One of the concerns many people have when they live abroad concerns the availability of adequate medical and dental treatment in their adopted homes. Costa Rica, for example, where I lived for 14 months, was said to have excellent – and inexpensive – medical and dental care. I, fortunately, did not need medical care in CR, but I did use the services of two dentists while I was there – one for cleaning and a cavity and the second for a root canal. The work was adequate and inexpensive, and the facilities were fairly modern.
On a visit to Malaysia two years ago, I needed to go to the emergency room when I tore up my left knee paragliding. Again, the work was fine and inexpensive, but I should have gone to the hospital when I returned to Batam, as my injury was far worse then I imagined. I am still paying for that mistake daily.
Since Costa Rica, however, I have been able to avoid the dentist, although I really do like to have regular checkups and teeth cleanings. Well, a lower molar changed all that procrastination, causing me significant pain when eating.
But where to go? Luckily, I was given a testimonial from another expat in Batam and a business card for the dentist he had used. Finally, my tooth screaming in my head that it was time to go, I made an appointment. With the initial call, there was a language problem, so I sent an SMS and an email. No answer.
The next day I called again, this time getting someone on the line who spoke some English. I was given an appointment two days later (yesterday). Dr. Hermanto’s office was a short cab ride away, close enough, in fact, that I walked home to avoid the $5 cab fare.
The 2-story office was in a row of shophouses across from the Harmoni Suites Hotel. When I entered, i filled out a simple form and went upstairs to wait. And wait. And wait. One hour and 15 minutes past my appointment time I was finally called in to the dentist chair. There were three young dental assistants also in the room.
The treatment room was airy and modern, except they do not use an automated water system for you to rinse your mouth, nor do they use the awful tubes you put in your mouth to suck out any moisture.In fact, they didn’t use those while they worked, either.
Dr. Hermanto asked me a few questions, sat me down in a modern and new examination chair, looked at my tooth and said an x-ray was needed. The x-ray was done in another room. The girls placed a heavy leaden covering over my shoulders and chest and I was stood up in a machine that revolved around my head to take digital images. My last x-ray experience was with film, where you have to wait for awhile to see the images. With this system, I walked out of the x-ray room and back into the treatment room and they were already looking at the image.
Then the bad news. No repair for this broken puppy. It needed to come out. Yanked from its core. No more would it grind my food for me or contribute to my tinitis. It was going to be history, what was left of it after the infection had taken its toll. “Don’t worry,” the good doctor said, “in two months we can put in a replacement.”
The hardest part of this procedure, aside from getting my butt to the dentist in the first place, was the injections. They really weren’t so bad but they were numerous. But unlike what I have experienced numerous times with novacaine, there was no feeling of paralysis in my mouth. Just didn’t feel anything.
After a few minutes of pulling out whatever was in there, the doctor then sewed my gums up, which seemed to be the most difficult part of the process for him. He is in his 50s and perhaps such detailed work is difficult. The three assistants didn’t seem to actually do too much except fetch stuff, except for the one holding a mirror in my mouth. Also, unlike novocaine in the past, there was not lingering paralysis feeling in my mouth once we were done – you know, the feeling that there are tiny electric shocks going through your gums for an hour or so.
The pain at the front desk was not bad, either, only Rp700,000 (about $60) for the entire process, including the x-ray. And they took credit cards.
And Monday, I take Rey to see one of Dr. Hermanto’s partners, a woman, to take care of a very painful tooth that she’s also been procrastinating on.
The 12-block walk back to my apartment was hot and I only had about six taxis offer me a ride.