Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dental experiments

Last summer I lost a filling in Belarus and I wanted to get it replaced right away. I had heard about a razzle-dazzle dental clinic called Roden, and believing it was the best in town I tried to get an appointment there. Unfortunately, they were booked three weeks out, so I settled for an appointment at their less-fancy affiliate called Dentco. My Dentco dentist proved to be kind, attentive and effective.

Alla was so impressed by my new filling that she made an appointment with the same dentist to get her teeth cleaned. He did an amazingly great job and her teeth shined as never before. Impressed, I went back and had my own teeth cleaned and canceled the appointment I had for cleaning the week after we were to return to Boston. Everybody was happy. We saved money and we felt like we got fine care. The only thing that bothered me about this process at all was that he didn’t seem quite as thorough as the guy at home about looking for incipient problems.

Feeling somewhat rushed at Christmas time and confident of the care we received here, we decided to schedule our next tooth cleanings after our return to Belarus. This time, planning ahead, we secured appointments at the top-snob clinic that was too busy for me in the summer. Alla booked two appointments back-to-back, first me and then her.

The fancy Roden clinic is beautifully decorated. And to preserve the d├ęcor, they give their patients plastic overshoes like in a museum so we won’t track snowy slop into the office. Unfortunately, that’s about where the good experience ends. I arrived early in case they wanted me to fill out any forms, but the receptionist told me not to worry because the dentist’s assistant would fill out my forms when I entered his cabinet. So, precisely at three o’clock, I went into the cabinet with a very stern-looking dentist. Truthfully, “stern-looking” doesn’t adequately describe my impression. He looked like a gangster about to do business with somebody whom he doesn’t trust.

He brought me wordlessly into his cabinet. Hoping to break the ice a little bit and assure him that we can converse in Russian, I introduced myself. He told me his first name and offered me his limp hand. As I shook his hand, I said “Pleased to meet you,” which everybody says here. Apparently he was not pleased to meet me however, so he said nothing. He told me to sit down and wait.

I sat in the chair and found that the headrest hit me on my upper back. I pushed it up to a point that it was less miserable and waited. Uncomfortable, I turned sideways in the chair so I could sit up straight. In came the dentist and his assistant, who was wearing the same determined expression as her boss. Sit back, he ordered. They asked my name and address, which completed the pre-care interview except for a little unpleasantness over my choice of alphabets.

Next, the assistant took away my glasses and replaced them with a pair of foggy amber safety glasses. Wanting to be treated with some small level of humanity, I asked them to clean the safety glasses. “They are clean,” snapped the assistant. “Well, I can’t see through them,” I replied. I wanted to ask her to wipe them off but I don’t know the Russian word for wipe. It didn’t matter. She knew what I meant, and she said that this was as clean as they were going to get because she had sterilized them. (I saw her do this after she finished with me. She sterilizes them by rinsing them in the sink.)

Next, the dentist put his mouth up to my ear and told me that this was going to take 40 minutes and it would cost me about $100. Since this isn’t all that different from the price of a dentist I like quite well in Boston, I double-checked the price. Yep, I’d understood correctly. OK. Let’s see what this buys me.

The procedure involved some kind of micro sand blasting, which left my face an alarming chalky white. The guy worked like a demon to treat all of my teeth within the allotted time. I felt the whole 40 minutes like I was the object of some sort of dental-derby race. He never said another word to me, except for “open” and “close half way.” If he cared about me in any way, he certainly did not show it. All I cared about was getting the heck out of there.

At 3:37 it was all over. I knew this because they walked away from me. I asked the assistant, “Are we finished?”

“Yes,” she replied, “you can wash your face in the bathroom. We have napkins.” I tried to wipe my face with the tissue she had given me when I rinsed my mouth, but she redoubled her efforts to send me to the bathroom right away because they had napkins there. I don’t know what she meant because all they had in their bathroom was toilet paper.

I suggested to Alla that she should not avail herself of her appointment. Seeing my face, which appeared to be white with terror, she quickly canceled. When we got home she managed to make an appointment with the guy from last summer, who can receive her in two days. Suddenly his not-too-fancy office sounds extremely welcoming.


  1. What did your teeth look like after the sand-blasting? I hope the fella didn't ruin your enamel.

  2. I'm happy to report that my teeth look fine. Fortunately it was only the process that I didn't like.