Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Q. What’s The Difference Between Dentistry and Torture?

A 1. With dentistry, the victim foots the bill.

A 2. Torture is prohibited under the Geneva Convention.

A 3. There’s a difference?

About grade six is the best time for dental problems to crop up. That’s when lots of kids, including some of the cool ones, have braces so it’s not so noticeable. Furthermore, during these awkward years you already have to deal with the host of socially uncomfortable situations that accompany puberty, what more damage do a set of railway tracks across the teeth do? And of course I have yet to touch upon the greatest reason for juvenile dental problems; at that age parents foot the bill.

I break here for a brief interlude. In my adolescent years I would sometimes see my friends do certain things and then in my head try and imagine what sort of lecture they would receive once their parents learned of the actions. Well I have a cousin who, as a teenager, one day decided that he had grown tired of his braces. With perhaps little more thought than that, he pulled them off with a pair of pliers. Braces, I’m told, are non-refundable. Of all the lectures I’ve known to occur without actually being present, the tongue-lashing that my cousin received I imagine, must have been the most awesome and the most fearsome.

Well I never needed braces, or any sort of dental work besides a cleaning the entire time that my mom was footing the bill. However, the first time that I went to the dentist after moving out I had four cavities. Six hundred bucks for that, if I remember correctly. My luck hasn’t exactly improved since then.

A few years ago I went to the dentist and was told that I had a major problem. Not major because of the trouble it caused me, rather because every option for correcting the problem required a major bill. One of my lower teeth was a little bit loose, apparently because it was still a baby tooth; however, there was no adult tooth underneath to replace it. Prognosis: it would become looser and looser until it would eventually fall out creating dire problems. There were a variety of options to consider, including braces, but really they weren’t options for every one would cost considerably more than I had to spend on my teeth. I did the natural and ignored the problem.

Well here in Mexico dental care is considerably cheaper and what’s more, Louis’ brother’s father in law is a dentist. So, armed with this close connection I headed to get my teeth looked at. He told me the same thing. The tooth was doomed and could be fixed with a bridge, here the dentist all but shuddered revealing his distaste for that option, or ideally it could be replaced with an implant. The dentist in Canada had also expressed that an implant as being the best solution and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive.

I hadn’t for a second considered an implant in Canada, the quote was so high, but here things cost less. So much less in fact that with the difference in price I could have paid for my entire trip from Canada to Brazil, to Argentina and to Mexico and home again with enough change left over to treat Luis to beer every step of the way. So with that knowledge I found myself the other day sitting in a dentist chair, a lousy place really, to spend a holiday, awaiting the surgery to begin.

The dentist numbed my mouth so the drool could flow out unimpeded and told me, “Si, hay dolor, levanta la mano.” I thought to myself, “Oh if there’s pain I will let you know though it might involve more than just raising my hand.” But of course all I slurred was, “Esla bleian” which is Spanish for, “Just do what you have to do. I’ll pay whatever you ask but please don’t hurt me.”

Once my mouth was sufficiently numb the dentist extracted the tooth. Then the fun began. The implant needs to be attached to something; the obvious choice is the jaw bone. So, the dentist began drilling into my jaw so he could insert a screw that would provide the anchor for the implant. Apparently I have nice, solid, dense bone which meant that for some time the dentist stuck a noisy instrument into my vulnerable mouth, and mined away. The drilled caused unpleasant vibrations but it didn’t really hurt. The assistant used that little suction tool to vacuum up most of the blood.

I can’t say for sure how long this went on except that it was too long. Finally it was time to insert the screw. The screw is just that, a screw. It was a new experience to be sure, a man ratcheting a little screw into my jaw. Once that was completed it was time to be stitched up. I felt the blood leave my head when I watched the little needle enter my mouth, but I managed not to faint. He finished and I didn’t even faint when it came time to pay, though I did have to sit down for a minute.

I was given a prescription for some strong drugs which prevent me from drinking alcohol. Lisa and Luis take sadistic pleasure in drinking beer these days. I drink cavity causing soft drinks. Saturday I return to the dentist to have my stitches out. Monday I fly home to Canada. (Vancouver, not Calgary though.) Over the next four months my bone will heal, and tighten around the screw. Some time after that, I return here to have the implant inserted. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and take my drugs.

1 comment:

S said...

i agree with answer number three. i think that crazy chinese torturer in alias used dentistry as a form of torture on sydney (jennifer garner) once.