An afternoon with a dentist

I’ve had my two molar teeth filled this afternoon. I opted for a metal filling over porcelain, the latter being more expensive which is my primary consideration, costing around a million dongs. Although the metal filling, for 600,000 dongs, will be unsightly when scrutinized, it will be hidden deep inside my mouth, so nothing to worry, I reasoned.

It seems that my unlucky days are far from over.

It’s been quite a while since the last time I visited a dentist. I fear them, their face mask, and their dreaded drill. This dentist is not different from the ones I met before. She owns a private clinic inside her house not far from where I stay, but I will probably forget the way in case I do a second visit because of the labyrinthine nhieu ngo /ni-yo ngo-o/ (many small streets) going to her house.

I used to be so proud of my even, pearly-white teeth. I remember my teachers commenting when I was still in my elementary years that my teeth are well taken care of. As far as I can recall, I was the only one in my grade five class who had no teeth cavity. That in itself was already a great feat especially that in the Philippines almost 95 per cent of the population have teeth cavity. Think of 89.3 million people needing dental health treatment. Big business if we look at it that way. But Filipinos are not so much concerned with the status of their teeth and filling the cavities in their molar as filling an empty stomach is a more urgent need.

Not until I reached college that I started to take my teeth for granted. I did brush them three times a day, of course, but the quality of the way I brushed faltered. I was always in a hurry that a three-minute brushing session was deemed excessive and impractical. I was so sad that day when after several sleepless nights caused by an aching molar, the dentist in the infirmary recommended to fill it to save the tooth. I agreed.

Seeing the pulverized remain of my tooth floating in the air while the drill mercilessly went on creating a hole to give way to that white substance dentists enjoy rolling on their thumb and index finger was traumatic.

The pain was unbearable, but what was more excruciating was the site of one of my teeth being raped, deflowered, in front me. I did nothing to stop the sacking.

This afternoon was less painful. I had to do the operation to save the rest.

Possibly tomorrow, I’ll be ready to flash a smile once again.


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