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Dental Travails....

Deirdre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2007), Camino Francés (2008), Camino Portugués (2010), Camino Aragonés - from Lourdes (2012)
#1
Before beginning my Camino in July, 07, I spent 5 weeks in Madrid and Andalucia with a group of 15 high school students whom I brought to Spain to study. During my first week, I was sitting watching a movie while they were in class. I absentmindedly had my thumbnail between my teeth when the teeth slipped, hit together and I heard a crunch. I examined my thumbnail thinking that I had broken it when much to my surprise, my thumbnail was intact. My front tooth, however was not so lucky.

Fortunately there was no pain as the tooth had had a root canal some 20 years prior. But there was no way I could survive for 2 months with it like this. The Assistant DIrector of the school where my students were called a local dentist - he had given them his card, but they had never used him. And I am of the generation where the mere thought of going to the dentist produces heart palpitations and white knuckles. However, the situation was dire and off I went.

While the office was not as hi-tech as some in the US, it was certainly adequate. It was spacious and bright and the dental assistant was pleasant and did her best to make me feel at ease. The dentist himself was fairly young, I would say mid to late 30's and although my Spanish is pretty good, I explained to him that my vocabulary didn't really encompass the terminology necessary to explain or understand what was going on. However, he had a little English and between us, we sorted it out. Underneath the veneer, the tooth was "profoundly and completely' damaged; and while he wasn't prepared to undertake the lenghty steps necessary to resolve the issue, he assured me that I could be reasonably certain of losing the tooth when I returned to the States. In the meantime, he would do what he could to make it last but I could not "bite, chew, bite my nails, tap with a pen or pencil"... you get the idea.

It took about an hour, and he used white filling material to stabalize the tooth to its "vecinos" neighbors. He was extremely gentle, explained each step along the way and mostly wanted to talk about the US. At the end, I paid 95 Euros and the temporary solution lasted about 4-5 weeks. I discovered it is virtually impossible to never have food get between your front teeth even if you make a concerted effort to chew in the back. I cut everything up into small pieces, ate no hard bread that I could break into a manageable size and switched from tinto de verano (ice in the glass) to straight vinto tinto! (Are you reading this, here, VT?)

But during the ensuing weeks, I noticed that occasionally a piece of food would get in the space and little by little the tooth was loosening up. It was only a matter of time. I headed out on the Camino on July 20 after sending the students home and walked for a week.

The tooth sucumbed to spaghetti "al dente" in Azofra, and I think I spent 20 minutes crying just from sheer nerves of the first week. My vanity didn't want to spend the remainder of the Camino without a front tooth! However, my companions convinced me (lied to me, actually) and said it was hardly noticeable and as long as it didn't hurt, I might as well go on. Some people suggested that I see a dentist in Burgos or Leon, but as I already knew what the problem and solution was, I forewent that and forged on.

Once I got over the initial self consciousness and got used to it, it wasn't so bad. I learned to keep my mouth shut (something I was never very good at!) and learned to eat differently. I bought a sharp knife and instead of bocadillos, I ate fruit, cheese and bread cut into small pieces. I love grapes, so I ate lots of those. And tons of salad. It took me lots longer than other people to eat, so while they ordered the "pilgrim menu", I just ordered the salad portion and finished it in the time they were finishing their meals.

I learned to be resourceful and to adapt. And I had a wonderful time. When I got home, I got to the dentist who was able to put a post and a temporary crown on. The final one had to be specially colour matched (of course my teeth couldn't be just ONE colour!) and will be installed next Monday. It has indeed been a long journey.

Just as an aside, I also had occasion to take one of my students to a hospital in Madrid, and myself to the hospital in Santiago. In both cases, we received excellent treatment. The service was fast (I've spent plenty of hours in American emergency rooms!); everyone was caring and personable and went out of their way to be sure that my student and then myself understood exactly what was going on. The strangest thing, however, was walking around at the end of the treatment, perscription in hand, trying to find where to pay. I finally asked the Doctor in Santiago, who didn't know. He went to try to find out and returned to tell me that treatment was free - you didn't pay in this hospital. To paraphrase Arn, "Well patch me up, and call me cured!" Any and all Americans will understand that that is just unheard of!!!!!

No doubt there will be differing opinions on this forum, but I for one would not be afraid of seeking medical/dental treatment in Spain. I, and my students were treated spectacularly on every occasion!

AMDG,
 

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vinotinto

Active Member
#2
Deirdre said:
I learned to be resourceful and to adapt.
I think that's the key to any successful adventure, as yours most definitely was! Thanks for posting this account - I had a number of dental issues as a child, and I always have to be vigilant about tooth care. :arrow:
 

Arn

Moderator
Staff member
#3
Deirdre,

I am totally in awe that you took such a large group of students to Spain...what an accomplishment! I've taken several groups of Scouts on long adventures...Philmont, national Sea Base at Islamorada FL...along the AT. I don't know what you did to maintain control...but I want a bottle! Scouts are one thing...students another world entirely.
regards
Arn
 
#4
Deirdre, I can honestly say that it wasn't noticeable! I truly wish that I had a picture of you AFTER Azofra so that you could see it... but you became quite close-lipped at that point! Although luckily only while smiling because otherwise I'd have missed out on some good stories and good wisdom.
 

vinotinto

Active Member
#5
Deirdre said:
but I for one would not be afraid of seeking medical/dental treatment in Spain
That's good to hear. Before I left to do the Camino, I was told that a chaplain where I work (a hospital) was bitten on the leg by a spider while on the Way. It appears that he have some treatment issues while in Spain, and came close to losing his leg. Perhaps it happened in a more remote part of the trail. Indeed, one can receive bad treatment anywhere, but I'm glad your experience went well. :arrow:
 

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Thread starter OLDER threads on this topic Forum Replies Date
billmclaughlin Medical issues on the pilgrimage 7
J Medical issues on the pilgrimage 10

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