My phone rang this evening as I was getting cozy in my room. When I answered the unfamiliar number, a woman spoke. It sounded like she was speaking Khmer, so I answered “this phone is in Anglais (French for English). The thick accented voice said, “Yes, it is your dentist”.
She was calling to see how my tooth was; if I was feeling any pain. Seriously! She then proceeded to tell me that I could eat dinner and to remember to take my antibiotic. She ended by wishing me a good evening and that she would see me at 1:00 on Wednesday. As I hung up the phone in a state of disbelief, I reflected upon the events that led up to the call…
A few days after arriving at Wat Opot, I started to have a terrible tooth ache. One evening the pain was unbearable and I was up all night. The gums were swollen and the tooth was pushed out so every time I inadvertently closed my teeth together I would jerk awake and sit up in pain! I ended up taking the pain medication I had left over from when I had kidney stones. It made my headache go away, but not the tooth pain…
The next morning Wayne told me to take some Amoxicillin to ward off infection (which is what was probably going on). At that point I knew it was not something that was going away and that I would have to go to the dreaded dentist…luckily Wayne had a referral in the city; one who he had gone to before, so on Sunday evening I caught the bus to Phnom Penh with Caroline who was heading back after visiting WOCC for the day.
Monday I went to the Suor Sdey Dental Clinic and was led right in (without an appointment!) The female dentist, Cheng Leakhena, asked me what was wrong and after failing to tell her which tooth hurt, I tried to point to the one. When you figure the size of a finger in comparison to a tooth, it was not easy to exactly pinpoint the right one. I gave her a blank look when she asked me if it was my pre-molar or my first molar, so she then handed me a mirror and put her little pointy pointer thingy on my (newly discovered to me) first molar, I said yes, that one.
After getting an ex-ray; which was shown and explained to me, it was determined that I needed a root canal, but not in the tooth I thought was the problem one. As the pain was kind of between two teeth, I figured it was my first molar, but she informed me that nope it was my second pre-molar. (or the fifth tooth on the top) She proceeded to drill away telling me to let her know if I have pain, which thankfully I didn’t. I continually had to remind myself to relax after realizing time and time again that my arms and hands were clenched. It wasn’t painful, it’s the unremitting whining of the drill – which by the way, sounds the same regardless of the country you are in.
After a while she pulled out this long pin thing and showed it to me with the comment “your tooth die”.
You know at that moment, I had a weird feeling…like I was floating over an operating room as the doctors who tried in vain to save a soul did not succeed and commented “I am sorry, we did all we could, but he did not make it”. I blinked a couple times to come back to reality and (since I couldn’t speak with my mouth open and a saliva sucker going) I just had to nod and contemplate whether she really said ‘die’?. She then showed me the long pin thing which had some brown gunk on it and again said “the tooth die”.
I wasn’t sure, but what I came up with was that the tooth was pretty bad and the hole in the root was producing some pretty gross stuff! As she jammed the pin thing in the tooth over and over (wiping it on a cloth each time) I practiced my ignorance is bliss meditation…basically imagining that the pin had soft little bristles on it and she was just cleaning the hole much like one would clean a baby bottle. I unclenched my fists and felt myself relaxing and soon she was putting the temporary filling into the tooth. Temporary because I have to come back 2 more times (seemingly a 3 step process) before it is; provided it doesn’t take 4 steps. When I was checking out and telling them that I could stay in the city for another day and come back on Wed. she showed me the cost chart…the financial damages…$35.00 for a root canal plus $3 for the ex-ray.. I said “$35 per visit?” which she answered, “no, $35 for the whole thing”. She then added that she doesn’t charge extra for foreigners (which is the norm here).
I was dreading the whole procedure and wondering if I should have gotten a second opinion, but then she did show me the ex-rays which blatantly showed the hole hitting a nerve or something. The call tonight solidified my decision and I think I am actually looking forward to Wednesday – and maybe another tear jerker Indian meal, which will be waiting for me right around the corner…
After making it back to my room; curisoty got the better of me and I had to look up exactly what a root canal is...now I know more than I wanted to, but this photo made sense into what happened to me today!