Of all the pain in the world, the worst is dental

I’m pained to write that my circumnavigation trip could get aborted for health and financial reasons.

One of my teeth, which was treated at Mumbai’s Nair Hospital last year, got infected in China and has since decayed. It was paining for a month. But I was not confident about getting treatment done in China.

In Perth, while serving at a community kitchen called Annalakshmi, I met a Gujarati dentist, Dr. Jignesh Vania, who practices here. I was fortunate as dentists are rarely found in Australia. A check up, including an X ray, costs few hundred Australian dollars, depending upon the location of the clinic.

After work, Dr. Jignesh comes to the community kitchen everyday and helps serve food. Yash Gandhi from Pakistan, whom I befriended at the kitchen, introduced me to Dr. Jignesh. After I explained the trouble I was facing with my tooth, Dr. Jignesh asked me to visit his clinic the next day. I was hesitant but let it out that I had no money. He laughed and after thinking for a while, he told me to come to his clinic on Saturday morning.

I was embarassed to visit his clinic with no money on me. On Saturday, I took a bus and managed to get off at the correct stop. But I got lost thereafter. I couldn’t use Google maps as I had no internet (apart from the aboriginal people, I could have been the only person in Australia who wasn’t using Google maps). I called up Dr. Jignesh and he gave me directions to reach his clinic. I eventually reached 15 minutes later than planned.

Dr. Jignesh was very warm. He smiled and welcomed me to his clinic. There were hardly any staffers and I could guess why he had called me on a Saturday. He went into the pantry and fixed a mug of coffee for me. While munching on some biscuits, I narrated my dental history. He used the words, ‘would you please’ very often. I was not used to be spoken with so politely He took an X-ray of my infected tooth and checked the images on his computer. He looked serious as he thought for a while. I realised something was wrong.

One of my molars had been damaged extensively and I had already got it treated twice in India. He gave me a few options: remove the infected tooth or get a root canal done for 1600 Australian dollars (approximately Rs 80000). The treatment would happen in two to three phases depending on the severity of the infection. I suddenly couldn’t digest the coffee anymore.

I’m not keen on getting the tooth removed (an acquaintance had slipped into coma while getting his tooth removed and that had spooked me). I had no money for a root canal. I told Dr. Jignesh that I would like to talk to my dentist in India, Dr KS Banga, who is the Head of the Department at Nair dental hospital. Dr Jignesh made an international phone call to Dr. Banga for me. After considerable discussion, we decided to choose a middle path and refill the tooth. That too was risky. The infection was close to a nerve and I was afraid of the possibility of bleeding. As Dr. Jignesh removed the old filling, I checked the mirror and found that 45% of my visible tooth had disappeared. He refilled the cavity. The cost was 600 Australian dollars but I was permitted to pay when I could. This filling is temporary and may last for a week or possibly a month.

As my journey is supposed to stretch over a year, I have some tough choices to make: 1) Medical insurance does not apply for dental treatment in Australia. I would need 2,000 to 3,000 Australian dollars for complete treatment. 2) Dr. Banga is looking for friends or ex-students practising in Australia who could help me out.

If neither of these works out, I will have to end the trip, thank my awesome sponsors and friends for their support and return to India with fabulous memories of my journey to get my tooth treated at the Nair dental hospital.

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