Need a Dentist? Take a trip to Columbia
Last week the cap on my tooth fell off. Today, the dentist told me that she couldn’t replace it as the molar had broken off at the gum line, the root was infected and therefore it would have to come out. I was informed that a replacement would either cost 3,300 dollars for a bridge or 5,000 for a screw in. For those of you who don’t live in Australia and are now trying to calculate how much that is in your currency – don’t bother I can tell you it’s shit loads. As it takes about 6 weeks to recover from the extraction before any new work can be done I have time to consider my options. But for the present I have a hole in my mouth where the offending molar was as well as one in my wallet the size of 220 dollars.
One of my first memories of going to the dentist was running out of the consulting room screaming at the top of my voice whilst a huge Irish woman chased me into reception. She’d whipped two of my teeth out without any anaesthetic – although she claimed that she had put “some cream” on before shoving a pair of pliers in my mouth and extracting them. My mother was outraged and I was traumatised. Thereafter, the mere mention of a check up had me quivering for days before an appointment.
The next really painful dental experience was some years later when I fainted at school and hit my face against one of the heating pipes. The bottoms of my two front teeth sheared off apart from a small section and the rest of my teeth took a bit of a knocking. The dentists proclaimed that it would take months maybe even a year before my teeth had recovered enough to be fixed. My parents couldn’t afford the cost anyway so that was that. On reflection the damage is not really noticeable and I don’t have rabbit teeth anymore. But for a 12 year old growing up in a world that demands perfect white, straight teeth it was a disaster. To the many people who used to say to me “smile it’s not the end of the world” or “why don’t you smile more?” Well now you know!
But the dentist that managed to totally alienate me was the one that pronounced that my teeth were in a shocking state and many of them needed filling. This he did with an enthusiasm that lead me to believe that there was nothing wrong with me he just liked inflicting pain. It was at this practise that the aforementioned cap was inserted into my mouth complete with a fake filling to – get this – blend in with the others he’d created. I changed to a new dentist who was horrified, as well as temporarily blinded by the flashing silver light, when I opened my mouth. It was this dentist who helped me get over my phobia. He very patiently talked me through my fears and at some point I began to trust him enough realise that injections are the best thing going when it comes to teeth and maintenance work.
Since then I have had some wonderful dentists, in both England and Australia. The only reason I’m scared to make an appointment now is because I’m worried they’ll bankrupt me! So now I’m wondering the alternatives are to emptying my bank account. I could go abroad. Whilst travelling around South America we met a friend who’d visited a dentist in Colombia. For the princely sum of about 500 dollars he had root canal surgery, several teeth capped and some other stuff done that I can’t recall. He had great teeth! Other friends I know often combine a holiday in Thailand and visit the dentist whilst they’re there as it saves them a substantial amount of money. Maybe I could follow the example of the group of intrepid travellers who settled on one of the Galapagos Islands in the 18th century. Due to a lack of dentists in the area at that time they had the foresight to have all their teeth removed then have one set of false teeth made up to be shared by them all. Presumably dentists were so expensive even then that one pair was all they could afford after their extractions.
The last option seems a little extreme therefore when I go travelling again the first country on my list will be Colombia. However, that’s in the future and the only place I’m going at the moment is to find some painkillers.