Saturday, August 23, 2008

At the odontóloga's office

As I've mentioned many times on this blog, one of the joys of overseas travel is the way that just being in a foreign country can take something that would be tedious at home and transform it into something exciting and different - instant adventure, if you will. A case in point was my visit to the dentist earlier today. Readers will recall that the most exciting episode of last Sunday evening's tango spectacle debacle occurred when the Mentos I was chewing lifted a filling right out of one of my lower left molars. That's right: Mentos -- "the freshmaker" and "the toothbreaker".

As a result, 11 a.m. today found me in the office of the efficient Dottora Paula Gualtieri, who took care of my little dental emergency with great charm and professionalism. (In the course of trying to reach Dr Paula during the week, I did end up chatting with her father on the phone for five minutes. Though it seemed inappropriate to ask him directly, it seems highly unlikely that the family is in any way related to the infamous General "Malvinas" Gualtieri. Just in case anyone was wondering.)

There were some notable differences between this morning's appointment and a typical dentist's visit in San Francisco:

  • In the ten years that I've been going to Doctor Victor in S.F., neither he, nor his dental hygienist, has ever greeted me by kissing me on the cheek.
  • Judging by the numbering system that Doctor Paula was using for my dental chart, Argentine patients appear to have 48 teeth. Something I hadn't personally noticed up until now, but you can be damned sure I will be on the lookout for those toothy porteños from now on.
  • For what it cost to replace the filling ("el empaste"), I would barely be allowed in the building where Doctor Victor's office is located. 100 pesos. That's 33 US dollars, children. For 30 minutes of the dentist's and her assistant's time. I felt almost embarrassed.

There were some similarities as well:

  • Apparently, it is a global requirement for all dentists to give you a free toothbrush, a tiny tube of toothpaste, and a leaflet showing you how best to brush your teeth, before allowing you to leave the office.
  • You're never done. By definition, there's always something else. Whether it's the poking around your mouth with sharp pointy metal tools, or an innate ability to spot budding caries from 500 meters (I lean toward the former explanation), every dentist wants you back in that chair.

I consented to one more visit, because - I have to admit - I had been wondering if that surface irregularity I could feel with my tongue might not be a new "hueco" starting up. So, by the time I leave Argentina, it's possible I may have racked up nearly 100 bucks in dental bills. Will I be endeavoring to recuperate this expenditure from Kaiser Permanente? I doubt it, somehow. Life is way too short....

On my way home from the dentist, I wandered along Avenida Rivadavia (the Buenos Aires equivalent of Toronto's Yonge Street - it's very long) for about 40 of its 100 blocks. I didn't have my camera with me, but maybe it's just as well.

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