Project Love Baton Rouge: Day 9 – Dental Confidence

Dr. Vutera, Me and Amy
Dr. Vutera, Me and Amy

Since I have been in Baton Rouge, I have had 3 root canals and two crowns. I have never had so many problems with my teeth. It all happened in the same area of my mouth, so I’m thinking something was going on there. For one thing, before I started acupuncture and yoga, I used to grind the hell out of my teeth. I don’t do it anymore, but I’m sure some structural damage resulted from the nightly gnashing of my molars. If that’s not it, the amount of sugar I consumed for years didn’t exactly improve things. At any rate, I’ve been to the dentist a lot in the past two years.

In preparation for my first checkup in Baton Rouge, I scoured the list of providers for my insurance benefits and found a Dr. Steven Vutera that was in spitting distance from the office. I checked out their website, and it looked like they had a modern, professional thing going, so I booked an appointment. Charlene, the dental hygienist, was really nice and we talked about my move here and various other things like the local custom of everybody calling me Ma’am and how much I hated it. I asked if somebody was an insane LSU fan because every wall in the office is covered with LSU team pictures, tigers and assorted paraphernalia. One of the dentists in the practice is the LSU football team dentist. Ahhhh … that explains the obsession.

Me and Charlene
Me and Charlene

In walks Dr. Vutera. I still can’t get used to medical professionals looking so young. In my mind, medical professionals should be gray and about to retire. But over the years I’ve begun to realize that the younger professionals, while they may not have as much time behind them, have some great modern ideas. There’s just been so much more research and technology that has contributed to a doctor’s – or dentist’s – knowledge. And the young people know how to use it.

Over the past two years, I’ve gotten to see Dr. Vutera many times. I don’t remember much from that first visit because it was pretty uneventful. I do remember the next visit when I was in so much pain I thought I was going to die. In the waiting room a kid was playing with one of those noisy toys that pings and beeps and clangs electronically. The bottom of my mouth was searing. The pain throbbed and stabbed. It would not stop. That noise would not stop. I looked at that kid and began to imagine strangling him. It would at least distract me from the relentless stabbing in mouth. When I got really close to actually doing it, and my hands were tensing with the satisfaction that they would feel as I squeezed the blood out of his tiny neck, I went to the window and asked the receptionist if they had any pain medication. I may have been crying by then. Actually, I was crying by then.

Me with my LSU Blanket
Me with my LSU Blanket

At any rate, she ushered me back, and they gave me some high-powered meds that honestly didn’t touch the pain at all. But they were all very nice and very concerned about me. I don’t need to tell the whole story, but the way they treated me and got me through the process so quickly, professionally and efficiently sold me on their practice. And every time I visit them it is the exact same way. In fact, even when they call me, they are amazing. At least 4 times I have forgotten my 7:30 cleaning, and they call me at 7:30. “Sh*t!” I exclaim. “I forgot again! I’ll be right there.” Luckily, I’m 5 minutes away. I show up with my wet head, running in the door apologizing. They always forgive me.

So, what I love today about Baton Rouge is the confidence I have in my dental team. A friend of mine right now is going through an ordeal with a dentist she sees who cannot seem to fix a problem in her mouth. I feel sorry for her because she doesn’t have my dentist. I’ve ended up forming a personal friendship with the dental assistant, Amy, and Dr. Vutera and I have a bantering professional relationship that is really fun. Charlene takes care of my dental hygiene and is just as sweet as she can be. Everybody at the front desk knows how to take my money effortlessly and with a smile – even though I’ve been known to complain about it every now and then.

Today, I went for my 6 months check-up, and everything looks good for now. I’m actually pain-free for the first time in 2 years. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had one tooth or another that’s sporadically sensitive or shooting with pain. But it appears that it’s all healed for the time being. Maybe next year I can go without a big dental expense and actually take a vacation. I really like my dentist, but I hope I don’t see him again for at least 6 months. I’m confident … not crazy.

Talk to me, please...

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