… or not

So I”m not in L.A. tonight, and I won”t be going at all this week. The miracle of antibiotics just didn”t get me in shape enough to hit the road today.

Instead, I made a trip to my Aetna-approved dentist, who I”d talked to over the weekend about the agony and horror of my jaw. This was my first trip to my “primary care dentist” since getting Aetna coverage with the new job last summer.

I don”t remember why I picked this place as my PCD, but I did remember it was up in Tucker by Northlake Mall. I didn”t realize, however, that it”s in Northlake Mall; across from the GNC and just around the corner from Kay Jewelers.

Walking past the cheap-jewelry kiosks and listening to the mall”s Musak, I couldn”t help but be a little uncomfortable at the notion of having my dead, rotting tooth drilled out in a space that probably used to be an Orange Julius.

I didn”t feel much better watching my dentist – whose voice-mail identifies him as “regional vice-president” – personally make copies of my driver”s license and insurance card; nor did the large poster of “Your teeth can look like this [huge close-up of teeth filled with what look like railroad spikes] or this [pearly white fillings]. The choice is yours” make me feel real warm and fuzzy, as I don”t imagine Aetna DMO pays for anything but the apparently lead-based fillings.

So while waiting for my x-rays to be developed, I started the mental exercise:

Do I want these people to drill into my head?
a) it”s possible that the railroad-spike work shown in the poster was done here
b) Jesus Christ my jaw hurts. How the hell long would it take me to get an appointment and get it fixed somewhere else?

DECISION: Let the guy diagnose me and when he says “root canal”, start asking hard questions about their survival rates, what Aetna will pay for and where the hell they got that railroad-spike filling picture.

But when the dentist came in and looked at the x-ray, he asked “so what did this other dentist see, exactly?”

“Um, something like a bulb thing at the bottom of the bad tooth,” I said.

“Nope, it”s all normal. See how all these teeth look the same? You don”t need a root canal. You have gum disease.”

It was at this point that it all began to make sense. My mom suffers from gum disease; a gum infection makes more sense in the whole burning-jaw feeling; and the ongoing symptoms he described fit me to a tee.

So, as it turns out, the mall dentist did a better job than the one dentist in Atlanta that”s open on Saturday.

Now if those damn antibiotics would finally just knock out this infection.

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