Tooth or Consequences

Okay, class.  For your assignment today, I want you to read the news item below.  Then I’ll give you a little lesson on what it’s really like in the trenches for dentists and dental hygienists who deal with nutcases like this woman every day.

And…you may begin.

“A central Florida dentist was arrested after he allegedly fought with an 85-year-old patient who was upset her dentures didn’t fit properly, authorities said Wednesday.

Michael Hammonds, 57, faces multiple charges, including false imprisonment, after the Tuesday incident.

The dispute began after Hammonds attempted to adjust Virginia Graham’s lower partial dentures, authorities said. She allegedly screamed in pain because it felt like the fake teeth had cut her gum, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office charging affidavit said.

The report said a witness told authorities Graham threw the dentures at Hammonds and told him she didn’t want them. She then tried to grab them from him, but he wouldn’t let go, the report said. During a tug-of-war over the dentures, the woman’s finger got caught on a sharp piece of the denture and bled, the report said.

Graham bit the dentist on the hand and he let go of them, authorities said.

The elderly woman went to leave the office, but Hammonds allegedly blocked her way and continued screaming at her, authorities said. She said she became afraid he might hurt her, the report said.

“Graham made one final attempt to leave by trying to climb over the receptionist desk and out the receptionist’s window,” but Hammonds’ assistant helped her down, according to the report.

The deputy observed multiple bruises on Graham’s upper arms and forearms. Hammonds was released on $4,000 bond Tuesday night. A telephone message left at the dental office wasn’t immediately returned, and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney.”

Wasn’t that fun?

Now, for some background info.—My husband was a dentist for 30 years and I was a dental hygienist for 20 years.  And we lived to tell the tale.

We have encountered patients not too far removed from the woman in this piece.  We did handle situations a helluva lot better than this poor schmuck did, though.

However, I tell you truthfully—it ain’t always easy.

My husband’s patients held him in high regard for his expertise, his painless injections and for his compassion.

But….he had one guy refuse to make the final payment for his dentures at his last adjustment appointment, even though he’d been extremely happy with them all through the process.  That payment would have been the part that goes to pay the dental lab for their work, so we had to make that payment ourselves, thus losing any profit.  The guy was sent to collection eventually but we never got anything.  All it takes is for him to say that he disputes the claim.

We did, however, run into the man at a local restaurant just a few days later.  He was happily chowing down on a big dinner with the nice set of teeth my husband had made for him.  He just looked at us as he kept on chewing.  It took all the restraint we could muster not to yank them out of his chops.

One other time, my husband had a woman from Iran who came to him in very bad shape.  She had only a few remaining teeth and those, unfortunately, needed to come out.  The usual procedure is to remove the last few teeth and then put in the immediate denture, which acts as a bandage while the tissue heals.  The patient has teeth right away rather than going without until everything heals.  It also helps the denture fit more properly if done that way.

So…the lady had her last couple of teeth extracted and the denture placed.  Everything was great.

Almost two years later, she filed a lawsuit saying that she had been shocked to find “all” of her teeth removed and dentures in place.  She said no one told her this was going to happen—even though she had had her adult daughter and son along with her at her appointments.  Everyone spoke English—including her.

She went through a couple of lawyers who increasingly had their eyes opened to the fact that this woman’s story was hogwash.  The insurance company had initially offered her a couple thousand dollars just to get her off their back since it would cost them more than that to fight it, even though they knew my husband was innnocent of any wrongdoing.  She was going to accept the offer—until her new American husband got greedy and wanted to hold out for at least ten thousand.

That’s when the lawyers said “Buh-bye.”  She didn’t get a dime.

In one office where I worked, there was another hygienist who had gone to dental hygiene school with me.  One day she’d seen an elderly woman patient (this story really brings it all back!) who asked her to polish her partial lower denture, which had small silver clasps like the one in the news story.

My friend did as she asked and then the woman left after the end of her cleaning appointment—only to return the following day to loudly proclaim that my friend had broken the clasps on her partial.  She proceeded to make a big stink about it.

She wanted $700 in damages.

My friend was angry and mortified.  She knew she hadn’t broken anything and that the partial was in perfect condition when she’d returned it to her.  After some checking around with other dental offices in the area, we found out that this woman had a little cottage industry going of pulling similar stunts in other offices.  Sometimes it was her partial that was broken, sometimes it was something else, but this woman had a history of scamming dentists.

The woman in the news article got belligerent and actually threw her partial at the dentist and then tried to wrestle it back out of his hands, finally resorting to biting him.  And he’s the one who was arrested?

I’m sure there will be lots of sympathy for the “poor little old lady.”

But not from me.

32 thoughts on “Tooth or Consequences

  1. In other news, I am sure you’ve had more than your share of smelling bad breath. My sister-in-law is a hygienist. She has stories, too.
    I cannot believe the woman bit the guy. Wow.
    I tip my hat to you and your husband. I love our dentist. In fact, I am taking our youngest to the dentist tomorrow. ~ Lenore


  2. I have a healthy respect for dentists, in other words, I’m terrified of them. I am not gonna piss off someone who is going to be putting sharp objects anywhere near my mouth.


    • That’s funny because when I was in dental hygiene school, sometimes we had to go on outside assignments at a prison. My mother was afraid for me whenever we went there, but I told her I was the one with the dangerous weapons. Didn’t help, though. She can always find something to worry about.


  3. hate, hate, hate the dentist. Have put off an appointment for far too long. I suppose I need to get an appointment soon. How does one decide to get into the profession of putting your hands in someone else’s mouth?


    • When I was taking the prerequisite courses that were needed to apply for the dental hygiene program at my community college, I was in several classes with pre-nursing students. They were LVNs working toward an RN degree. Several of them told us that they wayyyy preferred cleaning a poopy bottom over having to clean someone’s mouth. To each his own…


  4. What other profession gets that close to a client knowing there will be some pain inflicted and the person is wide awake. That’s gotta be difficult!!

    I don’t mind a trip to the dentist. A little discomfort is worth having for the sake of a healthy mouth!


    • Even if every visit the patient has had with you has been comfortable for them, many of them are still fearful every time.

      It gets to where if you have to introduce yourself at a party or something you would rather make up a profession than admit to the one you have because you always get the response “A dentist?! (or hygienist?!) I just HATE dentists! (or hygienists!)” I can’t imagine people actually voicing that opinion to folks of other professions. “A priest?! I HATE priests!” or “A plumber?! I HATE plumbers!”


  5. NO sympathy for old lady who BIT the dentist! JAYSUS!!! And your stories were eye-opening. I have great respect for my hygienist and dentist and can’t imagine ever being nasty to them or trying to rip them off. In fact, my hygienist gets eggs from our farm every time I see her! I am grateful to them for taking care of my teeth. People can be f*cking NUTS.

    I have no fear of the dentist but it probably helps that I haven’t had anything major done to my teeth since I was 17. I get ’em cleaned every 4-1/2 months and floss daily because man, I would rather pre-empt painful dental treatment!!!! Having braces was bad enough.


  6. You just gotta hope that there’s a Paul Harvey here, you know, more of the story. People are thinking more and more that suing someone is like not only buying a lottery ticket, but winning. Like your discussion about how the insurance company wanted to settle over the teeth extraction. Just enrages me, but I hear it all the time. I’m with you….no sympathy for the old bat from me.


    • You are so right about people who are suit happy. For several years back in the early 1990s, lawyers were suing dentists over supposed periodontal disease that hadn’t been “properly documented.” When that ran out of steam for them, they moved on to toxic mold in houses. Now it’s asbestos and mesothelioma. Don’t get me started on lawyers, there will be no end to it. I was married to one. Enuf said. 🙂


      • Hahahaha! I feel the same way about lawyers, except for present hubby, who is a freak of a lawyer who doesn’t really care about money (which is why I’m not driving a Porsche, ha ha) and wants to help people. They are very few and far between, in my experience.


    • Oh, but they did. The really irritating thing about lawyers now is that they’ll take on cases like this where, upon actually reviewing the FACTS of the case, they know that the plaintiff is making it all up. But they take it anyway. I think there are more lawyers per capita in the U.S. than any other country. It used to be that lawyers wouldn’t take frivolous cases, but not anymore.


    • Yeah, you couldn’t walk out of a grocery store with a cart full of groceries and say “I’m not paying for this—but I’m taking it anyway!”

      As for being nice to avoid pain—I cringe when I think what my own father said to their dentist when my mother finally went in after a span of at least ten years of no check-ups. He took him aside and told him to “go easy” on her. Ack! I’ve had to deal with that too as a hygienist. People let themselves go all to hell and then it’s my fault that their uncomfortable. Or, if during an exam, I found any cavities, I would get the blame. I used to tell patients that “I just find ’em, I don’t make ’em.”


  7. Well, i had a dental cleaning done by my 15 year long hygenist. (and I have not gone to hell, I floss and see my hygenest every six months,)
    She had some anger issues (about her own life and lack of options) in the dental cleaning time, angry and violent gum scrapes, it turned into a gum infection. Infection followed. I can’t take the classic amoxi or peni antibiotiics. Was prescribed tetracycline instead…well now, went to the Er with classic Er gallbladder symptoms, the ins company is saying it’s all related to dental care and isn’t covering the follow up. My insurance is saying it’s all related to dental care. I think not. I’ve got a gastric ulcer at best. something worse at worst. I agree, dentists are caught in the middle. Am looking at upper endo and colonoscopy for internal bleeding. Insurance want’s to blame dentist. I don’t think so.

    If I had to choose th three best care providers I have, they would be my dentist (but not the hygenist), my primary care Nurse Practioner and my gastro guy.


    • Oh, my goodness, Laurie. I’m so sorry your hygienist wasn’t professional enough to leave her problems at home. There’s no excuse for taking it out on the patient!

      I agree with you about your insurance company. I think they’re trying to dodge the bullet by blaming everything on the dental infection. We dealt with insurance companies enough to know that they will jump at any chance to deny coverage. I can remember office managers in several dental offices where I worked who spent hours on the phone wrangling with insurance companies over denials—or just incredibly slow payment.

      I hope your upcoming procedures give you some good news. Sending you positive thoughts!


  8. Hi,
    I never realized how much Dentists had to put up with, the things we learn and put up with when working with the public, saying that I feel the majority are very nice, but it only takes one to upset the day unfortunately. The Elderly “Lady” in the first story I think needs some anger management.


    • The problem in dealing with some elderly people like the lady in the article is you often never know if their behavior will suddenly swing from nice to nasty, perhaps due to medications they’re taking (or forgot to take!) or their brain just isn’t getting the oxygen supply it needs at the moment.

      This dentist’s big mistake was in trying to argue with her and fighting to keep her from taking the partial back. When my husband had the occasional patient who was belligerent or disruptive, he would calmly turn away to write in their chart. The patient would ask what he was doing and he would just say he was documenting what they were saying for the record. That would usually be enough to give them pause. The thing is, we always had to be on our toes because this type of outburst could happen when you least expect it.


  9. Good grief! I’m most impressed that you didn’t snatch that guy’s teeth out of his mouth… or at least made a comment about how well they seemed to be working, despite his protestations stiffing you all on the payment to the contrary.

    Gee, you think we must wait until 85? ‘Cause I’ve reached the crazy part of old age prematurely. What would that make me. . .precociously senile?


  10. My Dental Hygienist and I get along fine. She doesn’t scold me or chew me out for past sins, gives me frequent breaks, and understands when I scream for “gas” if anyone comes around me with a needle.


    • Sounds like you’ve got a good one, Jerry. I never scolded patients either. I tried to give them the information and skills they needed to have healthy mouths and then left it up to them as to whether they wanted to make the effort or not. I couldn’t come knock on their door every night and remind them to floss. We all have to take responsibility for our own health.


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