A month or so ago, Myra developed a boil on her upper gums. Never thought I’d start a blog with that sentence!
Anyway, it wouldn’t go away so we made an appointment with our family dentist, and Missy took her. One of the assistants took some X-rays, and then our dentist came in to look at them. After about three seconds he said, “Something’s not right here, are these X-Rays flipped?”
The assistant confirmed that they were flipped. I guess Myra wasn’t comfortable the way they had tried to position her or the infected area wouldn’t show up or something. The point is that the X-rays were flipped and our dentist realized it within a few seconds of looking at them. He was a little concerned because the X-rays seemed to indicate that although the boil was directly above one of Myra’s front teeth, it looked like it was affecting the tooth next to that one.
Since he doesn’t specialize in pediatrics, he referred Myra to a dentist across the street who does, Dr. Amanda Ward at Norman Pediatric Dentistry. Missy was in the room as they called the office and told them they were faxing/emailing Myra’s X-rays, and they specifically told them that said X-rays were flipped.
A few days later, Missy took Myra to Dr. Ward. The infected tooth needed to be pulled. Before anything else could happen, we had to write a check for $385 because Myra’s insurance doesn’t cover this. During the consultation, Missy even asked about the fact that the infection looked to be affecting a different tooth than the one the boil was above. Dr. Ward brushed it off and said, “Oh, you know, infection goes where infection goes.”
Then she pulled the wrong tooth.
It was immediately obvious because the tooth that was pulled looked completely healthy, with the longest root I’ve ever seen. Dr. Ward knew it was wrong and proceeded to pull the correct tooth next. Which means Myra lost both of her front teeth in a matter of minutes. Missy reported that Dr. Ward was very gentle with Myra and that aside from the one major gaffe, the experience was a positive one. The office is clean and Dr. Ward made Myra feel as comfortable as possible during the whole thing.
Myra was very brave. The only time I saw her cry was that night. I asked her if her mouth was hurting and she said, “No, I just wish I could have my teeth back.”
When Missy was telling me the whole story, I couldn’t believe the office didn’t promise to refund our $385 right away. So I stopped by there to talk to them about it and was lucky to catch them on their lunch break when no patients were in the building. Then again, I guess I was unlucky because I ended up getting talked down to and treated like dog poop.
Dr. Ward and one of her employees sat down with me in a small waiting area. This is the conversation we had. There is no exaggeration here; this is how it happened.
First I explain that I’m Myra’s dad and I’m here to get my money back.
Employee: Oh, don’t worry. We didn’t charge you anything for that second tooth.
Me: I’m talking about the $400 I paid for the other one.
Dr. Ward, befuddled look on her face: You want a refund for pulling the correct tooth, the one that needed to be pulled?
Me: Yes. I think the whole thing caused her extra pain, and she’s sad about not having any front teeth.
Dr. Ward: You think she had more pain getting two teeth pulled than she would have for just one?
(Somehow she was being serious with that question.)
Me: I can’t imagine it was less painful.
Dr. Ward: So you want a refund for a baby tooth that was going to come out anyway?
(At this point it’s hard to tell if she’s just being a smartass or if she really thinks I’m that dumb. I was really tempted to ask if they just pull random healthy teeth as part of a normal check-up since it’s no big deal but I refrained.)
Me: It wasn’t going to come out any time soon, which means she’s not going to have a tooth there for a really long time. Look, I’m not trying to accuse you of doing anything on purpose. I understand it was a weird situation with the infection being above the other tooth. I understand that the X-rays were flipped. But it was still an entirely preventable thing and I think you should make it right.
Dr. Ward: And you think “making it right” means getting your money back? For the correct tooth that needed to be pulled?
Me: Well I’d prefer my daughter get her tooth back in her mouth. But since that’s not going to happen, a refund would seem to be fair.
Dr. Ward: We didn’t know the X-rays were flipped. (Employee nods in agreement).
Me: Somebody knew. My wife was in the room when our dentist called your office and specifically told whoever was on the phone.
Dr. Ward: No, we didn’t know about it.
Me: My wife told me about it before the procedure, because it was an odd thing. She didn’t make it up. I’m confident our dentist remembers this also if we need to call him and ask. Obviously, I have no way of knowing who was on your end of that call, but somebody in this office was told about it.
(I didn’t even mention the fact that our dentist, who legitimately didn’t know about the flipped X-rays, immediately recognized it. And he isn’t a pediatric specialist, nor was he about to yank a 6-year-old’s tooth out. Would seem like you’d want to double check before pulling a tooth. Clearly this could have been recognized regardless.)
Dr. Ward: Well, what would make you feel better about this situation?
Me: Getting our money back for the mistake that you made.
Dr. Ward, super condescending tone: That’s what would make you feel better?
Me: Again, I’d prefer my daughter had her tooth in her mouth. But yeah, since that’s not going to happen I’d like to have my money back.
Dr. Ward: Well we can certainly do that.
And she did. We got the check in the mail just a few days later. What we definitely did not get was anything resembling an apology or a show of basic human respect.
About 10 years ago, we were eating at a Chili’s in Wichita with Missy’s family. Missy ordered a salad and there was a staple in it. She bit into it and it caused quite a bit of pain and bleeding. Guess what Chili’s charged me for my burger that day? (You mean the correct order with no staple in it?) Naturally, the whole meal was free and they gave us a gift card with $50 or $100 on it. Because a crappy restaurant chain is somehow better at being personable and acknowledging a mistake than a pediatric dentist.