I had my tooth pulled by a Chinese Dentist today. It’s a long painful process leading up to it (finding courage), but once decided, it happens fairly quickly. One the the great fears of an American in China is having dental work. More specifically, we are afraid of having a tooth pulled by a Chinese Dentist.
The Guizhou Provincial Government has a medical college and a hospital connected to the college. It’s called the medical college hospital. have a friend that is a leader. I’ve had work done before, getting a root canal, filling a cavity, but the pulling of a tooth is another level.The dental clinic is on the sixth floor and the dental surgery is on the fifth floor. Even one of my language tapes had a reference, “Hope you don’t have to go to a dentist while you are in China.” So when I had a broken tooth I knew it had to come out.
So my friend, Dr. Ma, introduces me to Dr. Tan, who is quite a nice young lady with good English. She confirms what I knew, that the tooth needs to come out. She answers all my questions, and she knows I was more than a little frightened. I asked her if it is difficult surgery, and she said that it was very easy. It’s the right upper front molar tooth, with the pain going up into my eye socket. It took real pain before I broke down to have the procedure. They gave me some antibiotics and the appointment was made for the next day. When we parted I asked her in my best Chinese if she would hold my hand during surgery. I had to tell her I was joking before she broke out laughing. So I went into the surgery section with a lot of confidence.
The anesthetic was effective and it was actually more trouble than I expected. I’ve never had a tooth pulled, except the baby teeth that just fell out. I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t remember the name of the doctor that did the work, but she was quite small, maybe eighty or ninety pounds. She seemed to have a lot of trouble getting hold of the tooth and giving it some good yanks. The tooth was broken near the gum line. Just when I was thinking, “Oh God, I should have asked for a man.” She got the hammer out. We had a signal planned that I would raise my hand if I had pain.
Holding the tooth with a tool and swinging the hammer made a loud clang, but no pain. The other Chinese dentist kept telling me to relax. The dentist hit the tooth several times, not just a couple. She was generating a lot of power. I thought she was holding a small sledge. I suspect that one of her feet was coming off the floor during the swings, maybe both feet. Still no pain.
Finally, when she was done swinging, she went back in with the pliers and started tugging again. Then I felt some pain and I actually raised my hand. The second dentist said “Pain” in Chinese, a couple times, but the first Chinese dentist kept tugging. Two minutes later it was over. I got the tooth hole filled with cotton and there was little pain. It has been twelve hours since the surgery, and very little pain. The pain compares with a skinned knuckle. I am impressed.
So there you have it. The surgery is a total success, and I am happy the dentist didn’t stop when I raised my hand. She was almost done and knew it. She just finished the job. That pain shooting toward the eye socket is gone, and baring complications, I would say everything is a success. When I finally looked around it turns out that the dentist had more help than needed. There must have been ten doctors and nurses watching! Foreigners are still uncommon in Guiyang, especially in a Guiyang oral surgery clinic.
In retrospect, I had confidence in the place because of the root canal and crown that I had had previously. My dentist in the USA confirmed the procedure in China was the same as used in the USA. So it was a totally modern situation. To the uninitiated, it is surprising to see several dentist chairs and several doctors working together in the same room on different patients. In the USA, perhaps we are a bit spoiled with our medical privacy. Other than that, and the language barrier, things seem pretty standard on this side of the world.