I haven’t been to the dentist since January. I’m a bit of a nut about oral hygene, and my teeth were starting to feel icky, so I just couldn’t leave it any longer — it was starting to get to me. So I found a dentist, and today, I went.
This is another one of those experiences you just won’t have as just a tourist or a visitor to another country — even going somewhere as a foreign exchange student, for an entire school year, you could probably manage to do routine dental (and any other) visits during school vacations, or to go just before you left and then wait to go again until you get back. Visiting the dentist is one of those things you only do in a foreign country if you live there (or have some kind of dental emergency).
Visiting any type of doctor here is a little weird. At home, I’m used to a dentist (or any kind of doctor) having their office in an office park or some kind of medical center. Here, the doctor’s and dentist’s offices are mixed right in to residential buildings. Not, as you might see in the States, on the ground floor of a residential building, but in just any building, on any random floor, next door to regular apartments. As such, you have to get buzzed in to the building, and then again to the office unit . . . and you ride up in the elevator along with the building’s residents. This afternoon, on the way to the dentist, for example, I rode up in an elevator full of young women, laden with beer, having a party, I presume. There was just something odd about getting off on the same floor, and going in to the neighboring apartment . . . to have my teeth cleaned. (I should be used to this by now, really, since there is a doctor who has her office downstairs from our apartment, and she appears to ALSO live there, which I also find strange.)
Going in to it, you don’t know what to expect. Do they do things the same way here? Will my teeth be taken care of? Do these people know what they’re doing? Will I be able to communicate with them? Have I rotted my teeth out on coffee and pastries over the past 6 months?!? For all the strangeness of the office location, and the nervousness and anticipation, the actual experience of getting my teeth cleaned was pretty much the same. The dentist was nice, the hygienist was nice. The dentist is originally from California, so there’s no language barrier there (although living in Vienna for 10+ years gives him a very strange accent) and the hygienist, who is Austrian, spoke English very well, and got assistance from the receptionist when she got stuck (she told me she was going to “shower” my teeth, but knew that wasn’t right . . . the receptionist looked it up for her, laughing — the word she was looking for was “rinse”).
It was a fine experience, and my teeth are clean. I admit I miss my dentist and hygienist from home, though. But this is definitely one of those things that I kind of took for granted at home that I’m not sure I will again. And it’s another one of those moments that reminds me that I’m not just visiting.