Sunday, October 21, 2007

October 19, 2007 - Neiafu

Seriously, would you be thrilled about having a root canal here?

As soon as we left Bora Bora, one of my molars began to bother me. Our first priority here is to get it looked at by a dentist. This morning, with some trepidation, I approached the run down hospital where the dental practice is housed. The grounds outside were covered with litter. The floors of the hallways inside had recently seen a broom, but the walls didn't look like they had seen a bucket of soapy water in a long time. I put my name on the waiting list and sat down to wait. After an hour or so, the Tongan dentist came out to ask me about the nature of my problem. She explained that Tongans don't practice preventative dental care, so every patient is an emergency. I was barely listening to her, as I was transfixed by the decorative gold inlays in several of her upper teeth. Not feeling reassured, I sat back down to wait some more.

Finishing one book, and a few chapters into my second, I was really wishing that I had brought a bottle of water with me when the volunteer dentist from Japan came out into the hall and called my name. Breathing a sigh of relief at her lack of decorative gold inlays, I followed her into the office. I was also relieved to see that the walls of the dental office had been washed down more recently than those of the hallway.

After taking x-rays, she explained that I needed a root canal and that she could do the first step that afternoon. It was already close to 5pm, so I asked her if she had time. She reassured me that she did, and we got started. I was really nervous at the start, but she was so gentle and quick to give me additional novicane whenever I started to feel pain, that I eventually relaxed. About 90 minutes and 20 shots of novicane later my rotten root was cleaned out, filled with medicine, and a temporary filling in place.

I'll need to see her two more times before I'm patched up enough to make the trip to New Zealand. I'm booked in for another appointment on Monday. In the meantime, I'm taking oral antibiotics from our medical kit, and avoiding chewing on that side of my mouth.

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