Tuesday 20 December 2016

First dentist visit: Root canal therapy

Today, I went for my appointment at the dentist. 

The teeth in the X-ray image are mine
I was only there for 45 minutes, but in that time, I filled out some forms, got my teeth X-rayed, and got a root canal procedure done. It all cost 114 euros. 

A poster on the wall behind the reception desk. 
When I got to the dentist's office, the dentist's assistant got me to fill out a 2-page form with some questions about medical history. The second page had some questions relating to dental hygiene and habits, like "do you grind or grit your teeth often?", "do you notice any cracking sound or pain when you open your mouth?", "do you have trouble chewing?", "Do you use a soft, medium or hard bristle toothbrush","How often do you change your toothbrush?", "Do you brush your teeth in the morning/noon/night?".

They also had questions about whether I'm happy with how my teeth look. One of the questions was "if you could change something about your smile, what would you change?" 
I guess those last few questions help make the patient more mentally prepared to spend money on the aesthetic dental treatments. 

After filling out the form, I was taken by the assistant to have my teeth X-rayed. There was this big machine I stood at, and it went around my head, scanning an X-ray image.

See the black hook-like thing right in the middle of the photo? You bite down on that while the mobile white parts rotate around your head and do the scanning.

Then I lay down in the dental chair and the dentist asked me what I thought I needed. So I just told him that he'll see the hole and he'd know what to do. 

He took one look at it and went "Ohhhh. That's deep. Does it hurt?" Luckily for me, it doesn't hurt yet. Unless i'm chewing something and it gets right in the hole. Then it hurts. Or if it's really cold. 

Well, he said that a root canal treatment would be necessary. I'll write about what that is in another post. I'm still finding out more about it. All I found out about it before meeting with the dentist is that there are people who think that it's not good for your health. But there are also proponents of root canal treatment, so it's not very easy to decide. 

I asked the dentist if it would hurt, and he said that it wouldn't thanks to the anesthesia, so we went ahead with it. It didn't hurt, and only took about 15 minutes. He drilled away the parts of my teeth that were bad, remove the pulp and the nerves, then he filled the tooth with gutta-percha, which is a rigid natural latext made from the sap of the gutta-percha tree. I'll go into the details in a different post. Fun fact, the word gutta-percha come from the Malay name for it, "getah perca" which  translates as "Percha sap". 

The doctor showing me the scans of my teeth (left, after the treatment. Right, before)

I circled the hole for you in red

The dentist told me that I'd have to come back to get a crown put on because I deserve it, because otherwise this filling will get loose and come off. He said that the assistant would give me a quotation for the crown and that I could setup the next appointment with her. 

I took the opportunity to ask the dentist if my teeth were okay, and he said that they were, apart from this one really bad tooth. That was good to hear, because I'm kinda sure that at one point during the procedure, I overheard him saying to his assistant "His teeth are really in a state". I guess I must have misheard, and he must have been saying "tooth" and not "teeth". I hope. 

The assistant printed out a quotation for the tooth filling procedure that I'd have to come for next time. Here it is:

1,148 Euros!
That's a lot of money to get a hole filled. Gosh. So I'm just gonna check with my insurance that they cover this kind of stuff. Otherwise, you know, what's one missing tooth right. 

All in all, today's trip to the dentist went exactly like in the movies. I got there, sat in his chair, he drilled my hole and filled it with some white stuff. And he wants me to come back so he can fill it with something harder. 

Definitely gonna take much better care of my teeth now though! 

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Sweet Tooth

Listen to the audio version of this post:
Churros at the Christmas Market, photographed by SWTliving
Ever since I was little, I've loved sweet things. Cookies, candy, chocolate, cake, ice cream, you name it. It's crazy the number of sweet things there are in the world. And sometimes people get really creative and make combinations of sweet things. Like, cookies and cream ice cream, or strawberry cheesecake cookies, or ice cream cake. One time I had Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream. There's like, at least 7 different confections/desserts in that name (chocolate, fudge, brownie, cream, ice cream, chocolate fudge, chocolate fudge brownie). 

I still remember my reaction when I bought it, "Really? How is this even a thing?!" Then I ate it and found out, "OH that's why. Of course this has to be a thing".

I'm not entirely sure how I became so fond of sweets, but I vaguely recall a childhood memory where my father took my family to visit a friend of his in Sarawak, Malaysia. This man we went to visit lived in the forest. Or perhaps he owned a plantation which I mistook for a forest. I can't remember exactly. I was maybe 8 years old. 

We were lounging in his living room, and the adults were talking to each other. Nothing particularly interesting was happening at the time. But then that man said "It's time for lunch", and he called in his dayang-dayang (maids) and told them to serve lunch. And they left the living room and came back moments later carrying trays of cookies and cakes. I grew wide-eyed and I asked "you have this for lunch?!" To which he responded, "yes, I only ever eat sweets. I don't eat rice because I'm allergic to it". 

That just blew my mind. Instantly this man became my hero. Sweets for lunch?! Yes! 

I must say though, although I can recall this story, and I attribute my sweet tooth mainly to this formative experience in my early life, I can't say that I'm 100% sure that this isn't just my imagination. I'll have to ask my parents if they remember this happening.  

Perhaps, in fact, my fondness for sweets is partly due to me being from Malaysia, where there's sugar in literally everything. There's even sweet main dishes (sambal, rendang, gulai, sweet and sour chicken, pineapple chicken, just to name a few). Not to mention all the desserts! 

Just kidding! Of course I'll mention 'em: Some Malay desserts are ABC, cendol, kuih makmur, and of course dodol! That last one's basically just sugar and coconut milk. It takes a lot of effort to make. Malays are serious about their desserts. 

Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia page for dodol describing the preparation process for this gooey dessert:
Dodol is made from coconut milkjaggery, and rice flour, and is sticky, thick and sweet. It normally takes up to 9 hours to cook. During the entire cooking process, the dodol must be constantly stirred in a big wok. Pausing in between would cause it to burn, spoiling the taste and aroma. The dodol is completely cooked when it is firm, and does not stick to one's fingers when touching it.     
You see, dessert is serious business where I'm from. Yes, dodol takes hours to make, and you gotta keep stirring it. And it gets really really sticky and firm towards the end so it really takes a lot of energy to stir it at that point.  I'd know because I've made dodol once, when I was little. Well, actually, my mum made the dodol, with her friend, and I helped too. We took turns stirring, literally for hours. But the end result was so worth it! 

That's me having a Cendol in a restaurant called Sampurna (meaning perfection) in Amsterdam
Then there's the indian desserts, like laddu, kesari, kheer (or, as I've always known it in Tamil, payasam), and gulab jamun. All of these desserts are super sweet, and taste like they have bucket loads of sugar. I've made laddu and gulab jamun before, so I know for a fact that those do have lots of sugar in them. 

I used to make these Indian treats for friends, but I stopped since no one would eat them because everyone found them too sweet. It tasted great to me though. But then again, I always play it a little fast and loose when it comes to sugar in my recipes. 

A fruit tart
We've established that I like dessert. So it should come as no surprise that when I travel, I like to try many different desserts too! In fact, my first ever instagram photo was of different toppings at at frozen yogurt place in Nice. 

This is the photo I chose to use as my debut on Instagram
When I came to France, I discovered all the delicious French pastries and instantly knew that I would not have too much of a hard time in this country. It's not just the French desserts either; It's great that Italian deserts and other European desserts are more accessibly priced here, so I get to have lots of 'em. Two years ago, when I went to London for holiday in December, I had the time of my life visiting all the candy stores and loading myself up on sweets and desserts. 

M&M World. It's 4 levels of fun!

Just look at how happy I am

I even had pretend tea time with Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit
I've just scrolled through the photos in this post again, and what I've realized is, I'm smiling really big and happily in each one I'm in! Clearly I do like my sweets and thoroughly enjoy indulging my sweet tooth. 

And this is probably why now I have a hole in my tooth. All the sweets at inappropriate moments of the day, and the lack of flossing. 

It turns out, when you eat desserts is important. Apparently, eating desserts after a meal is not so bad for the teeth. Especially since we're supposed to brush our teeth after meals. It's when you have sweets at odd hours that the plaque-forming bacteria get the chance to multiply and wreak their havoc. 

So today's lesson is: With proper dental care, it's okay to indulge your sweet tooth. Enjoy your dessert everyone, but don't forget to clean your teeth!

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Kicking off the FundMySmile fundraiser!

Recently, I've started to have a hole in one of my molar teeth. I've looked into how much it would cost to get it fixed, and it's a significant amount of money. So two days ago, I made this post on Facebook:

In just under 48 hours, I've gotten a few monetary gifts!

First of all, thank you to everyone who's gifted money to my PayPal account so far! You guys are fantastic! I really do appreciate it so much, I'm smiling already, and I haven't even seen the dentist :D

I was pretty happy with this idea, and, frankly, proud of myself for doing it (even though crowdfunding isn't really a new idea). I even met some tourists on the tram and gave them a link to my fundraiser and explained that it's for fixing my teeth. But then I spoke to some friends about it, and they told me that people will be more likely to contribute if they feel like they get something out of it.

I thought about that for a bit, and now I just finished reading the Wikipedia article about crowdfunding. In the majority of cases, it's a win-win situation. In this scenario, however, where I'm doing this fundraising for the improvement of my own teeth, the winner is mostly just me. So I thought, how can I make my friends who contribute winners as well?

At first I told myself I'd just smile more at them. But I already smile a lot as it is. Maybe I'd only smile at people who contributed to the fundraiser, and stop smiling to everyone else. Yeah! That's it; win-win! But what about all those people who I don't see very often? Well, I'd just have to post more selfies with me smiling and showing off the beautiful teeth they help put in my mouth. But I'd have to use the privacy options and filters on Facebook so only my friends who paid up get to see me smile.

It didn't take me long to realize that this idea wasn't really going to cut it. After little more than an hour of consideration, I'd decided that if I made this the "benefit" that people get out of contributing to the cause, a lot of people just wouldn't be interested. Plus, all that selfie posting would just be misconstrued as vain and narcissistic. Which I definitely am not, obviously.

So I sat and thought about a way to make the crowdfunding of my dentist trips be a win-win for everyone, so it's not just me asking for money on Facebook. That was totally my original plan, which I'm fine with. But I thought that a win-win would be so much more fun!

Sitting and thinking, of course, is sometimes fruitful. Here's what I came up with: First, the fundraiser has to have a clear goal. So far I've only vaguely described what I want to go to the dentist for. You guys should know where your money is going. With the money you contribute to the fundraiser, I will get this hole in my tooth filled with an inlay (that shit's expensive, and not covered by social security), get braces (those are even more expensive. And not covered either), and once they're all straightened out, get them whitened.

There, that's the main objective of the fundraiser. Now that that's clearly established, I have to find out the target funds to be raised. I will go and find out from the dentist how much all of that will cost, and whatever that amount is, will be the amount when the fundraising should stop.

Then, I use that money to go get all those things done to my teeth that I mentioned above. So that's one win so far. For me. But for all you lovely contributors, there's a lot of win too! Let's go through them now: First off all, I'm pretty sure the complimentary health insurance I have should cover like, 80% of the dentist fees. I won't keep that money. Instead, I'll use it to spend time with all of you who contributed.

Not everyone all at once together, because the logistics of that would be a nightmare.Plus, not all of you want to be friends with each other. Heaven forbid. But perhaps in groups, and with some of you, individually ;) You see, we could use that money to do fun stuff, like lunches at restaurants, or trips to places. Or I might buy you a present or something. I don't know the details yet. I'm not even sure how much money we're talking about here. It's in the thousands of euros though. Toothcare ain't cheap. The red squiggly lines are telling me that "toothcare" is not a real word. Oh yes, it's called dental care. It's expensive.

I'll find out exactly how much all this is; a few friends have told me that filling the hole in my tooth for example, should cost around 400 - 500 euros, if I choose to get inlays instead of a crown. They'll scan my tooth, and then 3D-print a piece that will exactly fit the hole in my tooth ever so precisely and they stick it in there. Frikkin technology, right there. But it's expensive.

Once I've got the numbers figured out, I'll keep all of you posted. And that's the other win you get! All the updates about my oral situation. I'll tell all of you about all the various things the dentist will be doing in my mouth, in mouth watering detail. Literally mouth watering, because my mouth would probably fill up with saliva while it's all agape and being prodded with the dentist's tool.

See, you're having fun reading about it already. Imagine updates like that, but on a semi-regular basis. I'll give updates about how the braces feel, and all the nonsense that goes along with having them in your mouth for 18 months. That's a long time. You could have like, at least two babies in that time. If you had twins, you could have like, three or four. And if you were a guy, well, you could have as many as you want!

But I digress. The point is, you should contribute to the fundraiser so I can get all these things done and tell you all about it, in interesting ways. I'll write, and post pictures, and make videos.

See, so go now. click this link and help me fix my teeth :)