by the Geneva Observer

My tooth ache was too much. Natasha made the call.

My fear of the dentist is something like the elephant and the mouse. I may not be an elephant, but my dentist would be considerably smaller than me, a woman dentist, wearing studded earrings, and perfectly glossed nails. The dental clinic was one of the most modern in Yaroslavl. They accepted the challenge of dealing with a foreigner who did not speak their language. Compared with US liability laws this was no foregone conclusion. Chapeau!

The first session started with a digital X-ray (yes, Kodak sells their equipment even in places like Yaroslavl and hopefully safer than their chemicals sold to Saddam Hussein). The image showed up on the flat screen. I did not have to get up from the dental chair to see the extensiveness of the cavity. I stared at my blue plastic elasticized overshoes; there was only one solution, the tooth had to be extracted. This was not going to be fun.

My Russian dentist donned her white cap, gloves and disposable gown, and began choosing the tools for the job at hand. The syringe came out of the sterile packaging, an expert twist of the needle, a poke into the anaesthetic container diaphragm to suck up the magic pain killer. No vodka in sight. It was time to look at her mascaraed eyes. Her mouth was covered by her face mask. The jab made me wince, but the injection itself was barely noticeable. This woman had a rock steady hand and obviously had a great technique.

Her gowned, gloved and masked assistant wiped my ears with alcohol (I never had this anywhere else – I never asked if it was Vodka) and placed both her hands on either side of my head to steady it. The dentist with her small hands and elegant fingers expertly moved in with her special pliers, got a good grip on my wretched tooth and in short order we were done for the day. With an awkward grin and almost unrecognisable utterance that was to say “spasibo” or thank you in Russian I could finally relax from my piano wire tenseness.

My hyperventilating meant I was not ready to just walk away. Immediately, out came the smelling salts with that distinct ammonia smell, how embarrassing for me, the grand-son of a dentist!

The second session, four days later, was dedicated to a thorough cleaning. No scraping and heavily bleeding gums that I got used to, instead a high pressure stream of salt water brine, with a strawberry taste through different sized nozzles would blast off the accumulated mineral deposits from my calcium laden home water supply while I imitated a donkey with its mouth wide open. No needles or anaesthetic needed. My tongue slipped over my smooth teeth in delight. Do not try this with your pressure washer at home.

The third and final session was for two cavities, one on the top the other on the bottom on the same side. This was to be a two for one session. The filling material is a photosensitive plastic, that hardens with ultra-violet light. It is color matched to be almost unnoticeable from the surrounding teeth. Amalgam fillings are history.

My dentist was the youngest on staff, with eight years of experience. She referred me to the head of the clinic, who was the specialist for implants and bridges to see what advice he could give me. Exceptionally he was available (it was about 12:15, so I think he must have slipped me
in instead of having lunch). He placed a disposable plastic cover over the mouth piece (that he called a condom) to the Morito tomography machine, and did a full jaw scan, which we then examined on a large screen, zooming and measuring various parts of my jaw. The software allows for almost instant zooms, rotations, measurements, overlays, truly great software from Japan.

In order to do an implant, he needed to do an operation, to insert the material that would grow the bone to support the implant. This needs to be done ideally a month after the extraction, then wait for six months to do the final implant.

Overall, I was profoundly impressed by the people of the clinic, from the receptionist who squeezed me in on such short notice, to the dentist who was more or less fully booked just before her vacation, I can only say a very big thank-you. From the busstop, crossing potholed streets and broken side-walks from the harsh winter with snow flurries blowing across the way, I could never have imagined such a warm welcome, elevated technical standards and high level of professionalism.

I now have my excuse to return to see Yaroslavl in summer and again in winter.

Featured image of a dentist Galina Voronina, with her permission.

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