Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Third World Root Canal

In West Virginia, the dumplings I've eaten were generally soft pieces of fluffy dough in chicken stew or creamed tomatoes. However, one of the differences I found in the Caribbean is that their dumplings are dense and hard, with nothing to make the flour rise. They are still quite good, and are a frequent addition to many dishes here, but very different than what I was accustomed to eating.

One day, I popped one of these heavy balls of dough into the back corner of my mouth, and felt a crack as I bit down on that dense dumpling. Well I'll be durned if I didn't crack a molar on—of all things—a dumpling! I couldn't believe it!

Fortunately, the Peace Corps is a bit like the armed forces, and they take good care of all our medical needs. In fact, it is probably better that a dental emergency occurred while I was serving here, because the Peace Corps foots the entire bill. Back in America, my dental coverage isn't that great, and there would have been large copays for such work. Arrangements were quickly made by our Peace Corps Medical Officer for me to see a dentist in the capital city (an hour and a half bus ride away from my village).

Upon examination, the dentist explained to me that the tooth was indeed cracked. A large previous filling had weakened its structural integrity, making it susceptible to failure under pressure. It would require a root canal.

A root canal? I'd never had one, but I knew a lot of folks who had and nearly all of them did not enjoy it. They had been described to me as painful, and that was coming from folks I knew who had to get them in the United States. Here I was in the Third World with the sudden need to find out for myself what they are like.

In all, it required four different trips to the dentist (a three-hour round trip each time). However, I'm happy to report that everything turned out okay.

I was relieved during my first visit to see that the office seemed fairly modern and the dentist was very nice. When the time came, he injected me with enough Novocaine that I never experienced any real pain. I have no complaints whatsoever about how it all worked out.

The picture below was taken during my recent mid-term dental checkup and cleaning which the Peace Corps Medical Office arranges for us each year. As you can see for yourself, the office is fairly typical of an American dental office. I have a smile on my face because his hygienist just gave me a good report on my teeth. Just like the old Crest commercials used to say: “Look, Mom, no cavities!”

Perhaps the best validation that I indeed had nothing to fear was that on one of my early visits, after being led from the waiting room to one of the back rooms, I saw a whiteboard the staff uses to track the daily appointments. When I saw the name “Roosevelt Skerrit” (the Prime Minister of Dominica and the most powerful person on the island) scrawled on the whiteboard, I figured I must be in good hands.

Finally, there is another advantage to going to this dentist. In addition to his dental practice, he has a farm where he maintains honey bees. He sells his honey at his office, priced about 10-20% less than I see for local honey elsewhere. A 750ml bottle such as the one pictured below only cost me $30 in Eastern Caribbean dollars (a bit more than $11 U.S. dollars).

Despite my initial fears, as it turns out perhaps the ability to purchase good local honey direct from the beekeeper is the primary difference between going to the dentist here versus going to the dentist in the USA. It is a sweet arrangement!

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