebee at 6:58 PM on June 18, 2013


Thanks for this. Someone I work with has been missing for over a week now.
posted by Occula at 7:18 PM on June 18, 2013


Her dentist (who has at least one receptionist, presumably more, since the Thursday one didn't remember the patient), personally called her to remind her of an appointment? Maybe. I've been to lots of dentists. None has ever done that.

Mine does it. I generally don't answer the phone when they call but they do leave a msg.

On the times I've been there after an appt and been reluctant to book another appt 6 months later they'll call me in 6 months. Three times. Then they send me snail mail letters.
posted by dobbs at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her dentist (who has at least one receptionist, presumably more, since the Thursday one didn't remember the patient), personally called her to remind her of an appointment? Maybe. I've been to lots of dentists. None has ever done that.

My dentist has personally called my husband and me on several occassions. Her receptionists do a lot of the calls, but she also participates, apparently.

Also, my husband's oral surgeon called my husband from his personal cell phone - a day or so after my husband's wisdom teeth were removed, at about 8:00 pm. The oral surgeon was just checking up with him, after he closed up shop for the day.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:40 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mine has called me, too. But never just to remind me of an appointment.
posted by grumblebee at 7:43 PM on June 18, 2013


My former dentist once called me after hours to check on me after I got a filling done; the whatsitcaine made me slightly speedy and flushed, and he wanted to make sure I'd recovered. I was touched.

I don't know what it is about dentists, but a lot of them are just so goshdarned nice.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:48 PM on June 18, 2013


Don't know if this counts, then, but our dentist did call my husband to remind him that he'd missed an appointment, and to tell him when he could reschedule. In a very nice way, not scolding.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:01 PM on June 18, 2013


Oh, grumblebee, what would it take to make you a smiley happybee?

A cure for Colony Collapse Disorder.


I was worried for a minute that said "Colon Collapse Disorder", and was going to be very sad.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:10 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was very touching. We impact people's lives in so many little ways. One of the baristas in my local coffee shop moved back to her home country and I miss chatting away while waiting for my order.
posted by arcticseal at 8:16 PM on June 18, 2013


Good one!
posted by snorkeler at 8:17 PM on June 18, 2013


While I like my dentist (and LOVE my hygienist), when he told me I need to get a crown on a 15 year old epic filling that had begun to leak(!?), he tried to incentivize it with "we'll get to spend more time together." I was not overly swayed. Leaking amalgam out of my molar, okay yes, I'm convinced.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:42 PM on June 18, 2013


My 91 year old grandfather recently died and his dentist, a middle aged man who had bought the practice from the former family dentist, came to the funeral more emotional than anyone else I saw, including family, fellow WWII veterans, grown up neighborhood children (small town, small street), and a couple people he had gone to high school with. The dentist cried and apologized for not knowing my grandafather had been seriously ill when he had cancelled an appointment earlier in the month - the thing is, my grandfather hadn't been seriously ill then (well, technically he was, but we didn't know it yet) and the dentist isn't really the person you call to say it's time to hurry for one last visit. He apologized for not staying longer and then rushed back to the office for his next patient. The receptionist came by next. It was really sweet and unexpected and my family was really touched.
posted by maryr at 9:35 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


She went to the dentist on Monday, and between then and Thursday, the dentist called her, heard she was dead, and deleted all her dental records?

She had a checkup Monday and returned Thursday for fillings - it's pretty common for those to be done in separate visits.

Also, the dentist could have deleted all her *scheduling* records without deleting the dental records or basic contact info. I know Google Calendar will let you delete/stop repeating without eliminating those that have already occurred.

Her dentist (who has at least one receptionist, presumably more, since the Thursday one didn't remember the patient), personally called her to remind her of an appointment? Maybe. I've been to lots of dentists. None has ever done that

I'd presume that actually the receptionist called, received the news, and relayed it to the dentist. But nobody says, "Oh, that was my doctor's receptionist calling to reschedule." My dentist similarly has had multiple receptionists in the past - not more than one at once, just two or three that worked different days. One knew me well and even gave me a ride home in particularly nasty weather one time while another shared my first name but never remembered me at all.

How does the author know the dentist misdialed her by one digit?

Maybe they checked and the phone number on file was off by one digit but they'd always just left a message on a machine before and the author remembered her appointments? Maybe that detail was, in fact, elaborated for narrative purposes. It seems like a misdialed number is a pretty reasonable explanation for getting the wrong news.
posted by maryr at 9:51 PM on June 18, 2013


My dentist, doctor and the place that cuts my hair all call the day before to remind me.

YMMV
posted by ITravelMontana at 10:08 PM on June 18, 2013


Uh yeah my dentist (and doctor, and hair place) always call me the day before to confirm. Perhaps not everything in the world is automatically deserving of skepticism just because it doesn't exactly match the details of your experience.
posted by danny the boy at 12:16 AM on June 19, 2013


Human society is like a vast game of Jenga where death keeps pulling out pieces below and above. No matter how far you are from the piece removed you feel the vibration. And every piece is important.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:55 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


my dentist is also a teammate and team sponsor on our cycling team. He's also a good casual friend - the sort you invite to house parties and bring bags of excess garden produce to and keep in your carpool-to-events list and soforth. He even cat-sat for us one time when all our usual petsitting sources were unavailable. He also plays a mean hand of blackjack and can run a 5:50 pace in a sprint triathlon, so he's a general 10th level badass.

He will call me from his personal phone to harass me if I don't keep an appointment, but then so would my grandpa's dentist and they were golf buddies for thirty years or so.

tl;dr: dentists are pretty awesome.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


My dentist keeps asking me if it's safe.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never really appreciated my dentist until I moved, and got a new dentist that was shockingly terrible. I'm certainly never taking that for granted again...
posted by schmod at 11:30 AM on June 19, 2013


schmod: you have no idea. I was so traumatized by my shockingly terrible childhood dentist that it took nearly a quarter century and then having someone from the team offer sponsorship that provided affordable service by someone I knew wasn't a total jerk that finally convinced me to go in. Not only is our guy awesomesauce as previously noted, but he is also very compassionate and non-judgmental about people who fear getting dental work done. Plus he gave me some really good advice for keeping my existing teeth in good shape. his pet peeve is the awful mess all those sugary-acidic sports drinks and sugary-gooey gels, bars, etc... tend to make of endurance athletes' teeth. Always carry plain water with you so you can rinse your mouth out after drinking or eating that stuff!
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:26 PM on June 19, 2013


My dentist keeps asking me to keep it secret AND safe.

Wait, no, that's my wizard. Well technically, my wizard's receptionist, but you know what I mean.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Weirdly enough, my dentist's name is Dagon. And he's fantastic.
posted by mikurski at 2:51 PM on June 19, 2013


Weirdly enough, my dentist's name is Dagon. And he's fantastic.

Me too! I'm betting mikurski and I go to the same dentist, 'cause that can't be too common of a thing. Also kinda wondered if FatherDagon was the same guy for awhile, but nope.

Okay, upon going through the comments, I'm not finding the bits where the author clarified the deleted records thing. I do wonder if it was literally deleting ALL records or just something related to them and she misunderstood, though. At my job, when someone dies, most of their records are left intact, but we do have to do some things that make them no longer changeable, and for some strange reason we're supposed to delete all of their contact information/addresses/etc. and put them somewhere else for posterity, and some other weird things like that. Maybe that's what she meant? I can't tell.

Back to the article....There are office managers and baristsas that think about you. There are Facebook friends you haven’t seen in 15 years and weirdos in your building that think about you. There are dentists and high school lab partners that think about you.

That...really weirds me the hell out, actually. Like, why would you CARE? It's been fifteen years and you probably didn't like me that much then either! But then again, I am not into Facebook and all that tracking people down stuff either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:04 PM on June 19, 2013


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