Rati hipped me to my first Georgian dentist shortly after I arrived in the country. His cousin spoke English and she drilled in a storefront around the corner from the school we worked at. Rati’s teeth weren’t exactly pearly, but the filling I needed was in the back of my mouth where no one could see it and I had procrastinated long enough.
“She has all the latest equipment,” he assured.
The cabinet consisted of one blue patient’s chair and a plastic table, with moist stainless steel instruments scattered about, as if oral surgery on a two-headed beast had just been performed minutes before. The little spit sink was full of bloody spit. The little rubbish box next to it was overflowing with bloody wads of kleenex and cotton. Salome came in from a dark, dusty looking room, lit by the glow of a small television and put on a white lab coat. “Sit down,” she said.
I thought of how lucky I was to be living in the 21st century, having dental work done.
I didn’t get hepatitis from that visit and the filling is still where it should be, but rather than push the luck, I decided to try a new, modern dental clinic in my neighborhood to replace an ugly old filling Dr. Lude drilled in 30 years ago.
The new micro-financed clinic was equipped with a new X-ray machine, which is much smaller than the clunkers I recall from the previous century. I suppose that’s why I wasn’t given a lead vest. By the way the technician was trying to point the camera at my feet, my bet was that she had never operated the contraption before.
“Sit down,” Dentist Rusa said. What the blue chair lacked in comfort, it made up for in sanitation. There was no blood anywhere. She arranged her tray and plugged in a device that began to billow more smoke I have every seen any electrical gizmo emit. “What’s this?” she said. The funk of burning electrics filled the room.
Rusa ordered me into another room. I was not deterred, even after I noticed the X-ray picture next to her workstation was of a molar, not the incisor I was paying her to work on. Dentists never look at X-rays anyway. Besides, her job was to simply drill some gunk out of a tooth and fill it back in with tooth spackle, much like a house painter fixes a wall.
“Sit down,” Rusa said again. I wiggled in and tried to find a comfort zone, which would never be there.
“Do you have any allergies?” she asked.
“Only to pain. I suffer from a childhood dental trauma. My first dentist, Dr. Lude, was a Nazi war criminal,” I said.
Rusa coldly ordered me to lay back and open my mouth as she pulled out one of her torture tools and sprayed me in the face with water. It wasn’t until she actually started drilling that she first laughed. I admit feeling slightly ill at ease at that moment.
The job set me back 225 lari – 130$, which was no great deal, although included were the X-ray and a fluoride cleansing I didn’t ask for. After the Novocain wore off I realized Rusa had also shaven off a part of a good tooth, for practice or something, I’m not sure. I have another old filling that needs to be replaced, but under the circumstances, I may wait for pain before I venture to the dentist’s again.