My Dentist Is Gaslighting Me

For once, no drills were involved

Christine Schoenwald


A patient looking into a mirror while her dentist looks on.
Photo by Gustavo Fring:

Remember when you were a child, and people would say, “Don’t eat candy; it will rot your teeth out?”

They weren’t only trying to scare you or steal all your candy — too much candy does ruin your teeth, or it seems that way.

Two of my crowns have fallen off in the last two months, and as much as I’d love to blame it on shoddy dental hygiene or bad dentistry, I have always been a candy-eater.

I was back at the dentist’s office a month earlier than expected.

I’d tried to use over-the-counter dental cement the first time a crown fell off, but it didn’t work. It turned out that the remaining tooth and the one next to it were rotted and needed to be extracted.


As I was waiting for approval from my insurance for an oral surgeon to remove the decayed teeth, another crown fell off. I was able to temporarily re-cement this one with over-the-counter cement.

I thought this was a good sign — my ability to fix it temporarily.

I booked an emergency consultation appointment with my dentist for the crown. They couldn’t promise they’d put it back on that day, but would look at it to see if it was possible.

Fair enough.

I’m lying in the chair, and the masked dental assistant hands me a yellow Post-it with some medications listed.

Nothing is familiar.

“Are you still taking these?” she asks.

“Nope, I don’t take any of those,” I answer.

Then, in a quiet, discreet voice, she leans down and whispers, “Are you still smoking?”

“No, I’ve never smoked. I think you have the wrong patient.”

She checks Christine Schoenwald, my birthdate, etc. It’s my chart.

Then, another masked woman comes up and taps me on the shoulder, and says, “Are you Armenian?”

“Ah, no,” I say.

I’m not sure what this has to do with anything, except that maybe she thinks if the assistant and I were both speaking Armenian, we’d better understand each other.



Christine Schoenwald

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Next Avenue, Business Insider, and Your Tango