Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Medieval torture devices: Part II

Are you there, God?
It's me, Claire.
Please stop picking on me.

Remember, dear readers, when I told you about how I had to get the same tooth filled for the third time in two years, and how this was just the latest in a lifetime of bad dental luck that started when I was seven years old and the only kid on the playground with braces and granny glasses? I didn't even TELL you about the ordeal I went through trying to get a toothache looked at in Laos, when I was taken to a corrugated shack a half hour on a dirt road out of town that housed some stained mattresses, several chickens, and a rusted out dentist chair. "I am dentist," a man in a surgical mask greeted me as he emerged from behind the pile of mattresses. "Please have seat." 

Knowing that my options were to A) Run, and live with an increasingly painful toothache since this was likely the most modern dental institution I would find in northern Laos, or B) Stay, grip the edge of my seat, and get ready to bolt if I heard the sound of a drill, I chose B. Turned out all he did was look in my mouth with a mirror and give me some antibiotics.

You would think that would be the craziest dentist-related story that anyone would ever hope to experience in one lifetime. You would be wrong.

Yesterday I returned to the Carleton dentist to get my cavities filled. He froze my face, told some jokes, and proceeded to drill my teeth open. Partway through the procedure, a nervous-looking woman came in and informed him that there was a patient who had been waiting for hours and there was no one to look after them. 

"Sorry," he said. "We're short staffed today. This will just take a moment."

I was left to bite a cotton ball, watch tennis on mute, and try not to gnaw at my frozen cheeks or tongue. For half an hour.

This happened at least three times. It's a bit of a blur. I can feel my brain trying to block out the memory already.

Finally we were nearing the end of the ordeal. The dentist went to pull out a wedge that was lodged between my molars. His hand slipped. He sliced my upper lip open.

"Oh gosh! Oh, gee! Oh, goodness, I am so sorry! Um. Um. Well, I can freeze that now and put a stitch right in it."

A stitch??? I thought, as I could not talk, my face being frozen and my jaw being held open by a doorstop-like piece of plastic. What have you done to my FACE???

"Or maybe I can just put a band-aid on it..."


"I know. I'll just put the band-aid on and... hey, hey Bill, come over here a second, will you?"

The dentist disappears to have a brief consultation with some other dude in a white coat, who comes into the room, stands over me, and points.

Just stands there, pointing, about six inches away from my face.

After this has been going on for a few minutes, the dentist seems to remember that this may not be something I would expect. "We practice certain forms of traditional medicine at this clinic," he said. "He's transferring his energy to you to help heal your lip faster. Are you open to this?"

"I gueth tho," I said. What else could I say?

Anyway, finally it was over and I went to the counter to pay, traumatized and feeling sorry for myself.

"That will be $375," the woman at the desk said.

I handed her my insurance card from my mom's health plan.

"Actually, $375 is the amount your insurance declined to cover," she said. "Will that be cash or credit?"

So yesterday I paid $375 to spend three hours having my teeth drilled open and cemented shut, wait for other patients to get taken care of, and disfigure my face.

I give up. I am never going to the dentist again.


Sonya said...

Never again? But all good stories are told in trilogies. Natalie.

The Peach said...

I laughed and cried for you.

I think you've had enough. Tomorrow I'm going to pin my bangs back and give you a little rest. I need to reclaim my life before someone gets hurt.

Oh. Wait.

The Science Manly said...


Just WOW ... lol

I told my dad, the dentist, what happened to you ... and I've never seen my dad so confused about whether to laugh at the situation, cry about what other dentists are like or be angry at that butcher.

If you ever need a REAL DENTIST (who is great, in my totally unbiased opinion) in Toronto, let me know :)