Seeking an understanding dentist in/near San Jose
March 16, 2011 10:59 AM   Subscribe

San Jose/South Bay MeFites: Can you recommend a dentist who can clean my teeth and fill my (possible) cavities without making me feel like the reprobate I am?

Background: I'm female, early 40s, law student. Lifelong East Coaster until 2 1/2 years ago, when I moved to San Jose, CA to attend Santa Clara U. School of Law. Will be graduating in two months, sitting for the Bar in July. To that end, I'm trying to get all my doctor's appointments taken care of before bar prep classes start. I have a primary care doctor (GP) and a psychiatrist, but never bothered to seek out a dentist or an OB-GYN (which I also need to do, but that's another question for another time). Covered by Anthem Blue Cross on my spouse's insurance.

Normally I would wait until after the bar to establish a relationship like this -- hey, I've waited this long, right? -- except that I'm noticing some brown spots on two of my back teeth (lower left side) that look to my untrained eye like cavities. They don't hurt, but my gums are bleeding a bit, and sometimes, on bad allergy days, I feel a little pressure in my ear and jawline. So I'd like to deal with them -- and possibly with any surgery -- sooner rather than later.

Of course there's a complication: I used to be very good about going to the dentist when I was younger, but in my mid-20s I gained a lot of weight. I also used to have a heart murmur -- not a dangerous one, but when I was a kid, it was noticeable enough for the pediatrician to note it on my chart. The last time I went to the dentist was about five years ago, when I was still living in NYC. He gave me a basic fluoride treatment, but didn't want to give me a deep cleaning because it could be dangerous with certain kinds of heart murmurs. He advised me to get a checkup with my gp, ask for a prescription for penicillin, and then come back for the deep cleaning. I am embarrassed to admit that I never went back, because the thought of going to the doctor was more stressful and anxiety-producing than it should have been. I just let it go, and figured that as long as I flossed and used a fluoride rinse, I should be okay.

Since that time, much has changed. I lost the weight -- not all of it but most of it -- and I've had a complete physical, including bloodwork, after being diagnosed with ADHD by a neuropsychologist. The heart murmur is gone, and even if it recurs, my gp said it's not the dangerous kind. So I'm ready to act like an adult and take care of my teeth -- except that the thought of getting the hectoring I deserve from an angry dentist is just anxiety-producing enough that I don't just want to pick a dentist at random from the insurance directory or the internet. Thus I turn to the collective wisdom of AskMe.

South Bay folks, can you recommend an excellent dentist who is good with anxious, vaguely neurotic patients? San Jose is best, but I'm willing to go all the way to San Francisco (I clerk in SF 3 days/week), but Oakland/Berkeley/East Bay would be too much of a bite out of my schedule. Proximity to Caltrain is terrific, but not necessary.

(As far as current dental regimen goes: Since Christmas I've been brushing with a Sonicare E series 2x/day, rinsing with Listerine Total 2x/day, and either flossing or using a WaterPik, although last week when I had a cold, I let the WaterPik go.)

Thanking you in advance for your patience!
posted by bakerina to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your weight, heart murmur and current dental hygiene regimen are totally irrelevant.

I know first-hand how stressful the bar can be, and also how nerve-wracking it can be to accidentally forget to see a dentist for five years.

As it happens, I noticed those same telltale spots last week and so I'm finally seeing a new dentist tomorrow. I expect him - like whoever you ultimately choose - to be a professional.

Try not to let life/exam stress bleed into every angle of your life like this. (Easier said than done, I know.) You'll do fine!
posted by thejoshu at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Every dentist deals with people who haven't been to the dentist for 5+ years, particularly people like you who have gone through various changes in insurance/jobs/health/whatever that have made going to the dentist a lower priority in your life.

When I went back after such an absence, I was pleasantly surprised at the changes in technology. The water jet is WAY better than the endless pokey scraping. My dentist did a longer appointment to start out with: x-rays, periodontal and oral cancer screening, then cleaning etc. After that, I had a couple cavities filled in less time than I used to take for a cleaning, and then it was back every three months (because I have a weird double dental insurance thing that pays for super-frequent visits).

They always say, "Eh, it'd be nice if you had come in before, but we're just glad that you're here and that you're on the right track again."

And even though I can't speak for the actual condition of your teeth, it sounds like you have a WAY better regime than I do :P You should be fine. Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not that unique in missing regular dental visits for years; dentists deal with this all the time, and will be professional about it, trying to make you feel comfortable and welcome. There are tons of people who freak out about going to the dentist, so that's a very basic skill for dentists to have. They want your experience to be good enough that you'll come back to them (not a different dentist) for more regular visits.
posted by aubilenon at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I go to the dentist every 10 years or so, and they've always been welcoming and friendly to me. Of course I've gotten gentle lectures about plaque buildup, etc., and once I had to have a root-planing, but I've never felt shamed or particularly admonished for my deadbeat dental care habits.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You folks are outstanding. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by bakerina at 4:04 PM on March 16, 2011

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