Dental Tourism

A few months ago, I stipulated to my mom that I had to have my cavities filled while I am in Manila. Before anyone starts to question me, it's not like I'm going to a witch doctor. Dentistry is just cheaper here since I don't have insurance. Plus, isn't medical tourism becoming a trend in America? That's not to say dental practices aren't…different here. On my first morning, after dropping off my messenger bag and pants to be repaired and altered, my mom and I headed to the dentist's office at Centerpoint. On the car ride over, I was showing my mom the Cantonese and Japanese language guides on my iPhone. "You know they'll kill you here for that," she said dryly, pointing at the phone. I promptly put it back in my bag and I've decided to leave it at home for the next few days.

I'm not going to reveal how many cavities I had, but let's just be glad it wasn't in the double digits. The dentist told me I also have an extra tooth -- in the front, not wisdom teeth (although I do have those). My mom said to be glad that I don't have an extra finger, like Anne Boleyn (seriously, she said that). So while the dentist was fiddling around with that dental mirror in my mouth, I explained to her that the sixth finger was a rumor and probably not true granted that it was a sign of witchcraft in those days and Henry VIII wouldn't have married her with that (not that things turned out well anyway). I prefer to think my extra tooth is just lucky.

Before the dentist got to work on my teeth, I realized that she hadn't put any anesthetics yet. She had already put a green tractor in my mouth to keep my jaw wide open and got the drill ready when bolted up and asked if she was going to put anything on my teeth first. "Oh, you want anesthetics?" she replied. I looked blankly and replied politely that I would. I never realized (or thought possible) that this was optional. She gave me a few papers to sign (which was awkward since I wasn't sure which address to write down), and put a few shots in my mouth. It was not nearly enough. The first tooth was fine, but the next few were piercing, and the last one was hell on earth. She kept putting shots of local anesthetics in my lower right gum, but I could tell that my mouth was not as numb as it should be. All the while, Christmas music (Yes, already. I'll get to that later.) was playing in the mall outside, so I had to listen to "Feliz Navidad" over and over while wondering when the drill was just going make my head explode. It was like Santa's Workshop of Pain.

Finally, it was over, but I still have more cavities to get filled over the next two days. My mom says that dentists are hesitant here to inject a lot of anesthetics here since so many patients have high blood pressure. But I do not. I want the drugs. Badly.

We concluded the day in Greenhills, which is remarkably different and pretty awesome now. Last time I saw it in 2003, it was a cluttered and dirty indoor flea market. Since then, it burned down and investors rebuilt it into a fabulous mall, outdoor food court and a clean flea market. Each month, all of the stalls are cleared out for one day and the place is cleaned and sprayed down for bugs and rats. Today was that day. All of the stall owners were waiting outside of their vans with their goods ready to go back in. After stopping in the Starbucks for a desperately needed cup of coffee/injection of caffeine, my mom and I were trying to decide where to pick up dinner. "We could go to California Pizza Kitchen," she suggested. I did not come 8,000 miles across the United States and the Pacific Ocean to go to CPK. We went inside and then she exclaimed she knew exactly where to take me and tugged me outside. I never could have thought this one up: pizza in a cone. Surprisingly, it was delicious. I got the "Pepperazzi." Think a hot pocket with an opening at the top. I'm curious to try the fruit pizza at the shop next door, even if I might regret it. I don't know how they come up with this stuff.

Postscript: Last night I saw the King Kamehameha of roaches on the wall. Luckily, he didn't open his wings and fly at me. But, I still didn't sleep much afterwards.