Dr. Sivabalan Vasudavan – not for me

I have not had a shame name wall here, although there have been times I have felt like doing it, but the feeling subsides quickly. Most bad experiences just fade into my memory and I rarely dwell on them. This time I will break that pattern in honor of Dr.Siva (as he casually signs his correspondence). After stumbling upon him due to lack of any good information out there in regards to orthodontists, everyone is keeping their good doctors to themselves probably, I feel its my duty to those of you that are looking like me, to share my experience with Mr.Vasudavan.

This turned out quite long, so if you are after the conclusion, go straight there

Preface

Years ago I went to have an evaluation by an orthodontist, because my tooth had started to shift. He prodded, looked, measured and concluded that to fix my issues will take about two years and a few thousands of dollars, thank you. For various reasons I never went ahead with the proposed plan.

My tooth continued to shift. The poor fella has had a rough go. I fell on it while it was growing and it broke in half; thankfully it grew to the proper size. Then it had bone issues, which basically caused the shifting. Fine. I dealt with that for the last 1.5 years.

Now with the impending possibility of the trip, all sorts of dormant issues are coming to a head and requesting to be dealt with. My wonky tooth being one of them. I had postponed sorting it out, just because it was in the too hard, too expensive bucket , and that one always gets looked at only when absolutely necessary.

It was time to get my bony appendage back to its proper place, because as much as I am not after perfection, its just not looking right and it is bugging me. I looked around at other people’s stories, experiences and pictures. It seemed that it should be possible to swing the tooth back in place in a few months and then I can be given a retainer or even a permanent brace to a tooth nearby and I can go on our trip bucktoothless and not have to worry about it shifting further.

The Search

Finding out an orthodontist was about as easy as…finding an orthodontist. Usually before you hire someone, you go see them, talk to them, have a quick handshake, something. With these guys an initial appointment costs about $150. I cannot afford to check a few out, their interviews are just way too expensive, so I was looking for forum discussions, stories, recommendations online and hoping to pick the right one from the first go. Nothing.

One day I just had enough and picked up the phone and called a few offices. Most had months of waiting before you can even go talk to the orthodontic gods, so they can charge you a hefty sum for the pleasure. My available choices rapidly narrowed into a claustrophobic tunnel and I just decided that the first one I can get in to see, will have to be it, as I had no time to waste.

This is where Dr.Siva Vasudavan enters my life. The woman on the other end of the line tells me that he can see me in a few days and my tunnel lead me to his office. I searched for information about him and it was not much. On his website there is a bit of hype about his work with the Starlight Foundation and volunteering for a program “Give a Smile” which helps people that cannot afford orthodontic work and that made me optimistic that I will be meeting an a person that is comparatively understanding and with a warm heart.

Arriving

The place is big and new with flashy exterior and it quickly gives me the wrong vibe. I reassure myself that this does not necessarily mean that its all business and no human touch. Remember…the book…its cover. Relax. The lady behind the desk is kind and lovely. There is nobody else there, but me and the two women that work there. Its obvious they have opened recently.

I go through the FOUR long pages of questions. I wondered why do they care about my hobbies, occupation or a complete list of names, dates and such for my children and various other things that are not even remotely connected with my teeth. Later on I am told by a friend that they use it to market to you, while the occupations give them a good gauge of your income level and thus they know how much they can get out of you. True or not, I felt happy I didnt spill my guts in the form. It felt way too prodding and invasive and thankfully, I listened to my gut.

Introduction

My form is taken to his office and he shows up after awhile – a young man with a wide smile. Quickly he asks if I was referred to him and when I say I was advised by my perio to get treatment he tells the nurse, I suppose, to do the x-rays that I dont have. There were no discussions, I had not even sit down yet, no explanations, nothing. I was pawned to the girl, lovely and kind, for the x-ray. I knew I needed new one anyway, so I went with the flow, but I definitely didnt feel in good hands. It was all too clinical and somewhat weird. The place is huge with a lot of empty dental chairs, waiting to be filled. Its quiet and ghostly with exception of the fancy plasma TV in the waiting room that breaks the uncomfortable silence. Its just me, the two women and Vasudavan. He behaves as though there are numerous patients and work waiting for him and gives me just as much attention.

I am led to the office and finally sit down across the doctor.

…to be continued.

The ‘consultation’

He grins widely, maybe too much. Then he asks me what is it that I am after, or some words to this effect. I am eager to be truthful and straightforward, because I had the memory of my last orthodontic appointment and I know I cannot take on such a commitment at this time.

– Basically, my main concern is this one tooth. That is what is important for me to fix and since I am going on a long trip in about 6 months, I am interested in whether its possible to move it back to its place in that time and then I can be given retainers, or whatever you deem best, to keep it there while I am traveling. The other area that I would like to fix is the small space between those two teeth here – and I pointed to the x-ray – but this is not that important and only if it can be done in this time frame.

I wanted to make it clear from the beginning what are my constraints and what I am after, because I didnt want him to go on and draw some elaborate plan only for me to spawn it on him that I dont have the time to go through with it. I felt it was only fair to save him the time and effort.

He indicates that what I am after is possible and goes through my x-ray in detail – what teeth have erupted, the one that is missing, the one that is impacted and will never show up and so forth. I am not sure why we are going through it so elaborately, but go along thinking that he knows what he is doing.

Then he asks that I sit on the exam chair and I get up and walk over there. While I am doing this he finishes his sentence with something like:

-…to check your symmetry and [something facial something].

I sit down and a bit confused ask him what is the purpose of that. He seems perplexed by my question and mumbles something about how the examination will evaluate my facial symmetry and bite.

– O..K..and you can do something about my facial symmetry in 6 months? – I am still unsure why this is even necessary and how can putting my tooth back do anything about my facial features.

Uncomfortable pause again.

– Well…hm…no – he looks down on me.

– So why is this evaluation necessary, since I cant do anything about it?

– Well.. – he steps back and still looks perplexed – you may not be able to do anything about it now.. but you may return from your trip and decide that you want to fix any other issues we may find.

I gave up trying to figure out the reasoning behind this push and just assumed he had to do something to justify this quite expensive conversation and just let him do it. Just how ridiculous the whole thing was became quite apparent to me when he was measuring with a tiny ruler the imperfections of my teeth and calling numbers to his assistant, who was keying them in my online file.

My midline is 1mm off and my top teeth are off 2mm from the bottom. This may sound all scientific and important to some, but the fact of the matter is that I couldnt care any less about this. Seriously, I can safely say that I have not ever looked in the mirror in horror with my slightly misaligned teeth and I will not spend a second worrying about it now that I have the professional stamp of diagnosis of imperfect teeth.

But he insisted this was a good idea and I hoped it is somehow related to what it is that I wanted from him, clearly expressed by me the moment we started this exercise.

We sit back on our ends of the desk and he starts to explain what his plan is. We put this there, this there, close this gap, move this here – the pen is flying across the picture of my teeth on the screen like a conductor. I listen and try to take it all in, but somehow it doesnt fit in.

– And you can do all that in 6 months? – I ask surprised with owe.

– …Nnno, not in six months – he rests in his chair – probably about 9 or 12 months.

– Right, but I dont have that much time. – I say and wonder if I am seriously wondering if I am speaking the same language as him at this time.

We keep on going to and fro and I feel like I am swimming against the current. I repeat a few times that its not important to me to fix everything at this time, I just want to get my tooth back in its place and any extra that can be done in 6 months is just a bonus, but definitely not something I am after at this moment. He keeps on, offering elaborate solutions, which quickly fade into the realm of magic world as soon as I ask if they can be done in SIX MONTHS.

Finally, he realizes that maybe I mean what I say and blurts:

– Well, before we can do anything you need to have surgery!

My head spins even further in this monologue dressed as consultation and my jaw drops.

– Surgery?!

– Yes. You need to have this impacted tooth out – and points to the x-ray. There is no more wide smile on his face.

– Why? – I am still trying to acclimatise to the news.

– Because when we start to move the teeth, the roots of the teeth above it may break/crack [something] on it.

I am looking at the x-ray and trying to figure out what he is saying. The tooth in question is in the quadrant of my mouth that I am not in need of any work. I try to talk to him about it and why is in necessary and he is insistent about it

– This tooth can give you lots of issues, cysts and problems. It needs to come out!

– I understand and if it starts to act up, I will definitely have a look at it, but it has never given me any issues…

I try to think, but his proposal just doesnt make sense and why didnt he say that when we looked at the x-rays in detail at the beginning…you would think it would have been something worthy of mentioning: Hey, you need to have this tooth dug out of your bone before anything else can happen.

– Ok, then I dont want any work on my lower jaw. At least fix my tooth, its what is important to me anyway.

– So, you dont want to work on the lower teeth? – he is clearly unhappy with me.

– No. Not if it will mean I have to have a serious surgery to get it.

He is annoyed and reaches in his top drawer and flings me a business card.

–  This person can do the job you are after.

I am dumbfounded and my heart rate raises at this point.

– You refuse to treat me?

– I dont think that what you are after is optimal – he says as though I am some sort of an idiot.

– So what I want and is important to me is not optimal for you? – I cant even believe I am having this conversation.

– …well…I just…I dont feel its optimal.- his smug face utters, as though I should care more about what he thinks of my wishes for my teeth.

I am now fuming inside, if I was a screaming kind of a person I would be doing it at this moment.

– Its not optimal for you, because what I want is not enough money for you – I said, or something to this effect I cant remember, because it all felt like a bad movie that had an even worst ending at this point.

And left the office. There is only so much optimism that I can have in a situation that stinks, no, wreaks.

Left Waiting

I went to the front desk and asked for my bill. My heart was racing, my mind was having trouble digesting the situation, it was so ridiculous, hidden camera quality ridiculous.

Then, as though his disrespectful treatment so far was not enough, Vasudavan left me waiting at the desk for quite awhile, as he was pounding loudly on the keyboard from his office. The woman across was feeling a bit uncomfortable, as she could see I couldnt wait to pay and get out of there, but she apparently could not set up my invoice until His Rude Majesty finished his wild maniacal typing. She went to his office once, then asked the other woman if she can finilize my account before he is done – negative – and then we had a bit of small talk about the weather. I just wanted to leave the ghostly space, but it was not her fault, so silencing my pounding heart, I commented on the rain and temperature.

Click-clik-click was flying from the open door at the end of the hall, undoubtedly writing something flattering about my attempt at having an opinion about my teeth that disagreed with his, and worst, not changing my life’s plans to fit into his ‘optimal’ idea of what they should be. I was just wondering how much more insensitive can this person be and used the time to ask the smiling lady to send me my x-rays and the findings/results from my consult. She confirmed that it will be no problem to do that.

Finally, my file and I were released and I could pay, essentially for receiving nothing for what I came for, and leave this place in my past. Hopefully shortly in my long forgotten one.

Wrap up

I was as clear as possible about what I want and the time constraints I have from the first moment we spoke. Dr. Siva Vasudavan then spent the entire manipulation consultation trying to offer me everything that I was NOT interested in  and did NOT fit in my available time frame.

“Each individual ‘s orthodontic needs are different and deserve personalized attention” said the welcoming letter from the practice. I got absolutely no personalized attention. My voice was not heard, my needs were not respected, not only that, they were completely ignored and devalued. In fact, I wonder if Dr. Vasudavan even listened to me at all, or he did,  but decided that he will quickly manage to change my mind.

“There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions or express your concerns, and we will endeavor to address them to the best of our ability” – my questions were not welcomed and my concerns were pretty much laughed at.

If the issue was that what I am after is too small of a job, he could have simply said that to me. Something like:  “This is a pretty straight forward, easy job, and having in mind that we just opened and have a lot of ground to cover, I cannot afford to take your case, but I have a colleague I work with, who can do this for you without a problem. Would you like me to call him for you and organize an appointment?” would have more than made me happy and I can certainly understand such a position. Instead, my wishes were branded as ‘not optimal’, my aesthetic goals were not approved and I was tossed a business card and not accepted as a worthy client; and then asked to pay heftily for the honor.

Dr. Siva Vasudavan may be a wonderful orthodontist and he may very well be able to turn a wild forest into a perfectly lined wooden floor. I dont know. I know that I asked him to fix a tooth that is bothering me, he deemed my wish as not good enough and instead… left me with a crooked tooth. Presumably a more optimal result than what I was after in his eyes.

“We pride ourselves on excellent communication with our patients” continued the letter.
“as long as they do as they are told and refrain from thinking they know what they want” will be my addition to it for any future client of Dr.Siva, as he casually signs his correspondence.