Thursday, 23 July 2015

Foreign teething difficulties

There's a scene in the Godfather Part II movie where a sick Hyman Roth, in Havana, is being seen to by a Cuban doctor who only speaks Spanish. Before leaving, the doctor gives his instructions as to what Roth should do to recuperate. As this is being relayed in English to Roth he says he wants his doctor flown in from the US as he doesn't trust one 'who can't speak English.'

Happy tooth, free from Wrong Way's mouth ...
The tooth is ... ... not in Wrong Way's mouth anyway.

It was, perhaps, a tad unfair to the Cuban doctor, he was probably competent enough. (After all, it wasn't Roth's bad health that eventually killed him but a bullet.)

Fictitious as that episode is, this is very often how people feel when dealing with medical professionals (and others) who don't speak their native tongue. The fears or lack of confidence may be unfounded yet the prejudice is hard to put to one side.

Personally, for most of my time in Bogotá I'd managed to avoid such encounters. However in recent months this has changed a little. A long-standing dental issue i.e. having a false front tooth for over a decade and a half, has required attention for the first time in years.

The results of the dentists/orthodontists advice or labour I've had thus far have been — bar one — underwhelming.

Leaving aside the experience of the first 'dentist' who didn't even wear gloves when inspecting my mouth with his hands, most of the others consulted immediately offered the most expensive option available without a thought given to cheaper alternatives.

Wrong Way: can't handle the tooth.
Indeed. (Image from
Basically we're referring to an implant with the accompanying surgery required for it.

OK, I'm obviously no expert in this but what had worked well for five years, a relatively cheap Maryland bridge, would be fine again. Or failing that — and for reasons I don't comprehend some of the dentists have said it's not an option — a standard denture would do the trick for now.

Also, it has to be stated that, unlike Mr Roth, my Spanish is good enough to both explain my situation and understand, more or less, what I'm being told. And I don't — or at least didn't at the start — have a negative opinion of these guys. All this apparent subterfuge must be because I'm not from these shores.

The whole experience has certainly made one question the mantra, which usually comes from North Americans, that dentistry standards in Colombia are exceptionally high.

A reason, maybe, for such a viewpoint is that the 'gringos' are really screwed over back home when it comes to this line of work.

Regardless of that, it be might be time to call for my own native English speaking dentist. Mother tongue knows best.
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