It was with a heavy heart I realised a tooth had started to hurt when I imbibed a hot drink. As everyone knows, sensitivity to hot fluids mean tooth decay, cold fluids means you’re being a pansy. I put it off for a few weeks but the frequency of toothache increased so I asked Canada’s Finest Jazz Vocalist if he knew the best dentist in the local area.
“Easy peasy, lemon squeezy” he enthused. “Oral Dental Centre, 3rd Floor, Amarin Plaza. Frickin’ awesome set of dudes. Best on the planet.”
So not “difficult, difficult, lemon difficult”, then?
With such a ringing endorsement, I trundled off with leaden footsteps. I dread the dentist, like all Brits. A perception as a nation of bad teeth isn’t something that’s been made up. Couple that with either engaging in the public riot over trying to get a place in the shrinking pool of NHS dentists or the woeful realization that private dentistry on the Sceptered Isle is tantamount to a second mortgage on your home….and you’ve got a national reluctance to engage the metal toothpick wielding profession. Usually I can get to Amarin Plaza in 7 minutes. This time it took me 15 as I found excuses to admire the traffic….one shiny taxi, one not shiny taxi, one shiny taxi, one not shiny taxi…this is going to hurt, this is not going to hurt. Oooh. A blue taxi. Extra points!
Ever played “Horses and Cemeteries”? No? A national Canadian driving pastime, apparently. This was a bit like that. Anyway, I digress….
I entered the plaza with an accusing stare at Starbucks, MacDonalds and a Dunkin Donuts – all likely partners in crime to cause this visit – and climbed the 36 steps (I counted) to the third floor. No sign of a dentist so I decided to go left. Rounding the corner at the end it hove into view. All gleaming windows that framed posters of smiling, happy people with perfectly airbrushed teeth. Apart from that it seemed empty other than the receptionist I spied through the glass door.
I took a deep breath and pushed. It swung open silently on oiled hinges. The occupant looked up – a lady in her late thirties at a guess – and smiled. Perfect teeth, of course.
I cleared my throat. Began. “Uh,…poot pah sah angrit bpen mai?” (can you speak English with me?) my constant opening gambit these days before I do those Thai lessons.
“Impeccably, sir. What may I help you with today?” she smiled back at me. Er what? My brain stopped for a few seconds.
“Um, I’ve been recommended you by a friend. I need a tooth looked at, and, of course, a general check up to see if anything else needs fixing.”
“Of course, sir. Can I ask you to take a seat over there and fill out this form whilst I get the dental surgeon to come and discuss your case?”
“Um, sure. OK. That would be great. Thanks.”
She reached under her desk and pulled out an ipad. In teeth-sparkling white. Pressed a button then turned it to face me. “If you could fill out the form. Press “return” at the end when you finish.”
An IPAD????? I lurched over to the seat next to some polished fish swimming around in what looked like a HD fish tank. Looked at the form. Usual questions: name, age, address, date, medical history, reason for visiting. ah “Who recommended You?” Dutifully I scrawled in “Canada’s Finest Jazz Vocalist”. I got to the end, pressed “Return”. The page blinked away replaced with a polite note for me to return the form to the receptionist. I looked up, saw her watching me so I stood, walked over and gave it to her. It disappeared back under her desk.
“Now, if you’d care to step this way, sir. The dentist can see you now.” I was ushered softly up three steps, through more glass doors and into what looked like the flight deck of the Star Ship Enterprise (2009 edition). The dental surgeon – another lady in her mid 40s perched on a high-tech stool – smiled at me. “Take a seat. What seems to be the problem?”
“I…ah…um. Well, I’ve got a chipped tooth and I’d like a general check up. I…ah…live in Bangkok and I am…er…going to need a permanent dentist. I was…um…recommended to come to you and I thought that if this went…uh…well..then maybe I could come here…um…forever?” I finished in a rush. Blinked profusely.
“Not a problem. Why don’t you take a seat, we’ll have a look, then do some x-rays and a general clean and work out what’s best for you?”
“Sure, that’s great. Thanks.” I went over to the usual dentist chair I’d’ve found in the UK. The only difference was this one seemed to be covered in memory foam and a pillow was gently eased under my head. They could have launched me into orbit and I’d’ve barely noticed the Gs whilst on it. Whilst I was climbing on board the dentist had quietly donned her apparel. The usual gloves and coverall, but rather than a cloth face mask and goggles she was wearing what looked like an iMask. It was simply cool. I immediately wanted one. She took advantage of my agape mouth to peer inside. Neither pursed lips, nor shakes of the head, nor “oh deary me”, nor “that’s not good”, nor “that needs to come out.” This one was clearly a poker player.
After two minutes she straightened up. “Let’s go do some x-rays.” I nodded and was led down the hall to the teleport chamber where Scotty awaited.
Now, I’ve had an x-ray before at a dentist. It usually involves a tube being jammed against your face and people running out of the room before the x-ray machine triggers. Not this one. I stepped into a booth. “Please focus on the red line on the mirror, sir” said the assistant (another lady. In fact, the dentists and technicians were all female). I duly obeyed then heard a faint whirl, felt slight pressure as a head band settled around my cranium, I assume to ensure I could not move.
“Please wait, sir”. I couldn’t have moved if I tried. Then, I was alone in the room. As I stared ahead a visor gently rotated 360 deg round me. I heard nothing. Then the pressure on my head vanished as the band lifted away.
“Please follow me back to the room, sir.” By now I was in full “sheep” mode. I went back, settled back into my memory foam chair and waited perhaps 30 seconds (in the UK it’s usually 5-10 minutes for an x-ray result) when my dentist returned. In her hands was another ipad. On this one’s screen – in 3D – was my x-ray. With a dance of fingers she rotated the view to show me things my previous dentist – bless him – had never mentioned. The chipped tooth actually needed a root canal because a sharp filling on the tooth above had acted like a knife on it, eventually causing the chip, leading to the infection, etc. etc.. You get the picture. I was informed that the dentist could not fix it now because she had a pre-booked appointment, but one of her co-dentists was available and would do it immediately, should I kindly wish to agree.
I agreed. By now I was relaxing. But the words “root” and “canal” had triggered all kinds of fearful, horrendous memories.
“Uh, the root canal, you’ll give me an anesthetic?”
She almost giggled. “Oh no, sir. There is no need for that. We will not hurt you. That would be…” she paused to locate the best phrase in English “a poor service by us if we did. Don’t worry.”
Hmmmm. OK, then….I think.
And, by Jove, she was absolutely right. Her much younger colleague stepped into the room, and with three assistants proceeded to clean my teeth with what felt like a feather (compared to the UK dental drills), remove the broken filling, drill down, clean the root, bathe it in anesthetic cream, x-ray it twice more to confirm it had been fixed flawlessly, then sort the tooth above that was the culprit. It took an hour; I nearly fell asleep; only coming out of my somnolent state when the lights flicked off and I was informed both that everything was done and that I needed to come back next week to get it finished.
After thanking them profusely, I went back to the reception. On my way in I had earlier noticed a small niche, set about ten inches deep. Big enough for a tall glass to stand in. As the receptionist put together my bill (9600THB £192) I inquired as to its purpose. She glanced up from her screen.
“That sir? That is a replicator.”
“A replicator, sir. If you would like to try it?”
Um. What did I want? “Water?”
In front of my eyes sparkling motes swirled, then crystallized, taking shape. Incredibly, before my eyes was a glass of water. I picked it up gingerly. Brought it to my lips. Tasted it. Water as pure as that strained through any volcano you care to think of cascaded like a waterfall into my mouth.
OK…that last bit was made up. But seriously, it would not have surprised me to find them possessing such a device. I paid my bill.
“Sawadee Ka, sir. We look forward to seeing you next week.” smiled the receptionist.
“Me too.” I blurted. And yes, by all things holy, I realise that is true. For the first time in my life I want to go to the dentist. Life continues to amaze me out here. With such happy thoughts, I skipped out in to the Bangkok sunshine….
Is this what diplomacy is all about?