Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Going to the Dentist in a Developing Country

Back home in the U.S., if someone brings up the topic of medical care in a foreign country, it's usually met with a shudder. "Sure," we think, "our country has a long way to go in figuring out how to make it less expensive and accessible to all, but we've still got it pretty good, right -- I mean better than those developing countries, at least." Maybe.
Smooching my kiddo, even with a sore jaw.

Now that i am living in a developing country, it was only going to be a matter of time before something required medical attention. This time, it was my teeth. A dull ache started in my outer jaw this past weekend and wouldn't go away. Of course the first things to come to my mind were that i had come down with Dengue fever or Chikungunya -- both mosquito-borne illnesses which tend to manifest in joint pain first. I don't get bit by mosquitoes much, but jaws are joints, so i was worried... but nope -- just a good old fashioned toothache.

A friend recommended a good dentist in Managua, urging me to go there first because three of her teeth had been lost to a less-than-skilled guy in Granada -- so off i went on the chicken bus. I hopped off the highway, sweaty and hair blown from the long ride, and walked a few steps to the glittery offices of my Nicaraguan dentist. Inside the air was cool and the counters were marbled. The receptionist had me fill out the same medical history forms i'd fill out back home -- but of course these ones were in Spanish and i was glad i'd brought along my dictionary just in case.

On the walls of the office were plaques from the American Acedemy of Periodontists and other accolades that told me this guy knew was he was doing -- and i have to admit it soothed me a bit. Horror stories of friends losing teeth were not what you wanted to hear when you had had a four-day toothache and had been drinking a lot more soda these past months than you'd normally drink. What can i say? It's hot and bubbly beverages are appealing. (In hindsight, i probably should have been taking better care and paying better attention to my nutrition; Zeal for Life probably would have helped!)

After about one hour, i had a brand new white filling to replace the metal one that had cracked. There was no rescheduling me to come in for the work; once i was in there i didn't even have to leave the chair -- not even to get the X-rays or whatever kind of scan the dentist did by pulling out tube-like thing on the side of the chair to take images of my mouth. No one left the room during the scans either...which made me wonder if they were getting exposed to radiation?

Basically though, the dentist hooked me up with a better filling than i had before, didn't mess around with a lot of time-wasting later appointments, and cleaned my teeth better than i've had them done in a long while. Yes, it hurt a little, but it was a good kind of hurt. The grand total: $80. Yes.

I'll soon be going back to get ALL of my metal fillings taken out -- why have them in my mouth giving me potential mercury poisoning when it costs $40 to take them out and have them replaced? Developing nation medicine: WIN.

Of course, the free health care that is accessible to most people without cost here in Nicaragua is not nearly as good -- or at least that's what i hear. But for this single parent who was frightened of developing world diseases and hasn't had a teeth cleaning in a couple years because she can't afford to pay out of pocket back home, this was a total WIN.

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Speaking of hurting a little, i love the message that authors Karen McMahon and Lisa Brick are sending with their book "Stepping Out of Chaos," a guidebook for those dealing with divorce. One big message in the book: pain can lead to personal transformation. Indeed it can!

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