Monday, August 11, 2008

D-Day -- Off to the Dentist

Yesterday was D-Day for me... a trip to the dentist. Since coming to Germany I've been to the dentist at least once every six months. Aside from a nasty situation where my gums got infected by some random piece of who knows what stuck between my teeth, I've had no problems whatsoever. (knocking wood) The visit yesterday was a planned cleaning and general checkup.

As usual I had my normal mind-reading mixed with basic knowledge of German. The mind-reading part is the knowing what to expect, even what questions. The request for my insurance card, the paper I must fill out which says I will pay for whatever my insurance does not. Then the nice nurse-type shows me into a room, motions toward a table in the corner of the room and says something incomprehensible, this I take for her suggestion of where to put my bag. I climb into the dentist chair contraption thing (literally climb... I think they forgot to lower it after the last person, and dammit, I am a short shit) then the nurse-type asks if I am comfortable in the goofy dentist chair and tells me that she will go "call" the technician.

When the tech appears I realize that this is not anyone I've met before. Oh no, another person who must be clued into the fact that generally I can understand what is being said to me, but have little or no skills which will allow me to get out what I want to say.

It's OK, this part of the conversation goes pretty quickly. They speak to me in German, I tend to understand, then I try to respond in the same language, apologizing for my lame control of the words of the country in which I have lived for over three years. To which they almost always say something such as, "You have lovely German, everything you say is clear", in German of course.

What is that about? Do they just want to be encouraging? Keep in mind that Germans are NOT known for softening the hard facts. Maybe they think that an American trying to speak their language at all is cause enough for celebration that they want to show me that they are happy. Maybe they just don't want to be like the French with their attitude of "speak the language perfectly, or not at all". I will never understand.

When faced with a new dental professional I like to "test" them a bit. In an unassuming tone I ask if they'd ever heard of a link between periodontal disease and atherosclerosis. Their answer to this question lets me see either how much attention they paid in school, or how much they keep up on current levels of thought in their profession.

My new dental hygienist passed with flying colors, even adding that links between periodontal disease and premature birth were also being researched. You go girl! Pass!

On a side note... I just love parts of the German language. How much more clear could you get than Frühgeburt (early birth) for "premature birth"? And all in one word!

Unfortunately I had a bit of an embarrassing moment when the tech asked what the English term is for Frühgeburt... um... shit, I don't know. SEE? I screw up BOTH languages!! I think that what came out of my mouth eventually was "Early Birth". The human brain is some strange shit, isn't it?

So while I was grilling her, I also asked her about why EVERY single American expat I have spoken with about German dentists has the same story. The German dentists take one look at the teeth of the American and say that they are in fantastic shape. I don't know about you but my American dentist was always full of horror stories regarding my teeth. How I have too many large pockets... (what? I'm wearing slacks with no pockets - besides, I didn't KNOW you could have TOO many pockets!) How I need to be careful with my back teeth as they aren't getting enough brush time... Asking me if I am flossing every day and giving me hell if I do anything but lie convincingly.

Poor N. goes to the same dentist and is always given the horror stories... yet I am not. She is standing in front of the mirror for three minutes every night and morning conscientiously brushing her teeth - many times with the electric toothbrush so add another minute. On the other hand my choppers are lucky to get a cursory brush night and day and I have been known to skip the evening brush sometimes. N's visit was so bad this time that the dentist requested that she come back in a week for a check-up on a troublesome spot. Whoa!

My hygienist's answers were inconclusive, giving me something about how everyone has different standards for mouth health and how this can effect what a dentist sees. I have questions regarding this perception of the German dentists. Are they just seeing really horrible teeth from the Germans in general? Do the Germans not value dental health so highly? Is it fluoride in the water? (Nope, I never had it. Just some fluoride tablets in elementary school.)

Are the Americans inundated with too many crappy commercials? (Four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum. Thus Americans have more teeth guilt? I always wondered about that last holdout dentist... What? Does he LIKE cavities? Does he understand that more cavities means more business? Maybe he just wants to buck the system. Is he a purist, so he believes that the sugar-substitute might be more harmful to the overall body than a bit of sugar against the teeth? So many questions! I want to talk to this guy!)

OK, so before everyone starts thinking that I'm a bit crazy, (too late, I'm guessing) I'll just ask another question of the 1.2 humans who might happen to read these words... a percentage of them even might be American! Does your dentist wax poetic about the state of your teeth? Have you encountered this same phenomenon? Do you think that your teeth cleaning regimen is better than the average German? What is the story here?

And hey... where is my free tooth brush? Damn Germans! They don't know what is important!

So... it's going to be a busy few days...
I'm so pumped.

Flamenco Festival
Eric Clapton at Waldbühne
Lesbian/Gay Parkfest in Friedrichshain
Scuba diving at Strausberg lake - Straussee

Been reading:


Patty said... crack me up!
I was a chair side dental assistant/X=Ray technician for 20 years. I've seen some rather nasty mouths in all those years. I'd like to talk to that one hold out dentist too. I mean..what's with a guy why doesn't agree with the 4 other dentists??
If you get a chance...please go to my blog and email me from there. I need to ask a favor of you but don't know how to get in touch with you. Don't's nothing really serious nor earth shattering.

C N Heidelberg said...

Yes!! I always got the same threatening "pockets" speech twice a year from the hygienist in the US. Here, they can't stop gushing about how great my teeth and gums are. What gives!? I probably had better habits there than I have here.

Goofball said...

my dentist always used to tell me that if everybody had teeth like mine, he'd be broke. I naver sat longer than 5 minutes in his chair


that was until someone knocked my two front teeth out in a youth camp game.

Anonymous said...

My dentist always asks me a question just as she's starting to scrape away at something on one of my back teeth... which leaves me a choice:
a) don't answer
b) say something that sounds like "uurghgh rrrr ghugh"
c) bite her

After the brutal de-tartaring I had last time, I'm edging towards option c for my next visit...

Amsterdam man said...

I have also read '8 sensational scuba-diving trips' as I love diving. Bahamas is my favourite place.