This is not my mouth. I just needed to get that straight before I started writing.
Dental hygiene here in American Samoa leaves a lot to be desired. Children often lose their teeth as toddlers due to decay, and almost all adults have either missing or gold teeth. It’s just the way it is.
Before we moved here, we took everyone for cleaning and check ups, and then kept our fingers crossed that we could go two years without any dental problems.
None of my kids have ever had cavities, but I have the worst teeth in the world (I’m British after all) so I should have known that if anyone was to have a dental problem, it would be me. Seems like my teeth get weaker when I’m pregnant too, because the majority of the dental work I’ve had done has been when I’m pregnant (or maybe it’s just because I’m pregnant so much of my life!)
Anyway, a couple of Saturdays ago when I found a bit of tooth in my mouth, I was not happy. It continued to crumble a little over the next week and I knew I was in trouble. I had such a stereotype about the dentists here, that I wanted to avoid them at all costs. Could I hold off on treatment for 8 more months? Maybe I could make an appointment when we’re in Australia in November…and then the toothache started.
The strongest painkiller that I have here that’s safe for pregnancy is Tylenol, but that didn’t too much. My tooth ached whenever I ate, and then for several hours afterwards.
Before we went to Fiji in June, Michael and I watched the movie Castaway to get in the mood (it was filmed there) and I just kept getting flashbacks now of the scene where he knocks his own tooth out with the ice skate…how long do I let the pain go on before I get treatment? I really didn’t want them to pull my tooth out or give me a gold tooth.
After 10 days of toothache, I decided I needed to go in. I called the dental clinic to find out what I needed to do, and was told it was not possible to get an appointment. First, you have to come in and register and pay $10. Then you wait in the walk-in clinic to be examined, and then you will be given a diagnosis, and you will then have an appointment to come back on another day to get the work done.
OK! I psyched myself up and decided to do it. This was at 9am, and the walk-in clinic closed at 10am. Perfect, I wouldn’t have that long to wait. I called up Michael and asked him to take care of the kids while I went in to get registered. I registered, paid my money, and made my way over to the waiting room. It was full. There were no seats available. I sat down on the cold concrete floor and waited. No-one even offered the pregnant lady their seat!
After about half an hour, I asked how long the wait was, and I was told “about 2 hours”. Awesome. I called Michael who couldn’t miss that much time off work, and so he dropped the kids back off with me. Double awesome. We talked about any friends that might be options, but all of the Moms here work. There is only one stay at home Mom and she has to pick up her son from half day school, so that wouldn’t work. I was on my own.
After a while of sitting around and no-one being called back, I decided to bail. I took the kids to MacDonald’s for an hour so that they could play. My intention was to be back before my name was called. I was a little bit nervous, but went ahead. We got drive through when we were done playing and then ate in outside the clinic while we waited. At noon I asked Michael to come and get the kids and take them home so that the little girls could nap.
I was told that there were only 2 people ahead of me now, so I was hopeful Michael wouldn’t have to miss too much work.
I waited…and waited…and waited…I counted 4 people that were called in ahead of me. It was 12.45pm and I was starting to think I would be here the whole day. I can’t believe that I left at 9am this morning, that this was just for a screening, and that I would have to do this all over again tomorrow. I had to be home by 2.15pm because I had soccer practice after school and I couldn’t be late because I am the coach! (Yes, that’s my new role, I’ll write a separate post later…)
Finally I was called back and the dentist was very friendly. I told him my problem and that I was expecting so that they would put the lead apron on before xrays. He didn’t even do xrays. He didn’t even do an exam. He almost wouldn’t do anything at all…I told him that I was allergic to latex and asked him to use latex free gloves. What was I thinking??? This is the same clinic that doesn’t have band aids for immunizations in the pediatric clinic. Why would they carry latex free gloves? He asked me why I needed them…guess no-one else on this island has such an allergy. I told him that I get burning and itching in my mouth and that my mouth starts to swell up. (In serious cases your airway can close up, although that has never happened to me). He didn’t want to treat me, and it was pretty disturbing to be told to go home after waiting over 4 hours. I just wanted him to do it with bare hands at this point, and couldn’t he see that I didn’t have any contagious diseases?!!!?
Finally he looked inside and saw the problem. He said that since I was expecting, they could not treat me properly right now, and could only do something for the pain. He decided that my tooth needed to be filled, and then I could do more after the birth. He did the filling right then and there with no numbing at all! I didn’t even know what was going on, he just started drilling! I asked him if it was going to be white or gold (sorry to be so vain) and he said white. I was so relieved that I wouldn’t have to go through all of this again the next day.
I really don’t like going to the dentist. In fact, I would rather have my annual physical than go to the dentist. Considering some of the awful dental experiences that I have had in my life, this actually turned out to be a pretty good experience. Hey, if qualified dentists in Utah can cut me with their drill, and another would allow the spinning hot drill bit to fall off into my mouth and almost choke me, anything would have been an improvement. So, for four hours of waiting, only $10, and my pain to go away, I’ll log this one down as a success.