Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Going to the Dentist

Too many delicious coconut drinks = cavities.

Well, maybe coconut drinks haven't hurt my teeth too badly, but just to make sure, we decided to brush up on our dental hygiene while in Bocas. Yesterday I went to Dr. Alvin Wong's office for a cleaning, and the dental hygienist scrubbed down my pearly whites, which was great and in Spanish. I can't tell you how much fun it is to mix foreign languages and medical care, especially if you're like me - understanding a bit but speaking in a painfully slow, jumbled mass of incorrect verb conjugations. Anyway, the cleaning was a typical dental visit that you would get in the U.S. and, at $50, less than half the price.

Unfortunately, the hygienist informed me that I had three cavities. Crushed, I went back today to get them filled, and Dr. Wong told me that actually it was my old fillings getting, well, older, and that only one of them had turned bad. He replaced it with a better filling (again for $50, a quarter of the price you would get in the U.S.) and told me to have the dentist check the others at my next check up.

Vlad will not fare so well, I'm afraid. He has actual cavities that have to get fixed, and two of his fillings fell out. He's still at the dentist's office, and I left him there an hour ago, not a good sign.

And, just in case anyone is curious as to why my new favorite dentist has a Chinese last name, it is the simple fact that many Chinese people live in Bocas, transplants from the Canal building days. In fact, Bocas is actually a fascinating cultural mixture of Chiriquí Indians, Caribbeans, Spanish, Chinese and American ex-pats. And from what I can tell, everyone seems to pretty much get along. Go figure. 


10 comments:

  1. Hope Vlad turns out alright:D.

    Awesome that you can get health care down there at reasonable prices!!

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    1. He came back with numb lips, for sure!

      And healthcare down here is very cheap, hence our dentist visit.

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  2. Timely post! Mike recently visited our dentist and asked him if there was anything he'd be able to offer us to take in our medical kit when we go cruising: you know, temporary fillings, nitrous oxide... Our dentist replied with confusion because he always understood that those big cruise ships have dentists on board. Sigh. I think Mike tried to explain.
    The big question I want the answer to here is this: do they offer nitrous oxide? Because I don't visit the dentist without it. I love the idea of being able to go to the dentist and just pay cash! What a concept.

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    1. That's really funny!

      He did not offer me nitrous, nor did I see any in the room. Then again, he was just replacing one of my fillings, so I didn't need any pain relievers. I would bet that some dentists in say Panama City have access to nitrous, but not everyone out on the islands does.

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    2. I am with Melissa- nitrous is a requirement. Glad to hear that other than some annoying dental stuff you and Vlad are doing great.

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  3. WOW! This is great. It is good to hear it from you.

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  4. This is great info! Thanks for sharing. Keep writing I love this stuff. One day we'll follow your wake!

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    1. Since we go SO slowly, we don't leave much of a wake, but you're welcome to follow. We would be happy to see you out there!

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  5. I was just in Bocas and had a bad toothache.I went to Dr. Wong's office at about 10:00 A.M. but the office was closed. I called the telephone number on his sign and the woman who answered told me I'd have to go to Dr. Wong's office in Almirante if I wanted to see him that day. She gave me an appointment for 2:00 P.M. I took the boat to Almirante and found my way to Wong's office. He didn't show up until 4:00 P.M. and arrogantly claimed that my appointment was for 3:30. He then left the office to go and get a surgical mask. After he got back, he took an x-ray and told me that my tooth was infected and that I needed a root canal. I asked what could be done just to alleviate my pain and abate the infection until I was able to see my dentist back home. He gave me three options: 1. Pull the tooth; 2. Give me antibiotics and hope for the best; 3. Remove the nerve and give me antibiotics. I asked a bunch of questions which Wong didn't like and he implied that I was being insulting. I opted for number 3, having dealt with an infected, abscessed tooth in the past. Wong started drillling and after a while it was apparent that he was having problems. He progressively used larger bits to drill and got testy with his assistant. He finally admitted that he couldn't find the nerve and gave me some bs about some ethnicities having "obliterated" canals. Wong eventually gave up and prescribed me some antibiotics and pain killers. He actually had the nerve to charge me $100!!! I wasn't in the mood for an argument so I paid the quack. Luckily I was able to catch the last boat back to Bocas. When I got home I went to my dentist. He sent me to an endodonist who was able to do a root canal and save the tooth. However, she told me that Wong came very close to ruining the tooth and because of the extensive drilling he did, it's iffy how long it will last. The moral of the story is have your teeth checked out before you travel to the 3rd world. The only good thing about the whole experience was Wong's assistant whom I hung out with waiting for him to arrive. A very sweet, pretty girl who was sympathetic to my problem.

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