Saturday, January 27, 2018

Finally, an entry with teeth, a neglected part of Central Europe gets a look in and one in the eye for those who suspect I am vain. Vain? Moi?

What do ‘getting a little long in the tooth’ and Slovakia have in common? Well, on the face of it nothing, except that juxtaposing a well-known English phrase and a Central European country is just another of the kind of oblique intros I have made my own and which probably don’t do me any favours. But, in fact, they do have a connection, although because it’s a personal one – personal to me, that is – it probably doesn’t count.

About seven or eight years ago, I visited Plymouth for the day with my then young daughter, Elsie (and possibly her younger brother). I had no business in Plymouth and only went along because she wanted to go shopping and I didn’t want a 12/13-year-old wandering around the city on her own. On the way home, sitting in on the train, I took a selfie, and a non-too-flattering selfie at that. In one of the shops we had happened upon what would be called a ‘joke shop’ although it sold more than just jokes.

It stocked any number of cheap and amusing gadgets, toys, books, masks and that kind of thing, items which catch our interest when we spot them in a such a shop, which we then buy, toy with for a day or two, and which are then thrown out ten or 20 years later when we clean out our drawers. They are by then usually covered in dust and fluff.

One of the thing which caught my eye and which I bought was a set of joke false teeth which made the wearer resemble an 70-year-old hideous tramp. They were not pretty, and as a joke I bought them and, later on the train, put them in my mouth and took my selfie. Sadly, I no longer have that selfie but I wish I now did, because the set of horrible teeth were rather too close to the truth for me and posting that picture here to accompany that entry would explain why I am planning a trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, in March rather better and certainly a lot faster than all the preceding long-winded circumlocutious waffle.

The fact was that by the age I had then reached, and one which was not regarded as particularly old, I didn’t really need a set of hideous false teeth. My left front tooth had, inexplicably apparently rather quickly, grown rather longer than its right twin and it was most certainly noticeable. And it did not flatter me.

When I asked my dentist why it had happened, she told me if often did with age because, like horses, our gums recede. But that couldn’t be the explanation, I told her, because it wasn’t that more of the base of the tooth was showing as the gum was receding, but that it had simply grown longer. She shrugged. She was a twentysometing dark-haired and very pretty Spanish woman and shrugging in an attractive way was the least of her charms. Sadly, she has long since returned to Spain. Was there anything I could do, I asked. Yes, she said, you can have it shortened. Is that service available on the NHS, I asked. No, she said, you will have to have it done privately.

But oddly enough, at my next six-monthly check-up and without saying a word she did shorten it, getting to work and simply using a drill to get rid of what was by now an excess on that left front tooth. I didn’t ask why in case I was about to be charged. But I wasn’t.

I can’t exaggerate how much that longer front tooth rather spoiled my ‘looks’ and had made me feel self-conscious. Now the problem was cured. But now I have another problem.

About a year ago, I felt a little pain when I would bit into an apple (milk and an apple or two is my snack of choice), so I pretty much without thinking took to not using my front teeth to eat the apples and used my side teeth instead. A few months later I realised that left front tooth was loose. And it has become even looser still. So loose in fact, that I have decided to have it taken out and replaced with an implant. And that is why I am travelling to Bratislava for two night in March. Finally, got there, eh?

Actually, getting an implant was a subsequent decision. I am not as vain as I have made out here and had simply decided to have the tooth taken out and sport a gap. Why not? Pirates do it, so why shouldn’t I. But there was uproar in our household, with both my wife and daughter both insisting I ‘couldn’t go around with a gap’. Why not? I asked again, but to be honest it is one of those things which you either get, know, understand and accept, or you just don’t. And I just don’t.

The alternatives were a one-tooth denture or an implant. Now implants are notoriously expensive so they both assumed I would settle for a one-tooth denture. No way, I told then, I am not wearing dentures even if, strictly speaking it is only a denture. I’m not. Why not? they asked, but there again that is one of those things you either get, know, understand and accept, or you don’t. The didn’t.

From there on in ‘my journey’ (to use a phrase I am too old to like and don’t, and far too old to get used to but which seems to be rather popular these days in that way that much is now made to sound far more important than it really is. People now talk of ‘their dream’ and ‘their vision’ when what they mean is ‘what they would like to do’ and ‘how they plan to set about doing it’) to getting an implant was clear, and even choosing to go to Bratislava was a straightforward decision.

We Brits are continually warned of the dangers of getting dental work done abroad, and certainly caution is not just advisable but necessary. On the other hand when what British dentists charge – I was quoted from between £2,300 to more than £4,000 for just the one implant when I range around local dentists whereas I shall be paying just over £1,000 in Slovakia – is compared and, of course, all other things being equal, getting the work done in Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany or Slovakia is something of a no-brainer.

I did ring my NHS dentist to ask her advice, and she told me she had seen private work done to one of her patients in Bulgaria and she wasn’t happy with it and work done by Hungarian dentists which didn’t trouble her at all. (She is, by the way, Greek). She told me that I should ensure that whichever dentist I went to adhered to acceptable standards of hygiene. Well, that, too, is something of a no-brainer, and it is an odd kind of British xenophobia which accepts without question that hygiene standards in Europe will necessarily be than ours.

So the die is cast and I am off to Bratislava on March 14 to March 16 for the initial treatment. (This is the clinic.) I shall be flying in via Vienna as direct flights to Bratislava for Heathrow are not plenty. I trust that is no quiet criticism by the airline companies on the standards of hygiene in Slovakian dental clinics. There are several Ryanair flights from ‘London’ Stansted, but they depart for the outbound flight at an unearthly early hour and, anyway, after once driving to and from Stansted and taking several bloody hours to drive through north London to Earls Court (there was a match on at Wembley), never, ever again. OK, I can use the Stansted Express, but even that would mean getting up at just after 4am to get to wherever it leaves London from, and anyway I am now holding a grudge.

For the implant to be done, I shall, of course, have to have the loose front tooth pulled out first, and I have resolved to have a photo taken once the pulling has been done. It will, of course, be posted here, to dismiss all further suggestions that I am vain (OK, only a little – see photo below. I always insist it is intended as a parody of vain self-portraits, but let me be honest: no, it isn’t).

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