10 September 2011

CRUNCH... CRACK... Adventures in Dentistry

The other day the Dean of the Cathedral had lunch brought in for all the staff in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. A scrumptious feast of braised pork, chicken, salmon filets, salads, rice, noodles, and a few things I'm not entirely certain what they were, was laid out in one of the gathering halls.

Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the big holidays in Hong Kong, right up there with Chinese New Year. For months there have been advertisements for mooncakes, a traditional food eaten during the festival, plastering the walls of the MTR and outside bakeries. They are given as gifts and are to be eaten while gazing at the full moon, preferably with a cup of Chinese tea. The festival celebrates the story of Chang'e, a deity that lives on the moon (and with rabbits in some of the stories). Monday is the actual Mid-Autumn Festival Day, coordinating with the Full Moon, and the following day (Sept 13) is a holiday. (Father Dwight says because everyone has been out all night reveling and looking at the moon!)

I sat down with my plate and began to dig in, choosing one of the pork pieces to start off. While I'm chewing I hear CRUNCH... CRACK... and feel something dislodge in my mouth. Alarmed, I spit out what I was eating---along with part of my tooth! One of my molars had cracked on an unseen bone!

Suffice to say I lost my appetite and only nibbled--carefully--at what was left on my plate. My co-workers said they would refer me to a dentist and take me there so I could have my tooth fixed.

After lunch Manang Sol, the two Finnish interns and I set off for the dentist's office in Wan Chai. The whole tram ride there I kept feeling the broke tooth and worrying that they would have to pull it out. The tooth in question had an old silver filling, which I had not had replaced due to the expense and my lack of dental insurance in the States.

When we arrived a girl came out of the back room with three teeth in a little bag and in a lot of pain. I hoped and prayed that I would not share her fate! The dentist was a Filipino woman who was acquainted with the Mission--I guess they have recommended people there before. Manang Sol ('Manang' means 'Older Sister', a sign of respect) was great with coordinating what was going on--I was totally clueless!

Once back in the dentist's chair she asked what I wanted done. This is not what I am used to--usually the dentist tells ME what they're going to do, not the other way around! So I asked her what my options were. She said she could either fix the filling or put a crown over the tooth. I asked what the price difference was--HK$350 for the filling, HK$3,000 for the crown. "You mean you won't have to pull it?!" She gave me an odd look and said, "No, but if that's what you want...?" "Ah, no! The filling will be fine."

She had to drill out the rest of my old silver filling, which she started to do without any Novocaine. After a few seconds of drilling and that awful metal-on-metal feeling that kind of resonates in your bones, I managed to ask if she was going to give me a shot. "Oh, did you want one?" YES PLEASE. So she gave me a shot to  numb my mouth.

The rest of the process went like any other trip to the dentist for a filling. Lots of drilling and pastes and that light that hardens the filling. After about 45 minutes she was done. She had to leave part of the filling because the cavity was so extensive and she didn't want to get too close to the nerve and damage it with the light. I didn't mind---I got to keep my tooth after all!

I am a lot more careful when eating meat now. Definitely learned a lesson!!

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