Finding the “God of the Dental Chair” Right Here in Ocean Beach

by on October 30, 2012 · 12 comments

in Health, OB Shop Talk, Ocean Beach, The Widder Curry

Where Have You Been All My Life?

I think I have died and gone to heaven. Or someplace I never expected to be found in. I am walking around in a daze, with a smile on my face, and wondering how this wonderful man came into my life.

Oh no, no! This is not a result from my on-line dating. This is the result of a life-long fear perpetuated by my mother. When I was a little girl, she always told me that if I was a “bad girl” she would send me to her sister Mitzi because Mitzi worked for a dentist! “And you know that dentists can hurt people, Judi.” I loved my Aunt Mitzi – but only when she came to the house because I NEVER wanted to visit her at work, even though she let me play with the switchboard and push a lot of buttons.

Judi Curry at a young and vulnerable age.

I must have been about 7 when I had to go to see Dr. Schwartz. I don’t recall being bad – in fact – I NEVER recall being bad until I became a teenager. None-the-less I had to go see him. And while he was working on me he became distracted and HE ACCIDENTALLY DRILLED THROUGH MY TONGUE! (My mother said it was an accident, because “I had not been that bad!”) That one experience convinced me that when my mother said “we are going to see Aunt Mitzi” I would practically get on my knees and promise NEVER to do anything wrong again. Ever.

As an adult, I continued with the fear of dentist’s and have been known to cancel appointments 3-4 times before actually going in to have a routine teeth cleaning.

I am also a 16 year cancer survivor. My dental insurance allowed me to see a dentist in Pt. Loma. I went to him twice, and had dental x-rays the first time. When I went to see him the third time he told me it was time for another set of x-rays. I told him I would not have them. There was nothing wrong with my teeth and I didn’t need them. He told me that if I didn’t have them he would not work on me. He couldn’t have said anything better to me because I got up and left, never to darken his door again.

Last year I decided to enroll in the Medicare dental program. The closest dental facility was in Mission Valley and overcoming my intense fear, I made an appointment and only cancelled it once. The office was huge; it reminded me of a “dental mill” because there were so many people working there. And, of course, the first thing the dentist wanted to do was take a full-mouth x-ray. And after that was done he wanted to “probe” the gums to see how much bone loss there was. I had done that before and although not truly painful, it is uncomfortable. But…what the heck, I thought, let’s see how bad my teeth are getting.They weren’t too bad, and finally I was introduced to the dental hygienist. She suggested that I come in every 4 months because “you are getting older”, she said.

Then the dentist looked at me again. “You know”, he said, “I think you have a bad tooth and need to have a root canal. And, since you are not using your wisdom tooth in the back, it probably needs to come out also.” In the back of my mind is the adage – “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. But I made an appointment to see the “specialist” and was a nervous wreck before appointment day. But the Gods must have been with me, because they wanted $1200 up front; Medicare would not pay for the root canal nor the extraction. Hooray! I got up and left, but not before I made an appointment for another teeth cleaning.

The day of reckoning approached and I walked into the office with fear and trepidation. I was called into the office by a man I had never seen before and he had a drill in his hand. I asked him who he was and was told he would be the one cleaning my teeth. I asked where the other person was and was told she no longer worked there. He said he wanted to do a “probe” before he cleaned my teeth. I said one had been done 4 months ago and I did not want to have another one now. He went to get the dentist. Another person I had never seen before. He had taken over for the dentist I saw 4 months ago. He said, “if you don’t have the probe we will not work on you.” What pleasure and satisfaction I got when I said, “Bye.”

So now it is 6 months later and I know that I need to have my teeth cleaned. My neighbor recommended this “wonderful” dentist in Ocean Beach. Young, caring, good personality, etc. Up-to-date on current techniques. I checked him out on YELP and found he had good reviews. I decided to try it out. After all, if he wanted to do something I didn’t want to have done, all I would have to say is “no” and leave.

Well, let me tell you something. I am looking forward to my next visit with him. He was personable; he listened to the answers to the questions I gave him; he told me immediately that I would never have to have anything done that I didn’t want to have done. He found no evidence that I needed a root canal; he showed me a fracture of the wisdom tooth and said if it ever bothered me to let him know, but since there was no tooth above it, I was probably not even using it to chew. We talked about where he received his DDS degree and it turned out that he had two; one from Mexico and one from Loma Linda University. He is married; has 3 sons; his wife owns a Montessori school in Chula Vista. He took additional classes at USC and other California Schools, but since I am a graduate of UCLA I brushed that off. (No pun intended)

Dr. Pablo Liciaga

He was gentle through-out the entire procedure; he kept me informed as to what he was doing; and when the time was up I was a little disappointed I would be leaving him. When he suggested making an appointment in 4 months I jumped at the chance. I am actually looking forward to going. I do not think I will cancel it, not even once.

So who is this “God of the Dental Chair?” His name is Pablo Liciaga; he is located at 2115 Bacon, right here in Ocean Beach. (His office is located between Brighton and Long Branch.) Phone number is 619-224-2986.

It should also be said that his office staff is nice and concerned about the patient’s welfare. The only criticism I have is that the couch in the waiting room is so soft it might take a crane to lift me out of it next time because the “fear factor” is gone. Happy Smiling.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jon October 30, 2012 at 10:46 am

How cool to open up the rag and see dr liciaga staring back at me! Just like you, and probably most people, I am terrified of the dentist. But I’ve been going to dr liciaga for around 8 years now and have always had a positive experience. He’s gentle, kind, funny and professional. He’s always been fair with me, and when I lost my insurance coverage a couple years ago, he helped negotiate a fair price for work I needed done that didn’t send me to the poorhouse. I will always stick with dr liciaga because I feel like he really cares. Thanks for highlighting him Judi.


avatar judi Curry October 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thanks, Jon. NEVER in my wildest imagination would I think I would ever say anything positive about the “drill doctor.” He sure changed me mind! And you are right – his prices are reasonable, too.


avatar joyce October 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm

i had to have everything done over that pablo did to me….and it was painful and costly….i would not recommend this dentist….it really saddens me to have to say this…..i wish it were otherwise…but i feel it is important to share my experience


avatar judi Curry October 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Sorry to hear that Joyce. I did quite a bit of research before going to him and everything was so positive. I was impressed by him also. Hope that your bad experience is not the norm. I really am looking forward to my return visit.


avatar Kathy October 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm

When I read the headline, I knew your “God of the Dental Chair” had to be DR. PABLO LICIAGA!

I also had a frightening experience at a very young age. It was my very first dental visit and I cried when he wouldn’t let my mother stay with me. He yelled at me and covered mouth so I couldn’t even breathe. Fearing the outcome when he discovered I peed my pants in his dental chair, I ran to my mother in hysterics. I’ll never forget that day, more than 50 years ago, that traumatized through adulthood, to the irritation of some dentists, who would often gave me Valium to take before my next visit.

Several years ago, I was dismayed to learn Dr. Liciaga took over Dr. Hall’s practice, who I was quite pleased with after a few visits. Dr. Liciaga quickly dispelled my fears with his gentle and understanding nature. Since then, I’ve had extensive dental work, all good experiences with excellent results. For emergencies, he immediately adjusts his schedule for same day visits, and directly orders antibiotics and pain meds to your pharmacy before you leave his office. He gives you his cell phone #, in the event of complications after hours.

Beyond his dental talents and state of the art equipment, his priorities are your health and relief of discomfort. But what makes Dr. Liciaga unique is his warm, friendly personality that makes you feel special. He goes out of his way to meet affordability constraints, and is wisely efficient with your insurance coverage. If dental work in the U.S. stretches your budget, he will provide referrals and personally contact his counterparts in Mexico.

I’ve referred many friends to Dr. Liciaga, who are equally impressed with their extraordinary experiences. An added plus . . . his handsome appearance provides a pleasant distraction while you sit “in the chair”!

Judy, thanks for writing your story. I hope Dr. Liciaga’s business soars after this unsolicited endorsement of your “God of the Dental Chair”. He is truly an amazing person, both personally and professionally.


avatar dave rice October 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Someday I’ll get over my fear of the cost of visiting a dentist after a motorcycle accident about 8 years ago left me $4500 poorer for having to get two implants done. And someday I’ll get over the fear of pain from dentists after the quadruple wisdom tooth operation that happened a year or so before that.

Nice to know there’s someone trusted and local to visit when I’ve got the money to repair all the damage I’m sure nearly a decade of hiding from the chair has done…do you know if he does the “sleep” dentistry thing where you get zonked on pills before showing up and leave a sack of mush? Christina has tons of dental problems coupled with an incredible fear of the chair, but the dentist she’s been seeing in La Mesa is (no joke) taking about 1/3 of her annual take-home pay from a full-time job…


avatar Zach on the side October 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I like a story that has some tooth!


avatar Debbie November 2, 2012 at 5:00 am

That store put a smiile on my face :-)

Thanks for the info….now how about a MD recommendation?


avatar Deb November 2, 2012 at 5:02 am

Oops should be story not store…..


avatar Susie November 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I went there some years ago for a toothache, 2007- 2008. I was really disappointed with his diagnosis since it was 3rd molar or in lay terms a wisdom tooth. He said I had brushed too hard and had worn the enamel down and wanted me to have a enamel protector put on it, for extra money. Well, I knew that was NOT the case as I know how to brush correctly and in fact, studied dental assisting and became a certified dental assistant. I also could not brush the wrong way as it was too difficult to get a brush back there. I decided to just go ahead and get the “enamel protector” just to see if it would help as I had insurance and was hoping I would not have to have endodontic therapy. (root canal) So I leftI subsequently had a root canal and it failed and then I had to get it extracted in 2008.
I never went back and when I called to explain to the office, all the receptionist said was “oh my, that’s too bad. ” I never heard from the dentist. All I can say is buyer beware. I was not impressed with the entire place, old and not new equipment. Dentist did not return the call.


avatar Terrie Leigh Relf November 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Long story short, I go to the Awesome Dr. Yamada! In fact, I just got back from there and will be going again tomorrow to receive my updated plate. I have a lonnnnggggg history of issues (2 accidents, for one) and the only other dentist I had that was Awesome was Dr. Tiemroth, a family friend, when I was a child and teenager.

Dr. Yamada’s staff is awesome, too, and they use a variety of holistic methods, including a calming ritual, for big babies like me!

She’s on the corner of Cable and Naragansett in the same building with Acusport, home of the most awesome acupuncturist, Aquilino Soriano!


avatar OB Mercy December 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Dr. Liciaga is also my dentist for the last couple of years. He is AWESOME! Love his chair side manner and he has been more than fair to me when it comes to my bill. I just recommended him to another local and would refer him to anyone!


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