I once saw Webb Wilder, “The last of the full-grown men,” play at an outdoor venue that was way, way too cold. (Webb is that he has a credo: “Word hard. Rock hard. Eat hard. Sleep hard. Grow big. Wear glasses, if you need them.”) It was an October night in Tennessee that ended up being one of the miserably cold nights rather than a beautifully warm late fall night. There was no heat in the little barn. It was so cold that it was almost impossible for the musicians to play. At some point, as he was finishing his required number of hours, he said into the microphone “Well, this has been a real trip to the dentist.” This is a story about mine.
I had heard that Ecuador was a good place to have dental work done. I last had my teeth cleaned March 28 of last year, so I was overdue for my semi-annual cleaning. I asked my cousin if she had a dentist, and she sort-of did, but it was the one that her kids went to. She and her husband did need cleanings, though. After considerable ado, including showing up once on the wrong day for the appointment, we got to the dentist in time for our appointment. Here I am in the waiting room.
Here is the view from the chair. My last hygienist’s office was painted much less festively.
Here is a shot of my dentist. Like her walls, her garb adds a level of felicity that I do not recall having in a dentist’s office. Notice, too, that The Simpsons are playing on the TV. I had not realized that Bart was bilingual.
A few things are different in Ecuador. There is no hygienist; the dentist does all of the work. Rather than using a pick to scratch the plaque off my teeth, she used this ultrasonic water-squirter thing. I had this flash of worry about whether this method of removing plaque might also, say, remove all of the enamel from my teeth. Then I figured that squirting water was probably at least as safe as a pick scraped across my teeth. When it came time to clean the plaque from the inside of my bottom front teeth, she explained that because I have lots of plaque there (this I had heard before), it might hurt and she rubbed some numbing stuff on my gums.
After she was mostly done, she had me hold a mirror and showed me how to floss my front teeth (the ones with the plaque buildup) such that flossing might keep the plaque at bay. This struck me as more useful advice than I had received previously on this issue (e.g., “dry brushing”).
When it was my cousin’s turn to get her cleaning, the dentist brought out some stuffed animals for those of us in the waiting room to practice tooth-brushing with. At first I was a little miffed because my cousin’s kids thought that the stuff animals were for them! This was my dental appointment. Not theirs.
At some point I did get to hold one of the animals, but not the toothbrush. Here my little friend managed to bite the brush that was cleaning him.
I finally got my turn, though, and got this picture of me and this guy whose teeth I saw were very clean indeed.
The total was fifty bucks. My cousin had warned me that this was pretty expensive for Ecuador. This seemed pretty reasonable, given that my last cleaning cost me thirty-five after my insurance company had paid what it thought was a reasonable fee.