Al Cronkrite


I just lost the last molar on the lower right side of my mouth. I opted to have it pulled ($250) rather than fixed ($2000).


Yes, I hate dentists. It is not the pain, although there is pain. I was not blest with strong, healthy teeth and the cost of maintaining bad teeth is ridiculous. Many Americans allow their teeth to deteriorate because they cannot afford dental care.

The investment in fixing a single tooth is often a major financial outlay and if the patient is not warry the obligation can be acquired without discussion and sometimes at a larger cost than necessary.

Entering the den of the dentist I am ushered into a cubicle and invited to sit down in a reclining device which faces in a direction void of all human activity – you can only see the dentist and the assistant from the side, never from the front. Seated comfortably the dental assistant puts a bib about my neck and scurries away to bring a heavy radiation blanket that protects me from the x-rays she takes of my teeth. The process involves biting down on a background device that creates the image – the device always has a sharp projections that digs into my mouth while I remain absolutely still until the x-ray is complete. The process is quick, simple and costly but it often fails to find important problems.

With the x-rays mounted on a convenient shelf and tools assembled on the tray the dentist enters, converses with his assistant, sits down and says hello. I can only see the dentist out of the corner of my eye. The back of the chair is lowered and the dentist begins whatever procedure is scheduled for that session.

There are dentists who have pleasant personalities and talk while they work. I, however, cannot enter the conversation because my mouth is full of various paraphernalia needed for the operation; the conversation is one sided. Others say very little completing the task with an occasional grunt or murmur (I prefer the latter).

With some dentists, when finished, you are ushered out to the cashier who tells you how much you owe. You have entered the office, been worked on and finished and costs have never been discussed. You pay whatever the dentist charges.

I recently reclined in the dental chair of one of the specialized practitioners. I had been referred to this one and I was given a price of $1,045.00 to get a root canal put in a small molar. This dentist looked at the x-rays and told me the tooth next to the one in question would soon need a root canal. Then she said she would remove the filing before doing the root canal. She did not mention that removing the filling would double the cost. Luckily I had discussed this with the previous dentist and knew that removing the filling would mean a crown and that the crown would cost another $1,000.00

That the welfare of the patient is secondary to revenue the patient produces is quite evident. Everything in their offices is set up to allow them to bill as much time as possible. There is not time to be friendly, no time to know the person, no time to understand unusual circumstances – only time to make money. The dentist is only visible when time is being billed, when you are finished another billing is quickly begun.

When I go for a cleaning the procedure itself cost about $50.00 but there is a charge for those x-rays I didn’t ask for and the dentist may come by like the medical doctor visiting his patient in the hospital. He will look at my teeth supposedly inspecting the work of his technician. But his presence will add $60.00 or so to the bill. The tooth cleaning then costs $150.00, a mark-up of $100.00 over the cost of cleaning. Now do you see why I hate dentists?

The callus nature of dentistry and medical care is not entirely the fault of doctors. It has come about through a change in our culture.

Care of the sick was for a time an altruistic profession. The patient’s care came first; before the doctor’s welfare, before the doctor’s convenience, and before compensation. Medical knowledge was a gift that was used to better the plight of the suffering. It was to be imparted to future generations and used for the benefit of the culture. There was an altruistic component to the practice of medicine.

The Hippocratic Oath, noted for its mandate to do no harm, was at one time required for medical graduates. It has been revised and re-revised several times and is often completely forgotten in our mercenary era.

The change in our culture involved both doctors and patients. Patients lost the pride that made their handshake as good as a signature. Instead of seeking to acquire a reputation as a person of integrity they decided that a live coward was better than a dead hero and threw integrity out the window.

Sixty years ago a well-dressed business man could check into a first class hotel stay for a week eating meals and enjoying the cocktail lounge without showing a credit card or providing means of payment. The bill was not presented until the customer left the hotel. Credit cards helped change this extension of free credit but the character of hotel users did too. Leaving without paying became common and hotels and motels began to require a method of payment before reserving a room.

The change in the medical profession was somewhat similar. Patients that could afford to pay began to take advantage of the physician’s willingness to treat everyone by stiffing the doctors. Dishonesty in the general population worked against a system that was far superior to what we have today.

Government involvement in the medical profession removed any remnant of mercy and made it a purely financial proposition. This, however, is not true of dentists who must accept the entire responsibility for their conduct.

Altruism is not born into the human species. Children are notoriously selfish. Altruism was a result of the religion of the culture. As the Christian religion was replaced by humanism a grasping, childish selfishness invaded our culture and is now readily apparent in the practice of dentistry.

It is sad to watch a suffering person being turned away when help is near and available.

The professions are now designed to produce maximum revenue and patients are the cows that get milked. The wealthy can afford the best of care but the proletariat must struggle to find proper treatment. If you cannot pay you will not get beyond the receptionist.

There is a corollary between the current concern over police shootings and condition of medicine and dentistry. In former years when the Christian ethic was still apparent in our culture policing had an altruistic component. Policemen were willing to risk their lives to maintain peace and order. Under our present humanistic culture that component is gone and the policeman’s life is more important than the people they are protecting.

On my last visit to my dentist I began telling the dentist about my concerns. The dentist was beside me when I began but disappeared behind me leaving the assistant to utter placating but unconcerned noises.

Exploitation is a form of theft. Enforcing the spirit of the law Thou Shalt not Steal would remedy the situation.

War, murder, torture, theft, bullying, and tyranny are results of disobedience to the Law of the Living God. Human wisdom will never stem the race toward destruction. From Kings to beggars society must live under God’s mandates.   It is the ONLY road to peace.



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