Dental Adventures in Lisbon

I recently learned the word for “root canal” in Portuguese. I’ll give you three guesses how I came to be blessed with this knowledge.

Yeah, I broke a tooth recently. Or rather, a previous filling cracked off while I was chewing gum, and it turns out I had a cavity below it. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ve been long overdue for dental work for several years. Dental work is one of those things that is so deeply personal, and enormously shameful and class-based that like many people, once I had fallen behind, I was too embarrassed to fix it, even once I was making a good living. It’s so very dumb, but even as I knew I was being dumb by putting it off, I continued to be dumb by putting it off. Galaxy brain shit.

The last dentist I went to made me feel pretty shitty about letting my teeth get as bad as they were, and it made me not want to go back. I don’t need to be made to feel like shit now that I’ve finally come in, and I damned sure don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege.

Getting a dentist was always on the list, just not a high priority. We still don’t even have primary care physicians here (because we’re idiots), so it wasn’t at the top of the list. We finally decided to get our collective shit together and book an appointment.

Brady found a place online that seemed decent and mentioned all of their dentists speak English. We have a rule: we try to speak Portuguese everywhere, except when the issue is legal or medical. One missed word, or one misinterpreted word and we could be having very different conversations than we thought we were having – so we stick to English for that stuff for now.

I admit I was pretty nervous during the first consultation. Would their English be good enough? Would they make me feel like shit like the last dentist, only in Portuguese this time?

I couldn’t have been more wrong. We went to International Advanced Dentistry, and Dr. Chen was fantastic. He was warm, friendly, completely fluent in English, and very much had the “whatever happened is in the past, you’re here now and that’s what matters” attitude. What a huge relief. We worked out a dental plan where all of the procedures were line-items with their cost estimates. I got two implants as my next visit (one tooth had been pulled decades ago when I couldn’t afford to get it fixed, and another one was broken and too far gone to save.) While it certainly wasn’t painless (they’re literally screwing bolts into your face), Dr. Chen was kind and explained each part of the procedure, always checking in to make sure I was okay.

After that, a standard cleaning with Dr. João (who just got accepted into Harvard’s dental school! Yay Dr. João!! Though I’m sad he’ll be gone for 2 years.) – and then I broke my tooth on chewing gum. I don’t even normally chew gum, but the guy at the minimercado near our flat sometimes gives us free packs of gum because we’re there so often. And it was cinnamon, my favorite flavor. 🙁

Anyway, I had to book an emergency appointment, where Dr. João did a restoration (filling). It seemed okay, but then started to really hurt again shortly after. Turns out the restoration had cracked (likely due to the fact that my bite is uneven, since the crowns haven’t been put onto the implants yet.) So I had to go back in to get it fixed, where he tried a different approach. More pain, and we both came to the conclusion that it needed a “tratamento de canal”. They always try the least destructive and invasive approach first (and they didn’t charge me for the fix before the root canal.)

So, back in the chair I went, and after the root canal, I’m blissfully pain free.

Once the two implants are finished healing, this will be the first time in over 20 years that I’ve had a full set of teeth in my head.

So incredibly glad to find a dental office that doesn’t make me feel like crap. This particular place isn’t that cheap (and like just about every other country, dental is not covered by the normal health care system – which is a whole other rant), but their work is excellent, their tech is cutting edge, and I’m finally back in a headspace where I don’t dread going to the dentist, which is good news, since there’s still more work to be done. I actually have a ritual around it. I walk there (or take an Uber if I’m running late), arrive early, and then sit at the quiosque right across the street and drink a Coke Zero until it’s time for my appointment.

We reference “portugal jank” a lot in these posts, but this is one scenario where it couldn’t be more pro.

Até breve,
Alison (aka “snipe”)

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