Monday, July 30, 2012



Since I know some of you sadistic people enjoy reading in poignant detail about the pains I go through, I figured I'd write this out in detail.

Last night, I was sitting around drinking at Viva with a nice Icelandic couple I'd met. Viva is my favorite restaurant in Siem Reap. It's a Mexican place. Yeah, Cambodian food sucks. As a side note, I did ask the couple to let me know if they were interested in going to a nearby full auto gun range later. If they do, there will be photos and videos.

Something odd was up in my mouth. It felt like a piece of potato chip had lodged in my teeth. When I eventually got it removed it turned out to be part of a filling I'd had put in a couple years ago. Joy.

When you're in a foreign country, it is always somewhat alarming to need medical insurance. You don't want to go to the doctor. They probably don't speak English. I don't have travel insurance. It may not be all that expensive but with just three people having pushed the 'donate' button I'm still trying to save up enough to escape Asia much less have insurance.

The next morning, I decided to roll the dice and see what I could get for a dentist.

There is an older man who is a hotel manager. He is pretty educated and trilingual. Unfortunately, none of those languages is English. Khmer, French and Chinese. I went with French. I asked him where I could find a large, professional dentist clinic. He was pleased I'd spoken to him in French.

He tapped his teeth with a finger and said "Dentiste?" I nodded vigorously. He took me over to a very young tuk tuk driver and had an animated conversation with him in Khmer. It was obvious from the kids body language he had no clue where there was a dentist. The old manager indicated the ride would cost me a dollar. I nodded and climbed aboard.

We then played the 'drive around and hope to run into a dentist office'. He even tried calling people on his mobile phone but his friends seemed as clueless as he was. Eventually, we happened upon one.

It wasn't really what I had been hoping for. It was built into a rundown house and guarded by a hairy kick dog that seemed to have free run of the place. Dog owners can say what they want about the cleanliness of their mutts, but they aren't the kind of thing you want in a 'sanitary' place.

The dentist was an older lady who didn't speak any English at all. She had her ten year old son - who had two years of English schooling - to try to translate. When that failed, she got her friend onto the phone. As I've noted before, phones are useless unless the person speaks fluent English. Her friend didn't. Pretty much all I could figure out from the conversation was that for $10, she'd give it a go.

I decided I could do better.

I used the two translators to find out the name and simple directions to a large dental clinic. A one dollar ride on the back of a motorbike got me to a much more modern dental office. No small yappy, hairy dogs. Bonus.

After waiting a couple minutes for the doctor to be summoned by his non English speaking staff he showed up. For a Cambodian man, he was impressively tall at about my height of 1.8m. Even more impressive, he spoke decent English.

After giving him some time to investigate my mouth I asked how much a new filling would cost.

"Thirty dollars."

I blinked at him. "Thirty? Three zero?" He confirmed it. I blinked at him again. "How much is a cleaning?"

"Fifteen dollars."

I pondered this briefly, confirmed the total would be forty five dollars. "Hook me up!" I said. Long pause. "Er. Yes, please." Apparently, he didn't speak 'street English'. I'm so ghetto.

The cleaning portion went quickly and painlessly. During both procedures, they used a lot of water. I am curious if I will become sick from it.

After the cleaning was done, the real work began. The dentist thought it would take an hour. What he didn't know is that every dental procedure I've ever had has gotten the word 'epic' assigned to it. Hence, it would be an 'epic filling'. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Three long pain filled hours then started. It felt like he had given me very clunky braces on the entire right side of my head. There was some metal bits which reminded me of a horse bit that kept me from being able to close my mouth. It felt like he was trying to drill through my entire jaw.

Lying down for a long time on my back isn't really easy for me. My neck and back have 'special needs'. That means they are pretty much fused together and this causes my legs to sometimes go into spasm and such. While this may create more fun for a special friend riding reverse cowboy on me, it can alarm a dentist. I tried to keep my legs locked together so he wouldn't think I had gone into seizure or become possessed.

I'm not sure what they do to possessed people in Cambodia. Burning would be my guess.

American dentists like to take x-rays and explain to their patients what is going on so they can be reassured.

I don't think they owned an x-ray machine. Given the upkeep that goes on of machinery in Cambodia, I'm guessing most of the x-ray machines can also cook a hot dog at fifty meters so I was OK in missing out on an x-ray.

The process of explaining what is going on to the patient has always confused me. It's like you're getting a test afterward on it. I am not at all curious as to what they are doing. I know only there is pain, it must be endured. My maxim is "I give you money, you fix teeth." It's a good system. I don't want to be taught what the names of the teeth are and exactly what they're going to do. I don't care. What will happen? Will the dentist say a procedure and then I say "But have you considered this factor?" Will the dentist then say "My god - had you not reminded me of that, I would have completely fucked your mouth up! I am so happy you mentioned that!" I don't think so. If you don't trust a man to stick a drill in your mouth and know what he is doing, don't go there.

When he finished and had massaged my jaw enough for it to shut, I felt pretty decent. Surprisingly good. On the way out he told me that was the longest time he'd ever spent doing that type of procedure. Oddly, he didn't ask for any additional money. Fair enough.

When I was leaving I told him that if I had any problems, I'd be back. "You'd better." was his only reply.

The downside is that you won't know if the dentist did a good job until a few weeks have passed. Assuming he did, here is the contact information in case anyone else needs dental work while in Siem Reap:


The phone number (if you are fluent in Khmer only) is 063 690 1518


Teeth cleaning, $15

Filling, $30

Celebration 'wet' burrito, $5.50

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