Un visita a dentista

Five weeks ago, I had a terrible tooth pain. I was enjoying the serenity and beauty of the quaint towns in Las Alpujarras  in the Sierra Nevadas in Spain for the weekend when tooth pain struck. Thankfully, my Spanish friend Kurro had pain medication and gave me several to last the weekend. He had a recommendation for a dentist and gave me the number but when Monday came, I didn’t call. I thought, I can understand Spanish and get by with my speaking abilities but speaking on the phone takes it to another level, Besides, I don’t want to go to the dentist. The first thing my flat mate asked when he came home was, Did you go to the dentist? No. Does your tooth still hurt? Yes

The pain was subsiding though. Deja vu. I had the same incredible and intense pain a month before I left for Spain. I thought my new retainers were the culprit and by the time I was able to get an appointment with my dentist, the pain was gone. Brillant. 5 days of pain and then it disappears. But the dentist suggested I likely needed a root canal. Great. I realized this was a pattern. I had to do something, despite my discomfort of dentist chairs. On Tuesday, my first day back at work, I asked my coordinator about medical and dental coverage, as I was still waiting for my medical card and information. He was kind enough to make a variety of phone calls and I had an appointment later that day, or so I thought. I arrived to what was the insurance agent’s office to get my medical card number and find out more information if I want to buy extra coverage for 5-6 euro a month. Yes. 5-6 euro a month, which supposedly would reduce the cost in half of most dental procedures.

Now I had more information but still a throbbing tooth and no appointment. I told my coordinator I had more information and 2 dentist to choose from on Wednesday. Have you made an appointment?, he asked. No, responding slowly and looking up at him wide eyed. Would you like me to make an appointment? Si, por favor, as my face lit up with a huge smile. He called and one dentist had an appointment the next day. Thursday morning I go in, show them my medical card number, they take down basic information- my  name and address and then I have a seat in the waiting room. 10 minutes later, the dentist calls me over. Mind you, my entire experience is spoken and understood in Spanish.

Dentist office waiting room

I sit down and explain in my best spanish my tooth pain. I explain I had a crown(un corona,I say but this does not directly translate) recently. He looks and asks me a few questions and then says, (in Spanish), you’re only option is un extraccion y un diente falso (extract the tooth and (put) a false tooth). Internally, my hands are gripping for dear life to my chair and I’m thinking well, I guess I’ll be paying a small fortune for a root canal in California. I’m too young to have a false tooth and I know a root canal is what I need!).  I continue talking with the dentist trying to figure out some words he is saying. I try to explain I need a root canal (un ruta de canal but I’m literally saying route canal). He assumed my crown is a root canal so therefore if it’s still hurting and causing pain my only option is to extract the tooth. I assure him, it’s only a crown. “estas segura?” Si, estoy segura. Segura? Si. But to be sure, he takes an x-ray.

Yes. You have not had a crown. He tells me the cost for a root canal and I’m shocked and happy. A root canal is 200 euros. However, if the crown breaks when he takes it off to do the root canal it will cost an additional 220 euro. I don’t care. 200 euros or 420 euros, it’s cheap in comparison to the ludicrous costs of dental and medical care in the USA. America, please  take notice. Health coverage is AFFORDABLE! It cost me $1000+ for a damn crown that really needed a root canal.  Thanks California dentist.A lot. Thanks for taking a small fortune from me.

Despite my broken Spanish and him not speaking English, I was impressed by his patience. He wasn’t bothered by my request to repeat a few things or explain in a different way. I’d say, one of the best and most patient dentists I’ve been too!

I ask how much I owe him for the consultation and X-RAY? Gratis. Free. Yes. Free.  

How soon do I need to make an appointment? Whenever you want, it will be a day or two. You don’t have to wait long. (Either he doesn’t have a lot of patients or it’s just easier and faster to take care of dental needs). He writes me a prescription for 2 types of pain killers and I’m on my way. I never fill the prescription.

The pain is gone and now I know I need a root canal. Great. 3 weeks pass without  pain, though I have a weird sensation of pain in the roof of my mouth. It’s weird but clearly connected to the nerves in my damaged tooth.

Last week, I started noticing hints of tooth pain but but but… how long can I go without needing to take care of my tooth? I asked Jessica but she suggested I go soon. The next day, hints of tooth pain were stronger. Clearly, I have to make an appointment. Ah. the downsides of being an adult- you have to make appointments and show up for things you don’t like to do, and may even despise.

I go in to the dentist office (to avoid calling) but have to wait. I wait 15 minutes without being helped and leave. Ah. well, I really didn’t want to have to do it anyway.  I go back in on a Wednesday afternoon and they have a morning appointment at 10am. Brillant. that was easy.

I show up at 10am and arrive to the hygienist/receptionist opening the door. I show her my medical number and then wait The dentist walks in 15 minutes later and by 10:25, the dentist has injected Novocain.

He helps another patient and returns 10-15 minutes later when my mouth is numb. I’m play relaxing music on my ipod, he removes my crown with some crazy tool that seems like he’ll take all my teeth out and then begins drilling. (I could feel my tooth- it was rough and very small, eck) . There wasn’t a hygienist or helper during the entire hour and 15 minutes. I was surprised. The root canal was not as bad as I thought it would be. And I kept telling myself, the dentist knows what he’s doing, he knows what he is doing.” So far so good. My tooth was sensitive for 2 days afterwards but now a week later, it feels fine. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics (7 euro) and 600 mg ibuprofen (2 euro). Crazy. I can get used to medicine prices and dental costs.

Have you ever had dental work abroad? Where? What was your experience like?

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