11 January 2007


One of the few irreplaceable American services is the dentist. I just don’t trust them anywhere else. If one gets sick anywhere in the world, one knows what to do. With teeth, it is another matter. You just don’t want anyone messing around with power tools inside your mouth. This is one of the reasons I try to practice good oral hygiene. And even though my teeth and gums are in excellent health, I still need to get them cleaned occasionally.

Shortly after I moved to my apartment, a new dental clinic opened up. I talked to a few people who had gone, and they seemed impressed. Of course, they had pretty nasty looking teeth, so I wasn’t yet convinced. I then went in and grilled the receptionist about the dentists. It turned out that one of them had done post-graduate dental training in the US. The office was spotlessly clean, and they seemed to have all the most modern equipment. I let them do my teeth.

I went in again today for a cleaning. In Vietnam, and in every other country I have lived in outside the US, the dental hygienist does not exist. Dentists do the dirty work. I am not quite sure how they squeeze in all those years of hygienist training along with their teeth drilling studies. Actually, I know they don’t. They do an adequate job, but it is not up to what I would get in California. I always forget about the experience in a foreign dental office until I am in the chair.

As I said, the office was a five-star deal with bright, shiny equipment and top-of-the-line dental chairs, so I was comfortable. The dentist and her helper, (I have no idea what the helpers training was), donned gloves and masks and eye-shields, as I lay in a prone position. The first segment of the cleaning was with the ultrasonic thingy. The helper put the suction in my mouth, and the dentist went to work.

Immediately, water from the sonic gun started to splash all over my face. Then it started to drip down my throat. The tool was positioned such that I started to drool. The helper held a washcloth over my lower lip, alternately sponging off my face. By the time the water started to hit my shoulder, I was having the hardest time trying not to laugh at this Three Stooges Cleaning, and began to choke on the water. They let me up. Then it was back to it. It really was good I wasn’t wearing make-up, as by the end of it all, my face was soaked and my shirt rather damp. However, my teeth are darn clean, and the price was only about $25, so I am happy.

I will forgo pictures of my sparkling teeth, and instead attach pictures of dragon fruit. I can’t believe I had never tried it until a few weeks ago. I just assumed that anything that looked that bizarre most likely had a nasty flavor. I was wrong. It has a delicate, slightly tangy taste, and a soft-crunchy texture. But the most amazing part is its physical beauty. They are bright pink, even if the picture doesn’t exactly show it. The skin is so hard it looks and feels like plastic. In fact I bought a plastic one as a souvenir, and it is hard to tell the difference between it and the real thing. The first time I cut one open I just started in awe. How in the world did such an extraordinary fruit come into being? It’s like someone’s dream of what fruit would look like on Planet X-153. I am definitely hooked on these babies.

Time to check out my clean teeth again, and eat more dragon fruit.