August 1, 2008

The Dentist and Thanksgiving Dinner

July 3, 2008

The morning felt so "normal." The group left on their excursion to an appliance factory, a blimp factory, and a kids camp, while I sat in front of a computer catching up on email and *finally* posting a few blog entries. The quiet did have an edge of anticipation - much like the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you approach the crest of the first hill on a roller coaster: hoping everything will be fun once the real ride begins, but always having a bit of fear that the car might careen off the tracks and you will free-fall to your death. OK, I'm being melodramatic, but I hate going to the dentist in Chicago - I was NOT looking forward to my adventure with a Russian dentist.

Ron decided to go with me as he feared that he had lost a filling some days earlier (and he was gleefully looking forward to the opportunity for a photo shoot of the petrified American in the dentist's chair). We also had Zhenya, one of the American Home teachers, with us. I could tell the dentist what happened, but my dental terminology is sorely lacking. Zhenya would - thankfully - be able to translate 'root canal' and 'big drill' and 'knock my ass out if you need to do any serious work on my mouth.'

I'm not sure if it was a good omen or not when the skies opened up just as the taxi pulled into the driveway of the American Home. It POURED cat and dog sized raindrops. I guess it was a good distraction - not only did I have NO IDEA where we were headed, but it seemed possible that we wouldn't make it to the dentist's office, what with the potential to hydroplane and crash before we arrived at our destination.

Alas, we made it. The dentists were on break, but the receptionist took my information. She was relieved that I could write my name and birthdate in Russian and I was relieved (and surprised) that this was all the information she needed from me.

Then we waited. We waited long enough for the cleaning woman to mop the floor of the reception area and for my anxiety to be transformed into full-fledged DREAD.

When I was finally called back into the room, I climbed into a normal dental chair in a very clean, airy room. Problem was, aside from the chair, all of the tools laid out on the tables and trays looked ENORMOUS and about 50 years old! Everything was clean and sterile, but it was obvious that this was not brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment. I will say that everything was arranged beautifully like a museum exhibit. Those are my only impressions before Ron asked if it was OK to take some pictures of me in the chair. The dentist was a kind, young woman who listened to my story, looked in my mouth and sent me down the hall for an x-ray.

To clarify: there are no x-ray machines in the examination room as there are in the United States. I was asked to sit on a chair in a very small, dark room. The technician positioned the heavy shield over my torso and instructed me to take my arm out of its safe position under the shield to hold the x-ray film in the necessary spot. Then, she pressed a button and RAN out of the room, slamming the door behind her. CLICK. X-ray taken. Technician returns to rescue me, and I'm soon back in the dentist's chair.

The verdict: the tooth is indeed broken (it was where I had a root canal and it wasn't my "real" tooth anyway) and would need to be completely rebuilt. Did I want her to do it right then? Uh, no. But, we asked several more questions to ascertain that everything would be OK until we got back to the States - no chance of it becoming infected or the entire tooth crumbling or falling out. Then, I was able to say very definitively, "NYET, spasibo." Phew. I will add that as relieved as I was, I was chided by Alexei, who said that I should have had the procedure done in Russia where the problem would have been immediately resolved without several office visits, daunting co-payments, etc. But, at least I can tell my dentist to knock me out before she attacks the tooth and know that she understood my request.

When we had accomplished Operation Dental Visit, I went back "home" and Ira and Ksenia took me shopping for ingredients to cook dinner for the family. Andrei likes turkey, so I made a Russified version of a simple, American Thanksgiving meal. Baked turkey cutlets in white wine and lemon sauce, boiled new potatoes, served with butter and greens [dill, parsley, spring onions], and salad. It felt great to actually do something for my family and everyone laughed at my dental office drama. And I even had all of my teeth in order to chew...

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