Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tooth Nightmare


Being in Samoa, you sometimes have weird nightmares.  For example, one of my Peace Corps friends had a dream about a tsunami coming and somehow the country director called upon her to evacuate everyone from the area.  These dreams are scary because we often wake up and wonder if we have something we really need to do urgently.

My latest nightmare goes a few steps back.  While I was still enjoying the amazing American healthcare (I say this because being insured and not having to pay any copayments is such a great feeling!) I went to the dentist.  It was recommended to extract my remaining wisdom teeth (Yes at my age, I still am waiting to be wise).  However, the powers that be decided that that I should wait another year until I reside permanently in the United States. 

About a week after arriving back in Samoa the pain started.  “My teeth are coming in and there is not enough room for them,” I complained to anyone that would listen.  “It is probably just food stuck in your mouth,” I was told in response.  I accepted that maybe I was wrong…

Being in Samoa, you never look in mirrors, and for the first time I actually own a mirror that is bigger than my bike mirror.  It may seem strange to people outside this area, but when you get used to not knowing exactly what you look like, however you get used to it.  When I finally looked, I saw a little white mound emerging in the back of my mouth.  I am not crazy!  Or a ridiculously messy eater who doesn’t know how to take care of her teeth! 

A week later I had my nightmare….I had looked in the mirror and two wisdom teeth were coming in, the one in the bottom was white like I previously saw, but when I angled my head in the mirror, I saw a black mound coming through.  My new tooth was coming in rotted to the core. 

I was so disgusted; I didn’t know what to do.  And now since then, I keep trying to strain my head to make sure my teeth aren’t turning black.

I am not the only one who gets scared by rotting teeth here.  I think it is an epidemic amongst Peace Corps volunteers.  When you see so many rotting teeth all the time, you begin to think of it as a contagious disease that you will somehow get.  I cannot tell you how many times someone has complained to our medical officer because they are afraid of teeth rotting from seeing black, yellow and missing teeth all day long. 

There really isn’t an excuse for it as going to the local dentist is pretty cheap.  However, like many people around the world, many Samoans only go to the doctor or dentist when it is an emergency.  This is why most people only go to get teeth extracted as they wait until a problem worsens and there is nothing a dentist can do to save that tooth.

At least it is just a tooth nightmare, and not real life yet….since I haven’t caught the rotted tooth decay disease…and hopefully I won’t! 


1 comment:

  1. I was a volunteer in Samoa in the early 1980s. I had a problem with a tooth that had had a root canal done on it previously. I went to the only private dentist in Samoa. He looked at the tooth and said it needed to come out. I got another appointment for the extraction. I went back, the dentist was chatting with his friends, never looked at an xray, never asked me which tooth was bad, and proceeded to pull the wrong tooth. Oops he said, and he reimplanted the tooth and proceeded to pull the bad one. Lost the other tooth as well a couple of years later. True story.