The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened at the Dentist
If your mouth hurts like a motherfucker after a root canal, at least you didn't wake up with permanent brain damage or all your teeth missing.
Photo by Olivia Richardson, from A Trip to the S&M Dentist.
Dentistry is one area of medicine that seems permanently stuck in the Middle Ages. While other branches of health care have begun to grow penises in petri dishes or grapple with the ethics of robot doctors, dentistry hasn't really evolved beyond refining variations on cleaning, drilling, and yanking teeth as if this were all a painful game of human Bop-It. Yes, there certainly have been remarkable advances made in the field that has its roots in tooth keys and blood letting. But such progress is undercut by the truly horrific stories of things that can happen in the dentist's chair.
It's not that dentists are all bad people, and to be sure, quality dental care is essential to your overall health (if you don't get that annual check-up, your teeth might literally all fall out). But there's also something really spooky about the dentist's office, which is probably why dentistry has been the subject of horror films, horror musicals, and real-life horror stories.
One of the most terrifying stories is the case of "William," a British man who went under general anesthesia for some routine root canal surgery in 2005. When he woke up, he was trapped in a perpetual state of amnesia. To this day, William can remember everything up to the point of his anesthesia, but has been unable to form memories past the 90-minute mark in the ensuing decade. The details of his personal, Memento-themed hell remain a mystery to doctors, but his story raises the question: What are the worst things that have ever happened to patients at the dentist? We rounded up some of the worst horror stories from the dentist's chair.
DENTISTS WHO OVERCHARGE
It's no secret that getting a tooth removed can cost you an arm and a leg. But some dentists have taken theft to the next level. Dr. Edward Bodek, a dentist in Encinitas, California, went the more high-tech route: Patient comes in for a $67 cleaning, and their card card gets charged with $8,000 of purchases—the perfect crime. In total, Bodek and his wife, who worked as his office manager, were charged with stealing $260,000 from their patients, who oddly kept coming back to see him because of "loyalty."
Bodek was able to pull off the scam in part because he performed dentistry in nursing homes and assisted-living centers, where older patients were presumably easier to steal from. Unsurprisingly, after racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges, some patients realized something was amiss.
Dr. Bodek and spouse were eventually raided by federal agents who found scores of shopping bags in their home as well as 30 storage lockers filled with furs, high fashion, and other luxurious goods. The couple pled guilty to both financial elder abuse and identity theft for more than 22 victims, and the Bodek DDS Yelp page was lowered to a one-star rating.
DENTISTS WHO PULL ALL YOUR TEETH
You know that common nightmare where all your teeth fall out? A painful, real-life iteration of that scenario happened when Christopher Crist showed up at Amazing Family Dental in Indianapolis. Crist, an autistic man, went to the facility with instructions from his mother to have just three particularly painful teeth removed, but after giving Christopher some pills to ease the pain, the dentist kept pulling and pulling until each and every one of Crist's teeth were gone.
"I am going to look like a freak now," said a toothless Crist, on the verge of tears, in a heartbreaking post-surgery interview with the Huffington Post.
Amazing Family Dental never released a substantive statement in 2013, when this unnecessary procedure occurred, citing HIPAA in an ironic claim of "protecting" the patient. However, this year, Amazing Family Dental is facing a disciplinary hearing for overcharging Medicaid for patient procedures in the time period when the assault on Mr. Crist occurred. When getting paid per tooth pulled, some less scrupulous dentists seemingly couldn't resist the opportunity to pluck a few more.
DENTISTS WHO AREN'T REALLY DENTISTS
Earlier this year, a White Plains office manager was arrested for pretending to be a dentist. Her charges included unauthorized practice of a profession, assault, and reckless endangerment. While shenanigans like this may be the fodder of many a comedy, in the real world, it's worth raising suspicions when the doctor starts explaining that they're going to pull "the pointy one." If that isn't enough to make your mouth clamp shut in horror, Valbona Yzeiraj, the accused faux-dentist, also performed root canal surgery and injected patients with syringes.
Yzeiraj, was allegedly running this little side business from the offices of Dr. Jeffrey Schoengold's Ultimate Dental Care of Riverdale in the Bronx right under the nose of the good doctor. Yzeiraj is still waiting for her trial, which could earn her up to seven years in prison. For the duration of her case, she's prohibited from going near any dental practices.
Worth the read: The DIY Dentists of YouTube
DENTISTS WHO ARE RAPISTS
Don't google "dentist molests." You will see far too many articles pop up and it'll just ruin your day. Instead, take this one example as a token sacrifice of skeezy dentists everywhere: Compton dentist Dr. Mohammed Kader was arrested in May for allegedly molesting patients aged 12 and 17 According to the victims' parents, Dr. Kader forcefully kissed the two young girls on the lips as they sat in the chair—as if metal tools stabbing around your splayed mouth didn't leave you feeling vulnerable enough.
Some doctors have taken such abuses to their grim conclusion. Dr. David Fuster, a dentist in Bethesda, Maryland, gave his patient, a 15-year-old Bolivian girl, nitrous oxide before leading her to a couch in the basement of his office and raping her. Naturally, Fuster denied everything, despite the girl's vaginal fluids found all over the couch and a condom discovered in the office. Fuster also refused to address a police-recorded phone convo between Fuster and his victim where he plainly stated "This happened between you and me and no one else."
Fuster's hearing and 20-year sentence came after four years of being on the lam in Mexico. Hopefully this justice will serve as a modicum of peace for the victim, and a warning to perverted dentists elsewhere.
DENTISTS WHO ARE MURDERERS
Most dentists presumably do their job because they enjoy a mixture of helping their patients, the normal office hours, and the sizable paycheck. But one dentist, Tony Protopappas, was more into the opportunity to kill people in cold blood. Protopappas intentionally gave two women and one young girl lethal doses of anesthesia in the early 80s, for which he was convicted on three counts of second-degree murder in 1984.
Protopappas was released from prison in 2011, and though he'll never have a license to practice dentistry again, Tony had a number of job offers to work in dental labs at the time of his parole. Perhaps that crown on your back molar was crafted by a murderer. Perhaps I have a new screenplay idea.
Whether it's a routine teeth cleaning or a root canal, nobody enjoys the anxiety that comes with a trip to the dentist. Dental work can be painful, frightening, and then there's that dreadfully high deductible your shitty insurance makes you pay at the end. But after reading this list, hopefully you'll brush a little longer and actually floss more than once a month when you're trying to impress your overnight guest like it's actually part of your nightly routine—after all, your next trip to the dentist could be a whole lot worse than just getting a cavity filled.
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