Featured, Health

The Business of Teeth

September 11, 2015

Forget your mother. If you ever want to feel like you’re not good enough, visit a dental hygienist.

This year alone, I’ve had three dental hygienists make me feel guilty about my flossing negligence (who really flosses every single day, anyway?), my ineffective brushing, and losing my retainer that I got after I had my braces taken off when I was 16.  I was told, straight up, that I needed to step up my oral hygiene game or else I’d fall victim to (cue epic dramatic music) gingivitis.

It’s been an eye-opening year of dental clinic shopping for me. Since moving out of the city and into the country, I’ve been looking for a go-to clinic to keep my teeth in top-tip shape.

As a child my parents were always on top of our dentist visits. We went twice a year, a fact fuelled by my dad’s insurance benefits. To a refugee, having benefits is way more valuable than owning a Chanel purse, and he made sure that his dental benefits were maximized every year. I’m sure he liked bragging about having four kids with no cavities with his coworkers. At age 34, I’m still cavity-free, have had only one filling (due to grinding), and still have my wisdom teeth in tact. Except for my overbite and crowding of the bottom teeth, I’ve always been told that my chompers are in pretty good shape.

Until this year.

Upselling, Inconvenience, and Guilt

Since February 2015, I’ve been to two clinics that have left a very bad taste in my mouth. Their dental hygienists seemed to have gone through some rigorous robotic sales training where they were brainwashed to upsell services. My cleaning appointments felt like preachy sessions where I was judged for not flossing enough, brushing my front teeth too hard, and not brushing my back teeth hard enough. And before any of the actual cleaning happened, the appointment for what I thought was a basic cleaning, turned into a consultation with the dentist for all the bells and whistles: restoration work, Invsalign, and mouth guards. At one point, I joked ‘why not just knock out all my teeth and put dentures  in?’ Not sure if they knew I was joking.

More annoyingly, each visit was split into two separate visits (without telling me at the time of booking) because the dental hygienist deemed me to a be ‘severe case.’ I was told to return the following week for the polishing portion. They made it feel like it was my fault for having poor oral hygiene, which is odd cause I’m one of those weirdos that brushes their teeth in the office bathroom after lunch. I never did return for the second time because it was simply too inconvenient for me to take more time off work just to get my teeth professionally brushed. Oh, and the sticker shock: the unfinished cleaning appointment cost me $190.

At one clinic, the senior dental hygienist suggested that I should see her every 3 months. If it weren’t for the spit vacuum in my mouth, I would’ve spat in her face in shock. Um, who makes that kind of commitment to their teeth? I did say something to her along the lines of “with all due respect, going to the dentist isn’t exactly a pleasant experience so it would be appreciated to not have to come so often.” This comment didn’t seem to bother her, as two months later, that clinic blasted me with bi-weekly reminder calls to rebook. They must’ve had some very sophisticated marketing software for client retention because the calls were irritatingly consistent.

I get that business is business, but when did the dental industry become so swarmy?

Hope is here!

Anaida DetiI recently met Anaida Deti, a registered dental hygienist who is so passionate about making dental care comfortable and accessible to everyone that she started her own dental clinic business that feels similar in scope to what Uber X is doing with the taxi industry. Even the name of her clinics, Dental-X Smile Centres, evoke the disruptive and customer-focused angle of what Uber X is all about.

Deti, who has been a dental hygienist for over ten years, operates two Dental-X Smile Centres across Toronto: one in North York and the other downtown. I visited Deti this past weekend at her Bayview and Sheppard clinic for a teeth cleaning and whitening treatment. During my cleaning, Deti revealed that she has seen it all when it comes to teeth: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“I come from Albania where dental care is a luxury. I once worked on a man who had never seen a dentist and had only three teeth. It took me longer than normal to clean those three teeth, but it was very rewarding in the end,” says Deti as she scaled away at my plaque buildup. As she kept telling me stories from her time working in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, such as Regent Park, I got the sense that Deti is not driven by money but rather a deeply rooted desire to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. Deti is a mother of two young children, and you can feel her maternal energy when she describes the meaning of the tooth fairy in her company logo. Dental-X Smile Centres are the only clinics that pay kids $5.00 for each tooth they bring in, as a way of getting kids used to going to the dentist without fear. Deti also does a lot of charitable work. She offers complimentary treatment for women who have been incarcerated and women in shelters. Seniors get a discount, every day. Not just one day a week!

Clearly, Deti is a good person with an ethical business sense. Plus I didn’t feel a pang of sales pressure during my cleaning, despite her knowing that I’m the editor of The Skiny. She could’ve easily upsold me with her menu of Swarovski tooth crystals and cosmetic injectable treatments.

Dental X

In Ontario, dental hygienists have been legally able to practice on their own without a dentist since 2007, but many people are unaware that this may be a more affordable option for maintaining good dental and oral health. With the high cost of dental care in Canada private hygienists clinics like Dental-X Smile Centres are a growing trend in oral health care.

I didn’t realize the scope of their work: Dental hygienists are able to perform a thorough dental examination (checking for mouth cancer, gum disease etc.) and consultation. Services offered by registered dental hygienists include professional teeth cleaning and scaling, stain removal, apply pit and fissure sealants to top surfaces of teeth, fluoride treatments, teeth whitening, denture care, administer local anesthetic and root-planning. By booking an appointment at a dental hygienist practice rather than a dentist’s clinic, you can expect to pay less. The price for a cleaning at Dental-X Smile Centres range from $120 – 280, but for those with no insurance it’s capped at $120.

Deti’s clinics have seven hygienists and a full time dental surgeon on staff for patients who may require emergency procedures. Her larger North York clinic has brightly lit private rooms, each pimped out with flat screen t.v.’s for added comfort. Though the most compelling reason to visit Deti is her quick, no-nonsense cleaning technique. She’s blazing fast: in one power hour, she performed a thorough scaling, flossing, and polishing treatment. No second visit needed. And to appease my endless pursuit of vanity, she added a professional whitening treatment to clean up the coffee and sangria stains from the summer…

yellow teeth close up

The procedure took 45-minutes to turn my lemony teeth Chiclet-white. Cosmetic whitening costs $150 per session and the dazzling results last up to a year.

whitening

after

When I asked the receptionist when I should come back for my next cleaning appointment, I was pleased to see her turn to Anaida to ask. Anaida causally replied, “oh she’s good for at least six months.” Phew, I can handle that.

Thanks Anaida for restoring my trust in the dental industry! Visit www.dentalx.ca

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