The only honest Yelp review of River Bluff Dental, home of the lion killer

The protesters were gone by the time we checked in at Walter Palmer's dental clinic.

The protesters were gone by the time we checked in at Walter Palmer's dental clinic.

It’s hard to find an earnest Yelp review of River Bluff Dental. Since the Bloomington clinic’s proprietor, Walter Palmer, was outed as the bow hunter who killed Cecil the lion this summer, its Yelp page has become a dumping ground for insults with no respect for the art of dentistry.

While the business rating website has scrubbed many of the fake “reviews,” they’re hardly an endangered species. C’mon, James K. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Were you really lured into River Bluff’s break room with chicken wings, where the Rambo-geared dentist yelled “My penis is incredibly small?” Everyone knows you’re not supposed to eat for 30 minutes after a cleaning.

Las Vegas’ Candie P. might think Dr. Palmer’s a “murderous prick.” But what’s it like sitting in his chair? Curious, we booked an appointment after River Bluff reopened.

Long gone were the protesters that once mobbed the clinic, temporarily darkened when Palmer turned global villain. The sun was yet to rise and the brightness of the lengthy waiting room hit us like a spotlight in a midnight jungle. After the cordial receptionist helped us through some paperwork, we hunted through the so-so magazine selection tucked beside our leather chair. Motor Trend. Fine Cooking. Vanity Fair. No National Geographic. Hmm.

Across the room, a flatscreen hung above a brown leather couch. The only “trophies” in sight were rotating digital portraits of smiles Palmer presumably brought to life. Minutes later, a bubbly hygienist led us to a man-cave of an operating room with another flatscreen mounted on the wall facing the chair. Excessive, but peanuts for a guy who can swing $55,000 for a hunt. The reclined throne cupped our backside like sturdy angel hands injected with baby ass — not like a Groupon dentist’s rigid chairs that feel like you’re strapped to a roof rack.

After some Grade A small talk, the hygienist asked if we’d prefer to watch something besides NBC’s Today show.

“Nah, this is fine,” we replied, too Minnesotan to say we’d rather swallow her latex gloves than listen to goddamn Savannah Guthrie.

Breaking out that scary hook thing, the hygienist gave “a little pokesy” around our sensitive gums with care. They bled a little, but she didn’t seem to enjoy it. Frankly, this was the most informative and thorough hygienist who’s ever scraped our plaque. After breaking down our X-rays on the TV screen (anything to get out of Al Roker’s neck of the woods), she left to track down Palmer to finish me off and approve a deeper cleaning plan that could drag me in for two more visits.

We’re always leery of an upsell. According to the internet, the procedure’s an easy way for dentists to run up the tab. However, given our gum thing it checks out. Plus, a $200 referral credit (a buddy used to go there) meant it might not cost us anything.

A staff photo revealed River Bluff’s pride features an unusually high percentage of conventionally attractive women. Granted, a cosmetic dental clinic run entirely by toothless trolls might be weirder, so maybe we wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for Palmer’s 2009 sexual harassment settlement. Coincidence or not, everyone we dealt with seemed above-average at their jobs.

Soon a smiley Palmer arrived armed with a firm handshake and congeniality. After brief chitchat about our occupation, the down-to-business dentist’s hands, which have touched tons of dead stuff, were in our mouth.

“Great looking teeth,” the cavity hunter proclaimed.

He probably says that to all the mammals.

Still, they didn’t look great enough to keep him from asking me back for another two rounds. Where did we go wrong, doc?

“Not flossing, not getting in for a cleaning. Am I right?” he asked, already knowing the answer.


“It’s hard,” he said, empathizing with our busy schedule.

With that, the bespectacled middle-ager was quickly on to his next patient. We grabbed our complimentary mid-grade floss and toothbrush and bounced.

Moral conundrums aside, we’d let River Bluff work on our grill.

3.5 out of 5 stars