Saturday, April 06, 2013

jawing with the dentist

Blogging is an interesting pursuit.

You think you have a great topic and start writing about it.  Permanent resident visa.  Wall construction.  Internet access to my bank account.  And, right in mid-sentence, a better story wanders on stage.

I will let you know about those other three topics in a day or two.  But today, class, we are back to one of the chief reasons I live in Mexico.  High quality, affordable health care.  Something Canada and the United States are never going to see with their current setups.

While I was in Oregon in January, I started developing a small infection on my left upper molar.  It didn't seem like much.  Almost as if I had trapped a bit of popcorn kernel between my teeth.

But I was not so lucky.  Within days, it had become so infected, I could not close my teeth together.  What was odd is that I knew I had had a root canal on that tooth.  The pain was not coming from the tooth.

My house sitter could not take any more of my belly and tooth-aching, and drove me to Salem Hospital's emergency room.  I predicted I had either a severe case of gingivitis, an abscess, or bone damage.
I will fast forward through this part of the story.  The 12-year old doctor who examined me could not give me a diagnosis, but he did insist on prescriptions for antibiotics (that I did take) and Vicodin (that I did not).  His sole advice: see a dentist.

The total expense?  $479.92 (US) for the hospital and $253 (US) for the doctor.

In February I had a relapse.  My Mexican doctor examined me ($300 MX -- $24.48 US) and prescribed another dose of antibiotics ($246 MX -- $20.07 US).  You might notice a slight disparity between the Mexican and American medical costs.

I was hoping I could avoid a trip to the dentist.  The hope was short-lived.

This week, the pain returned and my gum began to severely recede.  There was no more putting off what needed to be done.

So, I sat myself down in Dr. Pimienta's chair, explained my situation, and he was deep in my mouth before I could say "where's the needle?"

I am not a fan of dentists.  Even though I am not certain why.  I have a rather high tolerance for pain.  But I managed once to sprain a finger while having my teeth cleaned.  Let's just say I have a rather complex relationship with the drill set.

If I had not been repeatedly pressing down on the infected area with my tongue, I would have been shocked at the level of pain that shot through me when he stuck his probe underneath my gum and asked if I could feel that he was hitting bone immediately.  I could.

His diagnosis.  Neither gingivitis nor an abscess.  I had some serious bone deterioration going on.  And that meant potentially a rather big surgery -- a bone graft from a dentist in Guadalajara.

Color me odd, but I am rather excited about the possibility of experiencing a new surgery.  I suspect that it is hideously painful -- at least it holds that promise.  But it could be an interesting foray into Mexican medicine.  And I will do next to anything for a good story.

But the surgery appointment will need to go on hold until I return from my drive north.  So, Dr. Pimienta packed my gums with an antibiotic and sent me on my way.

Oh, wait, I forgot something.  For all of that treatment, my dental bill was $300 (MX).  $24.48 (US).  What it would have cost to park a car at an American hospital.

Next month, I will undoubtedly see the specialist in Guadalajara to determine if a bone graft is really what I need.

Until then, I am keeping my teeth crossed that the pain holds off.

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