Dental engineering...…..

Dental engineering...…..

Durgadas P.V.

As the new year dawned, we were planning for a trip abroad to stay with our daughter and family in the USA. I started browsing the sites for economic fares with minimum stopovers and waiting. And my wife was busy preparing the list of items to be procured and taken along. There were a couple of things on priority like buying the favorite items from specific shops, and collecting some dresses for the little ones.

Another ‘must do’ was the visit to the dentist for a checkup and sorting out some urgent problems if any, connected with it. Our daughter had forewarned regarding the exorbitant cost of dental treatment in that country. Generally it is not covered under insurance. Even she was taken to a dentist years back in India when she had come on a holiday before her marriage more than ten years ago. She was really amazed to realise that her granny’s whole set of dentures were replaced for one thousand rupees by the same old Anglo Indian dentist in the town.

I had no occasion to visit a dentist in the recent past. The last visit was for the removal of the wisdom teeth which did not make me wise at all. The so-called ‘ wisdom tooth’ which failed to appear on time, started coming out very late in areas closer to the ears obstructing the jaw movements were knocked off decades ago one by one.

I searched on the net. And evaluating by reviews, selected a clinic by the name ‘smile O dent’ . The registration was through the net with the basic information like name, age, address, occupation etc. I had to download an App to fix the appointments and confirm it. The whole process was quite user-friendly. One day before the appointment, there was a reminder/confirmation call.

On the appointed date I went about ten minutes early. I was received by a well dressed lady receptionist at the entrance, the glass doors of which opened automatically. After ascertaining my name I was ushered into a sitting space which was well furnished. The whole clinic was air conditioned. There was an array of periodicals to read. The television was showing a documentary on dental care. There was channel music flowing in a low voice working as a mood elevator. Within ten minutes I was called in and made to sit on a peculiar chair which was converted into a cozy bed like structure, as the doctor arrived. The assistant made me wear an apron like cover. A bright light beamed over my face and the doctor started examining my array of teeth. Since I had explained the purpose of my visit, he could understand that his job was to identify the probable problem areas in my teeth and rectify them. He tested the teeth one by one. Luckily I had only 28 of them.

Through some hot and cold sensitive tests and by tapping, he could identify at least three of my teeth in the lower jaw and two in the upper jaw which were on the verge of becoming troublesome. Different x-ray photos were taken to confirm his findings. There was a panoramic view of my teeth taken on x-ray film which he showed to me later to explain the condition of my teeth. It looked like the old picture of Ravana with ten heads in a row!

I was given a schedule of treatment with an appointment on at least twelve days a month for about two months so that I could conveniently go abroad after about three months' time. The ticket fares were comparatively low during that period. Hence it suited me too. I readily agreed to the course of treatment which initially involved at least 12 R Cs ( Root Canal…...a new acronym learnt after Roman Catholic and Registration Certificate,.... ) depending upon the number of root/s each tooth had. Then the restoration process was to be decided in consultation with a visiting specialist. I did agree to the line of treatment as the doctor described very patiently with the help of diagrams slides, etc. Let me confess that much of what he explained did not enter my grey matter.

The treatment which followed included opening up of the upper portion of the crown, grinding the damaged sides, drilling and emptying the canals and the roots with very fine drills (it hurt sometimes) and filling so that infection could be prevented. During the process of treatment two teeth were extracted as they were found to be beyond repairs.

After the preparatory jobs were completed, within about three fortnights, the doctor gave me a detailed presentation regarding the finishing work and the choices available. Just like an experienced civil engineer, he explained and convinced me to go for a cantilever bridge at the left end of the lower jaw as the last available molar was removed and there was no abutment tooth for the stability of the bridge. For the missing incisor an implant was decided. And all the missing teeth enamels were to be covered with ceramic crowns. The alternatives available were rejected considering the aesthetics and cost. The measurements were taken and orders were placed for ‘manufacture’ of the ‘crown’ and the implant. I was asked to pay for the preparatory work. It was done through credit card. Naturally I never carried that much cash in my purse. The clinic has all types of modern payment options available. After each visit to the clinic, the App recorded my response through an interactive survey and promptly thanked me for the participation. Everything looked very professional.

After one week the message came inviting me for trials of the ‘bridge and the crown’. Temporary fixing and permanent fixing were done within a gap of ten days. My wife was very happy with my new look with the discoloured broken canine tooth replaced by a smart one in line with the other teeth. The 'bridges' were not visible to others even with a very broad smile.

The name of the clinic suggested a built-in tag line. And that is true to the core. The smile did improve. But it did create a deep dent in my bank balance. It almost made a hole, draining off whatever I had reserved for the flight tickets and for health insurance. The situation compelled me to have second thoughts about purchase of tickets for the journey. As an effort to retain the prestige and esteem of the 'tharavad' (family), I had earlier very vehemently rejected the offer of my son-in-law to foot the ticket fare. The amount left in account was hardly enough for a one way ticket. I was in a real dilemma. But luckily the Corona shut down came to my rescue. The trip was indefinitely delayed. As we are missing this summer, the visit is very unlikely to take place this year.

Even if we plan for a holiday next year, I may not visit the same clinic again. Times have changed. Gone are those days when the full set of dentures was fixed for one thousand rupees…..