I kept telling myself it wouldn’t be a problem, that my tooth was just being a bit sensitive and it would eventually sort itself out. Despite the fact I was now wincing in pain every time I ate a KitKat chunky, I tried to convince myself that this would pass. Looking back now, I guess the truth was I just didn’t want to go to the dentist.
At the risk of sounding like some sort of neurotic dental-dodger, I should point out that in the UK I was almost indifferent to dental appointments. I mean, if we’re being honest, nobody loves going, but in the UK I could speak the same language as my dentist. I don’t know, having someone trying to communicate with you when they have sharp things in your mouth is daunting at the best of times, so over here I feared that I just wouldn’t understand what was being said to me.
One afternoon when my tooth had become almost unbearable, I decided to get on Google and find a dentist with good reviews. The one I found looked pretty reputable and he had a lot of letters after his name. I was particularly taken by the portrait picture he was using of himself in a luxurious dinner jacket too. Considering all of these things (well, not so much the last one!) I felt like I’d definitely found the right man for the job.
So I booked a dental appointment and a few days later I was walking into his office, coming face to face with all 5 foot 5 of him.
“Nice to meet you! I speak the English!” he proudly announced, welcoming me into the room with a firm handshake.
“Please, sit!” he instructed. I did as I was told and arranged my unnaturally-tall 193cm body onto the chair. As the chair reclined back I could hear the sound of latex gloves being snapped into position over his hands. This is when a sudden wave of anxiety washed over me. “Please let me be OK!” I whispered to nobody, looking up at the ceiling.
“OK. Open big!” he said, now clutching some sharp looking metal apparatus.
I opened as ‘big’ as I could.
After prodding around my mouth for a full minute he said, “Yes, I see it.”
I immediately sensed that the tone of his voice had become much more serious than before. This worried me. So I looked up at his face in the hope that I could spot any sign that I’d been wrong to think this.
I saw nothing.
Having said this, half of his face was covered in a paper mask and I was looking at him upside down, so I shouldn’t really have expected too much.
He then said the seven words nobody lying in a dentist chair wants to hear.
“You have a problem with your tit!”
There was silence.
As I processed what I’d just heard, under the intense light of the dentist’s lamp I began to smile.
Of course, as an English teacher I should have instantly realised that this was a mistake. But I was so caught up in the whole I’m-at-the-dentist experience, I’d briefly forgotten that English wasn’t this guys first language. For a second I genuinely wondered why he was commenting on my tits!
For those of you who’re unfamiliar with the difficulties Brazilians can have in English, their ‘ee’ sounds can sometimes be pronounced like he letter ‘i’ and ‘th’ sounds like the letter ‘t’ (so this is why the word ‘teeth’ sounded like ‘t-i-t’).
“But I think I can fix it!” he assured me.
A fit of giggles threatened to overwhelm me as I imagined going to the dentists for a filling but coming out with one breast more luxurious than the other. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful that this guy was making the effort to communicate in English with me. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like if he hadn’t. It was just unfortunate that he’d made this specific mistake. To his credit though, it proved to be one hell of an unintentional ice breaker!
Everything seemed a lot less funny when I heard what came next though:
“You need a root canal!”
For those of you who are worried about going to the dentists here, I have to admit that the treatment I received was top notch. My dentist was a lot more competent in dentistry than he was at naming body parts in English, and he would inject me with anesthetic if I ever showed signs of feeling even the slightest discomfort. I never once caught him perving on my tits either!
I left the place feeling pretty impressed.
But one visit to the dentist isn’t really enough for me to be assuming they’re generally all good. “Maybe I was just lucky?” I asked myself at the time. Well, about a year later I visited another dentist who turned out to be equally as competent. You see, this guy was a bit on the pricey side. So when another tooth started giving me problems I asked my friends for a cheaper alternative.This is when I was told about a ‘lovely’ female dentist that my friend couldn’t speak any more highly of.
“She only speaks Portuguese though, Andrew” my friend warned.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine” I said confidently, instantly dismissing my friends comment. I mean, I’d been taking Portuguese classes for some time and I saw no reason to believe I’d have any problems understanding what was being said.
As I was about to discover, this was pretty naive of me…but I’ll save that story for another post!
Have you ever had an interesting encounter with a dentist when in another country?