Indianapolis dentist offers fresh perspective

Indianapolis dentist offers fresh perspective
by Dr. Matthew Stegemiller

Let’s face it. Not everyone is cut out to be a dentist. Some dentists aren’t cut out to be dentists.

But I always thought it was a great idea. I announced my career choice in grade school and never looked back. My dentist, Dr. Riffle, was a nice guy. He was kind. He hummed softly. And he let you choose a sparkly plastic ring from the prize display after your appointment. What's not to like?

It didn't take long for me to find out that not everyone felt the way I did. Watching the classic 1960s stop-action animated TV special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," I was puzzled that Hermey the Elf was ostracized for making the same career choice. Wait. Why did this make him a misfit? Then came "Marathon Man" and "Little Shop of Horrors." Come to think of it, are there any movies where the dentist wears the white hat?

But I'm not complaining. It's a pretty good job. Good pay. Inside work. Sitting down. I don't even have to reach for my tools. I just put my hand out and into my palm drops the next instrument. Oh yes, there's a little blood and spit involved, but I do get to meet some real characters. Those would be my patients.

It's surprising how much I learn about my patients. I watch them age, and they watch me age, too. The other day I heard a mom tell her daughter, "You're about to meet the dentist I had when I was a little girl!"

Old patients are the best. They arrive for their appointments an hour early. They don't like to owe money. They say things like "Well, you're the doctor!" and not "Well, I saw on the Internet that fillings cause (insert dire consequences of your choice)."

Old people don't answer their phones when they have impressions material in their mouths. (Why is it when people do answer their phones in my office the conversation always goes like this? "Hello?" (pause) "I'm at the dentist! Ha ha ha!")

And old people aren't the ones who ask why I don't have flat-screen TVs in my dentist office. I've always thought that if my office is functioning efficiently, you shouldn't have time to watch TV. Go home to watch TV, I say.

I don't have any signs in my office, either. You know the sign that says you're going to have to pay for whatever the insurance company won't? I always figured people kind of knew that. Or the sign that says to notify the receptionist if you've been waiting more than three hours? That's a sign that really means "We're never on time, but if it's getting ridiculous, you're allowed to complain."

Oh, and I never saw the need for a sign-in clipboard, either. If we don't know who just walked in, then we introduce ourselves and the newcomer will generally reveal his identity. Call me a misfit, I guess.

More Like This

These Philadelphia dentists have great chair-side manner


(Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
(Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

The Angie’s List staff picks the best Posts of Happiness from the latest batch of stellar member-submitted reviews of Philadelphia-area dentists.

Leave a Comment - 2


Martha Roush


My dentist is similar but must be younger as he does have a few signs posted. Otherwise, we've grown together. Great philosophy!

Brian schiffer


Way to go. I grew up In a world exactly as you described. And you did it in a factual, kind & humorous way. I hope you continue to offer your perspective.

View Comments - 2 Hide Comments

Post New Comment


What is Angie's List?

Angie’s List is the trusted site where more than 3 million households go to get ratings and reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Stop guessing when it comes to hiring! Check Angie’s List to find out who does the best work in town.

Local Discounts

Daily deals up to 70% off popular home improvement projects from top-rated contractors on Angie’s List!