HAVANA TIMES — Reading Daniel Palacio Almarales’ post on Cuba’s illegal dental clinics prompted me to write this post, where I hope to be able to corroborate what the article describes with a recent personal experience.
About twenty days ago, one of my wisdom teeth started hurting. Years before, I had gotten a filling because of an accident I had while snacking on an apparently harmless grilled cheese sandwich I bought at a State cafeteria.
I don’t know how it got there, but there was a pebble inside the sandwich which ground my wisdom tooth to bits. I went to the polyclinic immediately, but, as always, they didn’t have any filling paste.
I started to worry, for the injured tooth was an ideal breeding ground for cavities. My luck wasn’t so bad, though. In only three days, I was already having the tooth fixed up at Santiago’s Military Hospital, thanks to a friend who got me the appointment, mind you.
This was the only place of all State clinics and hospitals in the city where they seemed to have the filling paste. The dentist who repaired my tooth, however, had told me that the material they were using wasn’t very good and that, in time, it would start to leak. Two years later, the dentist’s bad tidings came true: my wisdom tooth started hurting.
The answer I would again get at the polyclinic is that they had no material for the filling and that they were prioritizing pregnant patients or severe injuries caused by accidents. I got the same story at two other clinics. After three nights of excruciating pain, I of course had no other choice but to resort to a private practice.
A friend took me to see a retired dentist that has his own, illegal clinic. This dentist doesn’t seem to have made enough money with this practice to improve his clinic. Likewise, perhaps the person who provides him with his supplies isn’t in a position to steal sterilized materials and other accessories.
The pain was far too strong for me to seriously weigh the risks of letting this gentleman extract the blessed tooth without gloves and without disinfecting the spot to be anesthetized with alcohol.
Intrepidly, I opened my mouth. In a few minutes’ time, the tooth-grinding molar was out. I was immediately relieved. The feeling lasted until the anesthesia wore off hours later. Then came four days of pain, owing to an infection that developed where the wisdom tooth had been.
I had to do a full cycle of antibiotics and rinse with mouthwash many times. Fortunately, I am already better and no longer feel any pain, after a rather sorry week.
I am wholly responsible for undergoing this procedure, at a locale that evidently didn’t have proper conditions for it. At the time, however, anything seemed better than spending a month going to the polyclinic to get sent away without the procedure.
As you can appreciate, we should add something to Palacio’s article: not only are illegal, private dental clinics emerging across Cuba, but also these clinics don’t always have the needed materials and equipment , and one ultimately ends up paying for a service that isn’t entirely safe.