26 July 2006

Dentally Assaulted

A filling fell out of one of my teeth last week, taking most of the tooth with it. As I don't have a dentist I had to go to the Dental Hospital.

I called in advance and they the only way to get treatment is to show up at 07:30 to get a number then there'd be a minimum two hour wait and I'd get treated, first untruth. I showed up at 06:45 on Friday morning (I booked the day off work) and there was already a queue of 8 people. By the time they opened the doors at 07:40 there was a queue of about 30 people. After the pushing and shoving I was 12th in line and got number 12. I was then told to come back at 13:30 as they would only be treating 10 people that morning and 10 in the afternoon. So if you want treatment there get there for 06:30 and bring something to sit on (that folds up quickly into something that can be used as a weapon) and a book.

I hung around in town for a while, did a bit of shopping and drank far too much coffee.

At about 13:00 I went back to the hospital and took a seat in the ground floor waiting room, as instructed. After about 45 minutes they opened up reception and started to call people through. I noticed that a lot of the people they were calling through didn't have a number and hadn't been there at 07:40, which revealed the second untruth. You don't have to show up early and get a number, you can be referred or even make an apppointment if you've been treated there before.

After about 25 minutes my number was called and I went to the reception desk and gave my details (Name, address, full servicemedical history &c) then was sent to sit down in the waiting area again. Another 15 minutes passed and my name was called. I went into a side room which contained about half a dozen dentists chairs. I was dragged to one where a guy in his 40s (I guess a dentist) took my details including stuff like allegies (including the fact that I'm allergic to latex, i.e. what their examination gloves are made of) then looked in my mouth and confirmed that a large chunk of one of my molars had disapeared and the tooth would have to be pulled (the one positive thing about the dental hospital, they don't try to pad their income by 'saving' a tooth), I could have told them that at 07:40 that morning. I was sent to another waiting room, on the second floor this time.

About 15 minutes later I was called through and was seen by a student dentist who (based on his accent, body langauge and general manner) seemed to be from India, probably the Southern half and probably somewhere quite rural but with access to a large town or city (his English was excellent, better than many native speakers), probably Hindu or non-practicing Sikh (when you live and work in such a multi-ethnic environment as I do you learn to spot these things, I'm only mentioning the races to flesh out the story). He poked and prodded for a while and rattled some instruments around in my mouth, then he called over his supervisor to check his conclusions. His supervisor was a practicing Sikh who (from his turban, accent and body language) seemed to have either been born in the UK (probably London) or in Kenya and moved to the UK at an early age. The supervisor looked and prodded then confirmed what the dentist on the ground floor had said, better to have a secondthirdfourth (remember, I'd said from the get go what the problem was) diagnosis. They then sent me to the first floor to have an X-ray because they wanted to see where the roots went so they'd know if they would need to nick my gum.

I sat in another waiting room for a while then was subjected to a student X-ray tech (East African, I think) ramming his latex covered fingers down my throat (and wondering why I was choking) followed by his supervisor (Sutton Coldfied or Knowle) doing likewise with her fingers and bafflement as they tried to get the film in place. After I fought them off and finished retching I positioned the film (I was, after all, the one who knew for sure where the tooth in question was) and they took the shot. Usual delay for developing and I was looking at an X-ray of my tooth. I went back up to the second floor waiting room and waited.

Five minutes later (at least the waiting times were getting shorter) I was called back through to the treatment room where they told me they'd pull the tooth, they might need to nick my gum but it would be a small nick and they'd be able to sew it up no problems. I had a local aneasthetic (which hurt out of all proportion and tasted awful when it dripped on my tongue) and layed back, I sat up swilled and rinsed then layed back again. The student dentist snapped off the remainder of my tooth above the surface of the gum whilst asking his nurse what the various tools were for. He then called over his supervisor who looked at his work and said they'd have to drill out the rest of the tooth. Much rattling and drilling (interspersed with instructions to mount the burr the correct way around next time) they had removed all but one root and large chunks of the bone of my upper jaw. The supervisor explained that this root was a big one and curved, he also explained that they had to be careful. He then asked the student why they had to be careful. "There's a nerve behind it" the student guessed (wrong), "An artery" he tried again (wrong again). I thought about giving the right answer but the supervisor seemed determined to make this a learnig moment so I lay quietly bleeding into my mouth from the thumping great hole in my gum. Eventually (after the student had worked is way through every organ, bone, nerve, blood vessel and unidentifiable purple wibbly thing known to mankind (and a few known only to grey aliens from Proxima Centauri) except the right one) the supervisor relented and pointed out my sinus cavity, which if pierced would be a bad thing. Realisation dawned. More drilling and burring then some pulling and the root was out along with more hunks of upper jaw. The supervisor put a couple of stiches in then got the student to out some more in. After stiching my gum to my inner cheek then lower lip (also sewing part of my lips together) he eventually got a few stiches where they were supposed to be. I was sent on my way with an instruction to avoid heavy exercise (so not a problem) and to take Neurophen for the pain, not anything with Asprin in as that slows clotting, preferably before the aneasthetic wore off. By the time I got to a chemists (the Dental hospital is right in the jamedoulas so it was a bit of a hike) to buy some Neurophen the anaesthetic had worn off. I bought the pills and some water to take them with then took them and went to the bus stop.

4 days later and I'm still in pain, my gum is still swollen (although less so than it was this morning).

I realise that the dental hospital is used to dealing with indigents, but that's no excuse for poor service and substandard care.

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