Thu Nov 08, 2001 | day 59
For the last few days, I have been waking up in the middle of the night with a toothache. The throbbing pain became so unbearable that I reluctantly asked my friend Cristina about the possibility of going to a dentist.
I don't know what was worse, the toothache or the thought of going to a Romanian dentist. Europeans from around the continent have been known to travel here to have any dental work done because it is so cheap, but the problem is that the dentists can be quite primitive in their methods. There is no such thing as "dental insurance." Novocaine is rarely given to patients due to the lack of information on allergic reactions. X-Ray machines, clean drills, and "dental assistants" which are all too common in The States are quite rare here. Dentists here don't even wear rubber gloves.
With all of this in mind, I felt like I wasn't asking Cristina "Is it possible to go to the dentist?" but rather, "Is it possible I can go see a guy wearing a lab coat and ask him to cause serious pain in my mouth for an hour?" But I knew I couldn't wait to do this at home. This was my first "medical emergency" on my trip.
Luckily, among the drugs I packed for my trip was Hydrocodone, a powerful prescription pain reliever I received when I had my appendix removed a year ago. I popped two of these babies in an hour before the trip to the dentist and I was on Cloud Nine when I sat in the dentist's chair. But the pills only dulled the pain, not the anxiety.
The dentist was about 29 years old and could understand English but not speak it. He asked me to take a seat in the pale green dentist's chair that looked about as old as him. The single florescent light gave everything a pale, ugly look around the stale room. It smelled of an old hospital, the peroxide extinguished all other smells. My friend Marius stood nearby and helped translate what I had to say to the dentist and visa versa.
When the dentist examined my mouth, I expected him to immediately locate the source of my pain, but it actually took him a few minutes. As he began the removal of the thick, made-in-America, built-to-last filling, he explained that the hot/cold temperatures had affected the filling, thereby weakening the tooth, and eventually caused the tooth to crack. The whole back side of my right molar had broken off recently, leaving the nerve exposed.
After ninety minutes of painful drilling (not nearly enough Hydrocodone!), he said that he would need to "kill the nerve" with some special chemical and I need to return tomorrow evening for the rest of the dental work.
My anxiety wasn't very high as I entered the office around 3:30p today. In fact, I wasn't expecting very much pain at all. Boy was I wrong!
The dentist from last night was the son of the dentist who ran this private practice. She was a 50-year old pleasant woman who was friendly to both of us. The dental office looked cleaner and brighter during the day, sun shone through the windows. The pleasant atmosphere relaxed me and made me feel safe.
But after she got to work on my mouth, my opinion of this dentist and the office quickly changed. She was unrelenting on removing my nerves, not just the one in my mouth, even though it clearly put me into considerable pain.
She patched my tooth up with a temporary filling and I will return on Monday to get the final step done: an actual permenant filling! The long process is worth it though: total cost for the dental work shouldn't be more than $15.