By Nancy Black
I didn’t worry about them for the first few weeks of the pandemic shutdown. We were all kind of busy with other priorities. But then my teenager (them/they) pointed out it was time for new “trays.” Trays are the dental term for the plastic teeth guards custom-created to straighten teeth. My 16-year-old was on their 23rd of 28 trays toward a beautiful smile.
So, I called the dentist, whom we had been seeing for more than five years. The phone number rang into a voice mail. The message stated the office was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Understandable.
I made a note to call back in a month.
That month came and went, and so did the next. I called each month with the same result. It was the identical voicemail from March 2020.
Then, one day when I called the number in August, the voicemail was replaced. It was now ringing into the annoying tone callers get when they reach a number that has been disconnected. Meanwhile, my teenager’s last set of trays had worn out weeks ago.
At this point, my teenager had reverted back to not smiling. Their teeth were getting crooked again, and my child was now too self-conscience to show the beautiful smile they had just started to get. This, in their senior year of high school!
I drove across town to the dentist’s office, and it was locked; not just locked — locked out. There was a huge sign on the door stating the landlord had changed the locks for lack of payments on the lease.
Have I mentioned yet that I paid upfront for their teeth-straightening trays? That’s how they work. You pay a lot of money up front, and then a smaller amount each time you get the next stage of treatment trays.
I called our dental insurance company. Their customer service agent had no record of our dentist going out of business. So she called the special number they had on file for providers. She got “the number you are calling has been disconnected,” too. Her only solution was to find us a new dentist. As far as any financial recourse against the MIA dentist? She pretty much said we were SOL.
I get suffering financial hardships during the pandemic. Gosh knows, White Rock Lake Weekly has. It’s been a struggle to stay afloat. The newspaper is a local business, too.
My heart goes out to all those businesses who did not survive 2020. But to just disappear without so much as a, “Here’s your child’s dental record,” is unacceptable. In fact, it bites!