By Xanthippa Socrates with much thanks
I was born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, the daughter of a political dissident.
Yeah, fun times.
I would like to talk to you about the socialized dentistry I grew up with.
As a kid, you were not entitled to just making a dental appointment: in grade 3, a screener came to our school. Those of us who needed dental work were given an appointment at a dental clinic.
On the appointed day and time, I showed up at the dental clinic. My parents were going through a rough patch and did not come with me, but apart from a parent/chaperone, the big thing that I was missing was a ‘present’ for the dentist.
All the other kids and the adults accompanying them had packets of imported coffee beans, expensive boxes of chocolates, bottles of alcohol, or other rather expensive gifts. I had nothing, but did not realize the significance of this.
While in the waiting room, I became rather afraid, because I heard howls of pain from the dentistry room.
Once it was my turn, I entered and there were 6 dental chairs, side-by-side, and I was shown into the second from left one. A dentist came up to me, told me to open my mouth wide, and looked in. Then, without any notice, I felt a horrible burning pain…
I screamed and, without consciously thinking of it, my jaws shut closed.
“We have a biter here!’ the dentist called out and everyone stared at me, shaming me…I wished I could have fallen through the floor, that is how ashamed I felt.
At this point, I would like to point out that in this type of dentistry, there was no freezing (thought a waste of resources) and, unlike in the West where a stream of cooling water is directed at the tooth – well this was never considered. Plus, nobody ever warned me this might hurt, or when they were about to drill…
Shamed and shunned, I was moved to the rightmost chair where there was an assistant who had ‘the finger’ – a metal sleeve that went over her finger, with really sharp edges. I suspect the sharp edges were a feature – to condition the patients against the need for their use.
She had stuck this between my jaws – again, no notice – and kept them apart while the dentist drilled away, no stopping or pausing for a breath or to relieve pain. When she had smugly removed ‘the finger’, I did not know what was more painful – the four drilled teeth or the cut-up insides of my cheek.
By the way, all 4 of my cavities were in baby teeth – so no fillings were put in because that would be a waste of resources. After all, they would fall out, eventually – so why fill them?
My next dental visit, they pulled 4 (different) teeth.
I had learned from my earlier mistake and brought presents, but they still thought using anaesthetics was a waste of resources.
Yeay for free dental care!!! Yeay for socialism!!!