When Family Dentistry Gets Weird

When I say I loved living in Fargo-Moorhead during the past two years, I mean it with all sincerity.

I have no regrets about moving from Minneapolis-St. Paul, though I can’t say I enjoy the moving process.

Moving Woes: Finding New Everything
Starting over is a hassle. Even though we’ve lived in Fargo for two years, I feel like I just got a new drivers license and license plates and found a hair salon. Now, I have to find these things all over again in Iowa.

One thing I was surprised by in Fargo was dentistry.

It might not be fair to say “dentistry in Fargo.” Dentistry may be following the same trend, everywhere. When I lived in the Twin Cities, I visited the same dentist since I was two, so what do I know about dental trends, anyway?

Before we got married, Jake and I had different health insurance plans through our employers. I followed my friend’s referral to a small practice that reminded me of home while Jake found a dentist after his front tooth unexpectedly chipped one evening.

After frantically calling dental offices the next morning, one offered him a cancellation spot that day, while others couldn’t fit him in for days to weeks. When we got married, I switched to his dental office for insurance reasons.

Sex Appeal & Swag Bags
Upon arrival, I noticed how the waiting room was spacious, tastefully decorated, and outfitted with a refreshment bar.

A dental hygienist led me to my examination room and adjusted a flat screen television in front of my face. She handed me a remote control and earphones and instructed me to change the channel. It felt awkward and I didn’t really want to watch television. The headphones had a short, so I mindlessly flipped through channels. The staff kept asking me questions, anyway, which made me think this whole set-up wasn’t entirely practical. Would you want to watch television during a physical?

If I had a dental office phobia, I’d rather they pump me with a hefty dose of laughing gas and just get it over with.

The staff conducted a battery of tests since I was new. One hygienist operated a little instrument that beeped each time she held against one of my teeth. She called out numbers while another recorded them.

Each time she announced a number, I wondered, “Are higher lowers better than lower numbers? Is a four better than a two? What’s with that five? What the heck is going on?!”

The staff sent me home with a dental travel kit, a $50 gift certificate to the mall, a shiny folder stuffed with promo materials, and a metal travel mug etched with the dental office’s logo. It was wrapped in a gift bag complete with tissue paper and ribbons.

In addition to the slick marketing, all of the employees were strikingly beautiful young women dressed to the nines.

“That was strange,” I reflected, as I I juggled multiple swag bags out to my car.

Marketing Madness
Later, we received countless envelopes of direct mail encouraging us to sign up for their lifetime teeth whitening and referral clubs, plus email advertisements.

I lost it when the dental office sent me a text message this summer, reminding me to floss.

When I shared my experience with a friend who had also recently moved from the Twin Cities, she laughed and related a story of her own. She visited a different dental office and experienced a similar initial examination, except that hers was intensified by multiple staff who dramatically hollered out numbers as they examined her teeth. They told her she had an ungodly number of cavities (something like 11) and afterwards, the dentist, herself, called and offered to send her flowers.

She declined them and never returned.

Flowers are nice, but they’re no $50 to the mall. By the way, if I refer someone to the dentist, I get another $25.

You look like you could use a new dentist. . .


  1. Emma Cay

    You’re right it does seem odd to have the TV going while they try to talk to you. I think its mostly to help calm the little kids and for longer procedures. Do you know for any family dentists in Omaha, NE?

  2. Katy F.

    Wow! I’ve never gotten anything but a toothbrush and travel size mouthwash and floss from my dentist! And yes…I’m ok with that! LOL!

  3. Beth Ann Chiles

    I miss my Iowa dentist…a lot. Their office did not give me swag other than toothbrush, floss and toothpaste but they did have tv’s overhead. I kind of liked that mindless distraction as they were using that awful grinder thing. Ugh. But the thing I loved the most was that they could do the work right then and there—-no follow up appointment for a crown. They did it all in one swift appointment and once I told them I had a dentist phobia they were so gentle and kind. But a $50 mall gift card would rock….if there were any stores left in that mall. 🙂

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