By Anne - December 2010
One of my biggest fears that I had about coming to China was going to the dentist here. I like “the gas” when I get my teeth cleaned and have become accustomed to it. I usually get my teeth cleaned every three months because I am a tartar-making machine and my three-month mark was up a few weeks ago. I inquired around for dentists and how I could get “the gas” among teacher China vets. Bad news was found…nitrous oxide is not allowed for cleanings, only surgery. NO!!!
I found an American dentist and explained my situation to him and said that if I couldn’t have “the gas” I would need to come in dead drunk. He said he specialized in the “anxious patient” back in the states and reassured me he would take good care of me. I booked my appointment for after school on a Friday in case I needed to recover the next day. I fought the urge to get a “shot” (or two) at the local shot bar and jumped in a taxi after school last Friday and headed for the dentist. I was dropped off at a place that looked like a nondescript dump with lots of cement. (Common for China, you cannot judge a building by its exterior.) Upon entering, I noticed right away that it was a beautiful place with a few businesses, doctor’s offices, massage, and a large dental clinic. Nice place to suffer in, I guess. If I scream when she hits a nerve in one of my many “pockets”, the marble will allow the sound to vibrate throughout the building. My advanced apologies for the people getting a massage.
After filling out my paperwork, wiping the sweat from my brow, using the squatty potty for the last time (it IS China after all), I headed into the chair. I noticed the little sink/bowl to spit in from when I was a kid. They still have those here.
To make a short story long, a Chinese woman dentist, Dr. Barbara, cleaned my teeth by hand. Her assistant hovered close with a paper towel for Dr. Barbara to wipe all my tartar and plaque on. It was a team effort. I turned up my iPod as to try to escape to another land…the beaches of Maui. It worked. The skillful, swift hands of Dr. Barbara were amazing. I had not even one moment of unfomfortableness (I know, not a word.) When she was done polishing, the old fashioned way, I got to use the little sink. That’s when I missed. It’s a small bowl for a large American mouth full of long awaited water. My spit landed on the floor. Dr. Barbara just new a few words of dental “English” and those words were all used up when we were finished. I pointed to the floor and said in Chinese, “I’m sorry.” and she responded “ayi” – meaning the maid (cleaning lady) would take care of it. She actually said a lot more, but I only caught on to the word, “ayi” (pronounced eye-ee), and guessed at the rest. I do a lot of assuming and guessing these days. She was very kind about my missed attempt at bowl spitting.
I paid my RMB 350 ($ 53 USD) and the receptionist called a taxi for me. My clean teeth and I smiled all the way home.
I survived the dentist and now I know where to go every three months. I’m not sure how clean my teeth really are, but at least she didn’t hit a nerve. One more fear conquered for me. Next is trying to find a retinal specialist. Yikes.