Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moments of Horror


I walked into the clinic.  The girl behind the counter asked what I wanted done.  I said, Cabut gigi (pull out tooth).  She asked for my identity card.  I gave it to her.  She searched a wall cabinet lined with stacks of record cards and found mine.  Her actions showed she probably wrote 'cabut gigi' on a note and attached it to my card.  Returned my IC and told me to wait.

15 minutes later someone called me from room 1.  She addressed me as Teh Lian.  Room 2 was occupied by 2 teenage sisters and their parents who went in earlier.  They were making a huge noisy fuss about the treatment (on one of the sisters) I supposed.  I went in and was ushered into The Chair.  I waited.  There were a few girls in jeans and tudungs hovering around.  One attached a napkin on my chest.  Another looked at my card and asked me which tooth I wanted to 'cabut'.  She gave me a hand-held mirror.  I removed the napkin to get my reading glasses up.  I showed her the tooth I wanted removed. 

She said, that's the second tooth from the far end, right?. 

I said yes

I expected her to confirm that the tooth was bad enough for me to request for removal.  She didn't.  Perhaps the dentist would do that.  She sprayed some sweet-tasting chemical around the tooth and told me to wash my mouth.  She went next door.  Another girl switched on an LCD TV in front of me. 

I waited. 

I watched Tom and Jerry fooling around in the kitchen.  The chattering next door went a few decibels higher. 

I waited.  I moved around in The Chair.  My bum was getting uncomfortable.  My back too.

The dentist came over.  He asked a question.  The girl who identified my tooth said something which sounded like a number, an identification for a specific tooth.  I didn't understand all that jargon.  I hoped he knew which tooth.  Before I could react, he held up a syringe, told me to open up and injected into my gums in 2 places.  I squirmed.  Don't shake!  That's all he said to me.  He went back next door. 

I thought, Hey, someone's supposed to check and confirm the condition of my tooth first! 

I still hoped he got it right.

The chattering resumed next door.  It got noisier.  The numbness on my jaw got heavier.  I spat out my saliva.  Messy.  I washed my mouth.  Still messy.  I couldn't spit straight.  Cleaned my jaw with the napkin.  10 minutes.  15 minutes.  20...  I hoped the numbness wouldn't wear out by the time the dentist came back to work on me. 

He came back.  They handed him a pair of heavy pliers.  I opened my mouth.  He put it in, gripped on the tooth and yanked.  There was a crunching noise like a bone being broken.  The tooth was out.  He dropped everything, grabbed a wad of cotton gauze and shoved it into the gap where the tooth was and told me to bite hard. 

He went back next door and the chattering resumed.  I felt like a car with it's bonnet open and the mechanic just removed a spark plug.  But which one?  I hoped it was the bad one, not the good one next to it.  Good Lord.  Is this the way it's done?

The girl came to my side, lifted the arm of The Chair and said, Siap lah (It's over).  I went out to the counter, paid the bill, motioned for a receipt and walked out of the clinic.  Still unsure of what I'd done.



  1. Well, I have to face a root canal two actually...Impersonal services seem cold don't they?

  2. Before I went to him I'd already decided what I needed done on my tooth. Perhaps the knowledge revolution has changed the character of medical/dental practice. Now, patients want to know more about their ailments before they decide what kind of treatment they settle for. But that doesn't mean a walk-in patient becomes a 'customer' instead.

    Actually he's an efficient dentist. Too efficient. His business is so good he forgot he's dealing with humans. Appears to me, except for his regular customers who go to him for braces, annual scalings, etc, walk-in customers like me don't deserve his special attention.

  3. YAIKS!! He allowed his patients to do the diagnosis for the treatment!

  4. So... did he pull out the right one or not?

  5. Lucky for us both there was no mistake. I'm expecting to read the news some day someone sues him for taking out the wrong tooth. I remember this happened before elsewhere. He must be bench-marking the same practice.

  6. I went to him some years ago with a cracked molar. That was after I visited another dentist who couldn't decide, and a doctor who thought it was a nerve infection. Weeks later, still in pain, I decided that the molar with a dark hairline from top to bottom was the one causing the problem. He tapped around and confirmed my suspicion. I asked him if a root canal can be done to save it. He advised against it because it has low % of success.
    He asked: So, what do you want me to do?.
    I said: Take it out.
    Tooth gone, pain gone.

  7. In the US, the popular way to do it is to put you to sleep before pulling it out. It is a big fuss because you have to fast before the operation and take the day off to recover from the anesthesia.

    I ended up getting conned into doing it the old fashioned way ("don't you want to know what the experience is like?") and regretted it. It was painful and the wrangling sound was sickening.

  8. The dentist will face legal problems sooner or later if doing his practice in Taiwan ......high risk group.....

  9. What I experienced; the pain was only when the local anesthesia was injected. When the tooth was pulled it was like he picked out a huge piece of bone stuck between the teeth.

  10. "pride goes before a fall" - he's a very 'actsy' dentist...

    "familiarity breeds contempt" - I think he does it often enough to skip procedure.

    Time I source for another dentist. But in SP, I wonder where they're hiding.

  11. i dont know if my previous comment went through ;(

  12. i was commenting abt the poor service of the dentist and how irresponsible he was

  13. Obviously it didn't. Sometimes I think it's our poor connection.