Two weeks ago, I had my first brush with US dental care.
TMI (i.e. Too much information) you say? Why would you need to know about my visit to the dentist? Have I never visited a dentist ever?
Wait hear me out. Maybe you can learn a thing or two from my experience. Dentist offices, in as much as we’d like them to be the same, are not.
1. Here is where I learned about the need for “deep cleaning”
All I knew then was the routine teeth cleaning you have at least once a year. My dentists never mentioned ever that I needed medium or even deep cleaning. In the Philippines, it is unheard of.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard of different levels of cleaning. I first heard of it in Dubai, when the dentist said that I needed “medium cleaning” to remove the stains on my teeth from my overuse of medicated mouthwash. No I don’t smoke nor I don’t even drink coffee or tea daily.
The difference with regular cleaning? Hmm…I’m not expert. But the dentist gets deep into the gaps between the teeth as well as the gums to remove calcifications (in lay man speak: build up of unflossed food pieces mixed with saliva) that could cause gum infection.
And that was actually causing the pain I felt. It wasn’t a sharp pain, more like irritation, an itch that I could not stop scratching on my upper teeth, on the left side. I checked out my teeth in the mirror and saw that there were cavity like stains.
So in fear that it was a cavity that could lead to an even worse tooth condition, I was lucky enough to get a last minute appointment that day and rushed myself to the dental office. Good thing The Husband finally gave in to my wishes to have wheels. I just needed two. And so with my bike, I rode to the dentist’s office as swiftly and safely as I could.
2. Its not the dentist who does the cleaning procedure. There is someone called the dental hygienist.
In the Philippines and the only time that I went to the dentist in Dubai, it was the dentist who did everything. Yea, they had assistants to hand them tools and clean up, but the dentists did take care of everything in my mouth – cleaning, patching up holes, removing unwanted teeth, etc.
Here in the US, it is different. You have the dental hygienist who takes care of teeth cleaning needs. Guess you could call her the maid of your teeth. Then you have the dentist, who works on everything else that does not involve cleaning like if you need anesthesia and other higher level procedures such as tooth fillings and extraction. They could be like the engineers of your teeth. Or something like that.
3. And about anesthesia, these American dentists sure don’t skimp on the anesthesia.
Apart from the topical anesthesia slathered on my gums and teeth, the dentist injected more anesthesia into my gums and teeth.
And how did I feel?
Well, everything in the circumference of my upper lip and chin lost feeling. Numb. I thought that my lips were doing Angelina Jolie duck lip and drooping all at the same time.
The anesthesia eventually wore off two hours after the procedure. And then that’s when I realized, oh yeah, that’s why the loaded up on anesthesia. Aside from the fear of lawsuits I guess.
4. These American dental hygienists and dentists seem to be born cheerleaders.
Every so often, in between teeth grinds and scrapes, the dental hygienist and dentist would ask how I was doing. I mean, I was doing okay, pretty tolerant with the grinding of metal against bone and a little feeling from the force pushed inside the mouth, except for the occasional face cringe.
So I’d say “I’m doing okay” and they’d always answer like I was painting the Mona Lisa wth an exuberant “Awesome!” or “Great!”
Its not a bad thing. I’m not just used to dental professionals being all cheery. Dentists from the Philippines are more apologetic, always saying “sorry” and that “this will not last long”, whenever doing any dental procedure.
5. Dental care is damn expensive.
My total bill for deep cleaning and 2 hygienist visits, which includes the follow up visit and another one next year totalled to US$883.10 (That’s almost PHP 40,000!)e. And that already includes a discount since I paid in full.
Okay, sadly, The Husband and I still do not have health and dental insurance. Why? Because it’s still damn expensive! To be discussed in another post at another time.
So when in the US, take extra care of your teeth. Prevention is key, so you don’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Get an electric toothbrush (or a really good manual one and brush the hell out of your teeth). Brush your teeth after every meal or at least twice a day. Floss , as much as you can, before brushing your teeth. Visit your dentist every six months.
P.S. This is not much of a lesson, but more something I miss: the American dentist chair did not have that sink, where you gargle with water laced with mouthwash in between scrapes and grinds.
Instead, the dental hygienist or dentist will latch on a hose on the edge of your mouth to suck out the saliva and rinse out the teeth gunk and blood with another hose.
So that means all the dental debris I get to actually swallow? Maybe some get suctioned out of your mouth, but yes, I think all the debris I swallowed. Ack.
I guess there is some psychological comfort knowing that you do spit out the gunk and see it go down the drain.