Yes, you read that title correctly. Alternative options included:
My dentist taught my child his first curse word.
How to get kicked out of your dentist office.
Shall we just dig right in?
LET ME SET THE STAGE
We’ve been standing on home turf in Idaho since the sun had it’s big event last month. Prior to that we’ve been on the move traveling full-time with our family of 6 in our 5th wheel RV. In the last 12 months we’ve gone from Idaho down to Florida, northward to Prince Edward Island and back to Idaho covering a total of over 16,000 miles. Coming back to the Pacific Northwest has been like slipping into a favorite pair of jeans. It just feels right.
In the extra spaces of time between seeing family, visiting old friends, floating the river, searching for huckleberries, kayaking, starting school and RV repairs, we’ve been catching up on doctor, eye and dental appointments. Due to our insurance plan, these things are both cumbersome and costly to do out of state. Therefore, I made myself sticky notes and phone reminders to set up appointment times well in advance. Remember the month of July when we were stuck in Canada? I used my spare time to make caramel corn and set up dental appointments for the kids (don’t think about that too deeply). I was not, under any circumstance, going to miss making appointments during our Idaho visiting window because I’m type-A like that. You can imagine my glee when I scored new patient appointment times for all four kids on the same day.
IT’S DENTIST DAY
Fast forward to September 13, 2017. We are up early. Our dental appointment time is at 9:30 and Lewiston is a 90 minute drive. Tanner is especially excited. A year ago he missed out on a dental appointment due to scheduling complications right before our launch. I help him brush his teeth while he informs me, “I’m just so excited to see the dentist today!” Neither of us could guess that in the coming few hours we will both be sitting front and center to a full-on display of Dr. Potty Mouth DMD.
IT’S WHAT IS ON THE INSIDE THAT COUNTS
Parking our car in front of Chief Joseph Dental Clinic, Trent and I both glance at the small, understated dental building and then each other before we crack some joke about not judging a book by it’s cover. Inside, the receptionist pulls a brilliant move by asking me to fill out one form before photocopying it for my additional children and allowing me to simply add the differing details. “Who cares what the exterior looks like? I love Miss Efficiency!” The six of us fill up the small waiting room until Hunter and Tanner are called back to see the hygienist. I accompany Tanner while Trent remains with Ashlyn and Quinten in the waiting room.
The dental hygienist makes small talk with Tanner while prepping him for x-rays. She steps out of the room momentarily. As my little boy reclines in the chair, I see he is wearing his favorite sandals. He’s grown this summer and I can see his toes poking over the edge, wiggling back and forth from excitement. Bless him. I resist the urge to take a photo of his happy face, remembering that I’d let Hunter use my phone in the waiting room and neglected to get it back. Oh well. Thinking about Hunter in the adjacent room brings to mind a small detail I want to mention to the hygienist. When she returns to the room, I ask her to make a note on our charts that I prefer to decline the fluoride treatment. She nods, scribbles a note and proceeds to complete the x-rays.
DR. POTTY MOUTH DMD
When Dr. Steven R. Zollman first enters the room, I don’t expect trouble. However, his line of questioning to the hygienist immediately hones in on Tanner’s “preventative care”. While she struggles to know what he is getting at, it quickly becomes apparent that my decision to turn down fluoride treatments is not sitting well with Mr. Zollman. Rather than speak to me directly, Dr. Zollman chastises me through his helpless assistant.
Dr. Steven Zollman (to his hygienist): Have you informed her why we do fluoride treatments?
Hygienist: Well, no.
Dr. Steven Zollman: Why not? This is what I train you for!
Hygienist (seeming uncomfortable): …Well she hasn’t left yet, I figured I could do it later.
Dr. Steven Zollman: Well how about you do it now?
Hygienist (turning to me in an awkward, obligatory way): We prefer to offer fluoride treatments in order to help prevent dental decay.
Dr. Steven Zollman: And did you ask why she is declining treatment?
Hygienist: Well, no.
Dr. Steven Zollman: Ask her!
Hygienist (turning to me once again with a look of pained distress): May I ask why you prefer to decline treatment?
Me: Based on the research I have done on the topic of fluoride treatments, I am not convinced that they do what they claim to do and that the potential risks outweigh your stated benefits.
The Dr’s method of circuitously* talking at me through the hygienist is completely throwing me off. I’m mentally trying to decide if there is any benefit in mentioning that our family uses remineralizing tooth powder and does oil pulling in order to help with preventative dental care when my thoughts are interrupted with some choice words from Mr. Grumpy Face.
Dr. Steven Zollman: You may inform her that the American Dental Association states that the use of fluoride treatments is an effective method of preventing tooth decay. By declining fluoride treatment she is acknowledging that any cavity her child gets will be her fault!
That last statement reaches it’s desired effect and he’s got my full attention. It’s time to speak up. “Excuse me, I’m not comfortable with the way this whole conversation is going and I feel that the way you are conducting it is very unprofessional.”
THE F-BOMB IS DEPLOYED
Later Hunter surmised that it was my use of the word “unprofessional” that likely tipped him off. Whatever it was, I was entirely unprepared for the reaction I received.
For perhaps the first time since entering the room, Dr. Steven Zollman looks me directly in the eyes and with force says, “You can get the f*** out of my office!” Turning to his hygienist he thrusts a finger in her direction and threatens that if he hears one more word from her she will be fired that day. And just like that he storms out of the room and locks himself in his office.
I’m obviously in shock. I’ve not been thrown out of a building since, well, ever. It is at this moment that I realize my adorable, toe-wiggling, dentist-loving, 6-year-old son has just been treated to his first F-word courtesy of his dentist.
The hygienist proceeds to profusely apologize as I struggle to grasp this bizarre, unfolding drama.
While Hunter is making his way into the waiting room to inform Trent that, “Dad, some man just said a really bad word to mom!” I have the presence of mind to request that Tanner at least get a toy from the toy chest. A small white car is quickly obtained for him by the red-faced hygienist and we proceed to meet up with my now very confused husband.
THE DR. WILL NOT SEE YOU NOW
While I verbally process the situation to Trent, we are asked by Miss Efficiency to please go ahead and exit the building, “. . . because if Dr. Zollman comes out and sees you are still here. . . well it won’t be good.” I politely decline her request to leave and inform her that I’d like my husband to first know why we are being kicked out. “Oh, you are not being kicked out,” she emphasizes. “Oh we absolutely are being kicked out,” I counter.
After details are given, I take the kids and go out to the car while Trent remains to speak with the Dentist. He is told that is probably not a good idea. He insists that it is. Dr. Steven Zollman, still locked in his office, refuses to see him.
When Trent returns to the car, Hunter can’t wait to hear every detail. We’ve managed to produce our own Jerry Springer show in his presence and there is no way he wants to take a commercial break.
In the meantime, Trent and I are still shell-shocked and confused. Together we’ve figured out the metro in NYC and wrangled a black tank upgrade into submission under the RV with pee dripping down our arms. However, this has us stumped. Do we call the news station or an attorney? We do both. “Hi, I’m wondering if you are interested in a story,” Trent begins his call to the local TV station. “Did you get a video?” the reporter wants to know. Immediately I have visions of the viral video I have missed out on capturing. In the end she isn’t willing to run the story, but strongly advises us to be sure to leave some reviews online so others know what we experienced. The four attorney’s that Trent speaks with say that unless we were physically harmed, we have no recourse.
VENGEANCE IS MINE
What are we hoping to accomplish? I do my best to objectively ask myself this question. Am I after revenge, retribution or recompense? Do I want the coward who has locked himself in his own office shamed or punished? Or do I simply want a chance to bring awareness and preserve another little boy’s innocence? I have to pray through this, ask God to reveal my heart motives and align them to His desires. Immediately Scripture comes to mind reminding me, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19
THE POLICE ARRIVE
Before we leave, we decide to request the x-rays so that we can at least avoid unnecessary double radiation should a miracle occur and I’m able to find another opening for 4 new patient appointments sometime in the next two weeks. As Trent realizes the office door has now been locked to prevent his reentry, a police car arrives.
The officer exits his car and approaches Trent. They talk out of earshot and I decide to join the party. I discover that the officer has been called because a “threatening patient” won’t leave the premises. We explain our situation and he sympathetically agrees to ask for the x-rays on our behalf. He disappears into the building while we wait in our car. Emerging from Chief Joseph Dental Clinic, the officer shakes his head. “That is not a happy man in there. I am told you needed to request the forms before you left the building. I guarantee that if there is any possible loophole that he can find to keep you from having those x-rays, he will do it.” We decide to end the Jerry Springer show and thank him for trying.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES
Later that day, I ask Tanner what he thought of his dentist appointment. “It was good.” He replies simply. “Except for the yelling part,” he adds after a moment of reflection. Bless him.
WHAT IS MY POINT?
Time has allowed my heart and head to cool and I am able to convey the details of this event without feeling my pulse rise. I have recounted my perspective and the conversations that took place as accurately as I am able to. I have forgiven Steven and I hope that whatever he was or is dealing with in his personal life is resolved. While I do not desire to bring slander to Dr. Zollman, I would be remiss if I didn’t seek to bring awareness to the volatile nature that we witnessed on the day of our visit. If you live in the Lewiston, ID area, please feel free to share our experience with those you know as well.
Are we alone in this strange string of events? Has anyone else been kicked out of their dental office because they refused fluoride (or for any other reason)!? I’d love for you to chime in and share your dental horror stories. Bonus points if you managed to leave with a toy in hand.
Update (9-19-17): I’ve been shocked and saddened to read the number of comments posted by current and former patients of Dr. Zollman who report similar (or worse) experiences as us. If you are one of them, please consider filing a report with the Idaho Board of Dentistry here as well as leaving reviews of your experience online. Before the time of this post there was virtually no reviews for this man online. Also, please pray for him and if you choose to leave a comment, please refrain from cursing, I will edit comments if needed to try to make them more “family friendly”.
Lastly, because this particular blog post has swung so widely outside of the readers who know me well and based on some of the comments I have gotten, I feel I need to clarify the reason we contacted four lawyers and the news: We had zero desire for monetary gain. Our only motivation was to call him to account for misconduct in his position of authority.
circuitous |sərˈkyo͞oədəs| adjective: (of a route or journey) longer than the most direct way: the canal followed a circuitous route | figurative : The Dr’s method of circuitously talking at me through the hygienist is completely throwing me off.