Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One Strike - You're OUT!!

If you've been reading my blog since the beginning, you know I have a love/hate relationship with the dental/orthodontal health profession. I really do appreciate good dental health, but . . .

Our newest lesson is to have found out that our orthodontist's office is intolerant of human fallibility. No, I'm not talking about being nagged to death about flossing.

Scheduling around here is pretty tight with 5 people all of whom have teeth - two of whom are in braces, which is my focus for today's rant. (Click here to see an ealier rant.)

The two family members in braces go to school in two different towns. An appointment in the middle of the day could possibly mean two hours of travel time as well as missed classes - possibly amounting to half a day of school with travel and appointment, so we try to schedule on Saturdays or afternoons, which is kind of tough because the afternoon appointments are booked 2 months out, and sometimes while we are there they want us back in a couple of days.

We realize it is a convenience they provide by being open on Saturdays for families in situations like ours.

My husband and I have ALSO been providers of appointments, he to home-schooling families he oversees and me to people I tutor. He sometimes makes home visits to families that live in other towns as a convenience to them - sometimes having put in round trips as long as an hour and a half.

We've been taking our children to this orthodontist for nearly 3 years now and never missed an appointment until last week. I'd say that's a pretty good record given the number of appointments we've had to keep and the forgetful nature of the human mind and the busy nature of life with 3 teen/preteen kids. The appointment we forgot happened to be on a Saturday. Because we blew it once, we can NEVER again have the privilege of scheduling an appointment on a Saturday. Their policy is "one strike, you're out!"

I do understand that they would prefer not to come in on Saturday if they do not have to and that if someone does not show up for an appointment it is really a pain. I get it. As I've said, my husband and I have been providers of appointments too. My husband has left his office and driven to a house visit before and had the family that scheduled an appointment with him not be there! That was a pain, but he didn't pull a "one strike" policy on them. People forget. None of us are perfect.

I can understand disallowing people special privileges who have a PATTERN of blowing off appointments, but to have no grace at all for one time forgetfulness strikes me as a bit harsh. What can we do about it? Nothing. We tried to reason with them and ask for grace, and it did not work. We blew it once, now we pay for it permanently.

My husband and I are the ones who blew it, but it's the kids who pay, as the next available afternoon appointment was two months out, so the kids are two months behind now on their orthodontal care and braces schedule. I wish they would just hit our pocket book and charge us a penalty for the missed appointment (which would punish us but not the kids) but still allow our kids to come in on a Saturday unless we were to blow it again.

This has left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths (wry pun somewhat intended). My husband and I have been inconvenienced too by the forgetfulness of others we have made appointments with, but I prefer the way we operate. Unless people make it a HABIT to blow off appointments with us, we extend grace. We'd rather be inconvenienced once in a while than to cause others to feel they've blown it with us permanently by ONE forgetful moment. I wish our orthodontist's office would extend us the same grace we would extend them.

I don't know how many years yet we will have to deal with braces and orthodontal appointments. Our oldest was told he would have his braces off in 2 years. It's now been nearly three, and there is no end in sight at this point and no comment. Our third child isn't old enough for braces yet. I sure hope he doesn't need them!! (Although it seems everybody "needs" braces these days.) I feel like an endentured servant to the orthodontist's office. I'm ready for my term of servitude to be over! While I'm very thankful for the good dental and orthodontal care available in our society, there are things about this "care" that I'm not so happy about.


Tony said...

Your third child could go to a different ortho...that bit of information well place could cause them to make an exception to their policy for you. A well placed letter or phone call (or link to a blog page!) could be worth while.

Heidi said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Tony. I may yet write a letter. David did appropriately yet firmly express his sense of this by phone. I only heard one side of the conversation, but by the time they were done with him, he was sounding a bit sheepish and chastised. So I don't hold out a lot of hope that a repeat of the same concerns will be effective - perhaps worth a try.

As to not bringing our third child there, perhaps we won't - especially if they don't start fresh with a new client on the Saturday policy. They have such a thriving practice, that I don't think it would make a dent if we said, "And, by the way, we will be looking elsewhere for our third child."

It seems EVERYBODY today NEEDS braces. That's a pretty big clientelle - so what if they lose one.

It's really hard to tell as a layperson what is necessary and what is cosmetic. You can't believe the contraptions the kids have had in their mouths - and how long some of it is in there for. Anthony's tongue looked like hamburger for a while while the spike strip was in. His tongue won, by the way. It refused to be "trained" and in fact broke the metal spikes. They finally gave up and took it out.

It just seems all this is a necessary evil - and I'm wondering how much is actually necessary. We sure are investing a LOT of money ($5000 per child not covered by insurance) and time and discomfort for all this - and it's just a scheduling nightmare to boot!

On top of that, we make ONE mistake, and we get put on a "naughty list." Who do they think they are? Santa Claus?!

Like I said in my ealier post, if teeth are this important, why are we not doing as much for spines, feet, and brains? Why do we not begin weekly therapy on toddlers and continue throughout life?! Certainly if teeth need this much fixing the brain shouldn't be neglected.

I do think some of this is necessary to correct bite and avoid health issues later, but for the most part I'm beginning to see it as being largely a racket!!

Coincidentally, I just got back from the orthodontist with Anthony. One of his "chains" (?) broke, so we had to go in and have that fixed.

Tony said...

I wonder how people survived before braces!?! There seemed to be a way...