14 March 2018
Before I left America, I went to all of my doctors to make sure everything was okay while I still had insurance. After seven months and some prodding, I decided it was time to visit a Latvian dentist. For some reason, getting back injections and having my ears cleaned here didn’t bother me, but I was still a bit afraid of going to a dentist here. I blame Marathon Man (warning… do not watch if you have a fear of dentists).
Rita helped me find the Dental Art clinic and told me that yes, they speak English. I conveniently booked an appointment online, no questions asked. This is the week of Spring Break for most of my students, so what else do teachers do during Spring Break? Take care of their health.
I found the building easily enough on Barona Iela. I opened the door to a staircase in an old building that was dimly lit. Hmmm. I guessed that the dental office would be somewhere upstairs. I was right! I opened the door, uncertain of what to expect. For some reason, I keep flashing back to the old J. C. Penney in Wahoo. It had this dark staircase that led to a door at the top of the steps. Was there a dentist there? I never know what to expect when I enter a room here. Will it be a dimly lit, damp, old, moldy office with concrete walls and linoleum floors?
No, no it wasn’t. It is a brightly lit, very modern looking office with a wonderfully friendly staff. I went to the desk, and the nice woman knew I didn’t speak Latvian, so she gave me a form in English. Typical questions. There was no talk of price or payment, so I wasn’t sure how much this was all going to cost me.
After a few minutes, I was escorted to the examination room. Wow! The equipment looked even more modern and advanced than my dentist in Omaha. Everything was clean and very organized. The technician didn’t seem to speak any English. She pointed to the reclining exam chair, and I sat down and waited. I had no idea what to expect. There was a certain bit of fear and excitement as I tried to figure out what all of the instruments were for. A tray of at least ten different corded apparati was laid out before me.
I write this now in the hopes that an American dentist might read this and make some comments on my observations. I doubt it, but I can hope.
The actual dentist entered. I didn’t get her name. I meant to ask. She spoked some English, but politely asked if I spoke Latvian. She wore white scrubs while her technician wore blue. I will try to recall all of the things they did in a series of steps:
- She started with a pain killer. She squirted some burning liquid into my mouth that made my tongue and lips numb. That was pretty cool. They also put these yellow sunglasses on me for protection. After each procedure, I was allowed to drink and rinse.
- Then she used a metal pick to examine all of my teeth and gums reporting everything she found to her technician. No x-rays. Just a manual examination. She found three small cavities. When I left America, I knew I had at least one. Shoot. Darn these Latvian sweets!!! She said I could make an appointment to have them filled.
- After the metal pick, she had me rinse, and then she used the high-pressure water pick. I love that thing.
- Then there was the typical dental floss, but after this, it got a little different.
- I asked if she could get my fake front tooth a bit cleaner, and she said probably not. I would need to redo it to get it white again.
- She polished the teeth using some standard paste.
- Then there was some gum thing… I couldn’t see what it was, but I think it was the water pick again. This was the only time I felt any discomfort. It felt like they were peeling my gums off of my teeth.
- She then had a little sander/polisher that reminded me of a Dremel. I think she was smoothing everything out.
- After that, she put this weird plastic thing in my mouth and covered my face with a paper towel. “Soda…” she said. Soda? NO clue what this was, but it sounded cool. It was some kind of bubbly liquid that did something, I suppose.
- She did a bit more polishing and shining, and finally put my teeth in a mouth guard filled with some gel. I suppose it was fluoride or something? I don’t know.
As she did all of this, at least four procedures I had never had before in America, I was wondering about the cost. I figured in the U. S. all of this would be a few hundred. In Latvia, I estimated 90 Euro. It turned out to be just 70 for an hour long treatment and diagnosis. Not bad at all with no insurance of any kind!
My big question is about the lack of x-rays. Every time you go to the dentist in the States, they x-ray you. They have a bunch of different kinds of x-rays, and all of them must cost thousands of dollars. This dentist said they only do an x-ray if there is a specific type of tooth issue. I can’t remember the word she used.
I sometimes wonder how much of the medical costs in America are due to lobbyists and salespeople pushing products that we don’t necessarily need. There is this feeling of overkill that keeps the costs incredibly high. I could, of course, be wrong.
I think I told this story already, but when I lived in Stapleton, a bunch of people had sliding glass doors for front doors. I had never seen that before, and all I could think is that there must have been a hell of a sliding glass door salesman who came through Stapleton at some point in time. Daugavpils had a bunch of iron balconies because they had a factory there that specialized in making them. How much of what we have is what we need versus what we are sold? I guess that is the big question about capitalism and marketing, isn’t it?
Overall, I recommend Latvian denstistry. The cost is low, the quality is outstanding, and my teeth feel brand new. Some stains still remain, but what can you expect after drinking coffee for 27 years or so?
On the way home, I saw a little Italian shop, and I decided to stop. I wanted some olives, but the little plastic containers they came in seemed a bit leaky. Instead, I bought some real tomato sauce with NO SUGAR (yay!), and a tiny thick-crust pizza. I decided to try the pizza after I got home. It only cost 2.5 Euros, but it might have been the best pizza that I have ever had. I know I say that a lot. I expected to eat just one piece, but guess what, I ate the whole thing. It was just a personal pizza, but still. I will definitely be a customer of that place again! I just wish I knew the name of it. I checked Google Maps and the internet, but no luck. I will update you when I know!