I have never bought into the whole travel insurance thing. So far, (and do I tempt fate here?) I have not suffered the sorts of emergencies that travel insurance issuers claim to help out with. Never lost any baggage from a flight, or been bumped and forced to overnight. Haven’t had an expensive “non-refundable” trip canceled. No accidents resulting in bodily harm, though I’ve had my share of close calls as a pedestrian in the chaotic traffic of Greece and Italy. My overall health is good. I quit smoking many years ago. I’m ignoring the weight factor, I’m alright. Regrettably, I never took care of my teeth, ever. I mean I brush, of course, but that’s more a hygiene thing than a health habit. Guilt flossing is the only kind I have ever practiced, and it ends about a week after a cleaning. I try to get my appointments scheduled for cleaning whenever I am in Bishop, at least twice a year, that’s where my records from childhood are. I learned years ago that with a little work I could save my teeth from the brutal periodontal disease that I was beginning to suffer from. I flossed for two weeks after that visit.
Not a week prior to departing Canada for our six week trip to the Italian Riviera I acknowledged a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty bit of discomfort under my left molar. Allowed myself to note that there was the slightest irregularity, and then promptly put the information somewhere else, knowing you can’t have major dental work and then fly in a jet, back to back. This was nothing, anyway.
Less than a week after we arrived in this wealthy, pristine, mostly non-English speaking, seaside resort town, I was in trouble. One minute I’m tossing peanuts, “Snack Friends” (I always love the choice of when to use English, and how, in a foreign country) into my mouth, the next “Ow-WoW-OWWWW.” This is not going to be good. Putting my thumb on one side of the molar, and my index finger on the other I gently pushed, and to my surprise the entire tooth swayed effortlessly, if not painlessly, side to side. Adult teeth in motion are a bad, bad thing. Crap. This is going to get bad.
First thing Monday morning, which is 9 a.m. around here, I sought out help to find a dentist, an English speaking dentist. I HAD to be able to discuss the facts that I already knew, I was going to loose my tooth. Wanting to avoid further pain (though I was not in a lot) but mostly thinking about the costs, I had built myself up to accept the loss and did not want to be talked into any sorts of major tactics to save it. Like my mother, I am pragmatic when it comes to these things. And as she so classically said later to me “You don’t need all 32 anyway”.
By noon I was tilted head down in a blue leather dentists chair, distracted by the shimmery reflection of the sea dancing through the sliding glass doors of the examination room. Ocean front dentistry. Classy. My new Italian Dr. took a look, shook his head.
“How old are you?” I answered. Another shake. “It’s too bad for such a young woman, well, or man either, but someone so young to loose a tooth.” These were his first words about my situation, and I was instantly at ease. Ahh, ok, so he knows it too, it’s a goner. I didn’t have to talk him out of some gigantic procedure, I quickly agreed with him, it sure is a shame. I understood the words when he explained to his assistant that I’d had a periodontal rupture, I nodded in agreement. I didn’t really understand, but it sounded about right for what I knew of my poor ignored chompers. He took an x-ray, pausing at the door to quickly check “Are you pregnant, no?” No, I grunted through the mouthful of film jabbing my soft mouth flesh. Too late to say anything about protective cover, click-zap and the telling image had been taken.
By 1:00 p.m. I had been completely over-anesthetized, the Dr. mistaking one mumble full of hands for another and giving me an extra shot just in case. I never have understood dentists asking questions that can’t be intended to be answered. In this case, I learned they probably just guess. The sick, short rooted, cavity filled molar had been ripped and twisted free from causing any further damage. I felt nothing. As the Dr. worked to suture the already healing wound, I started having trouble with my right eye, it began blinking uncontrollably, I couldn’t stop it. Irritating, like twitching but without that pulsating sensation, blink, blink, blink, blink. Uugh! But wait. No, it wasn’t a problem with my right eye blinking, it was that my left eye was completely unable to blink. I wish I had a picture of my dimple smiling face, one half able to produce the dimple, smile wrinkles gathering at the edges of my eyes. The other 100% wide-eyed and frozen solid, bonus – no wrinkles. I physically had to hold my eyelid down to protect against the breeze, when I left the office later. Weird.
Making my follow-up appointment had the assistant a little flustered. “I’m sorry” she waved to me “I don’t even know your name!” I slurred the best I could, clenching on gauze and wishing I could just go now, trying to assure her that it was fine, we didn’t have to go through the paperwork. Her offers to sit with me and translate them were nice, and maybe not entirely sincere, but I assured her it was unneccesary. She must have read my mind earlier as I began to recount the entire event, from emergency walk-in to extraction took about 1.5 hours and they never even took my name. I was thrilled by the expediency of the whole thing. I don’t think a foreigner would receive the same treatment in my own country. As I paid the $150 bill, x-ray & consultation included, I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t receive the same treatment in my own country, Insurance or not!