Urgent Dentistry in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Mrs. ItchyFeet in the rain on the beach

For those of you who know me, I smile a lot. I’m very proud of my teeth and I try to take considerable care of them. While in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic, a couple of my teeth started turning grey and one even looked like it was going transparent. I freaked out! The internet clearly states that if this happens, the tooth is dying. That would mean that I would need a couple of root-canals and some caps. How much was that going to cost!?! What if they had to pull them? Panic!

Get your grill fixed!

Way back when I was a teenager, one of my “friends” elbowed me in the face while I was taking a drink from a glass bottle. This cracked my front tooth and knocked out the backside. He meant to elbow me in the face, but didn’t intend to cause so much damage. I should have pressed for assault charges, but I was young and didn’t know better. I also should have put the broken piece into some contact solution or milk ‘cause a lot of times you can just glue the broken bit back onto the tooth. Lessons learned.

Crazy rainstorm from my apartment
These rainstorms are crazy in the tropics! Mojita is hiding under cover around the corner. She’s not allowed inside, per management.

I never had cavities (knock on wood!) or braces or anything, so this broken tooth was extremely stressful. Luckily, I had the absolute best dentist (though his office was an hour and a half away in a different city). He covered both front teeth with veneers so that they looked the same as each other. He made impressions, took photos for color, and sent away to some fancy place in New York for the veneers. It was all a lot of effort and expense (thanks, parents!) but the results were well worth it. You really can’t tell that they are veneers!

However, when the teeth on either side of the veneers began turning grey, it was very obvious. Those veneers are really white in comparison. What I am most worried about is, what if all four teeth have died and I just can’t tell about the two front ones because of the veneers?!? Time to make an urgent appointment with a local dentist!

Mrs. ItchyFeet's teeth turning grey
These grey teeth really freaked me out! Time for the dentist!

How to pick a dentist in a foreign country

You know all those apps on your phone or computer that you would use to look up reviews of places before selecting one? Yeah, well, they don’t really have reviews here. If you’re lucky and a place is on one of the mapping apps, it often isn’t in the right place and rarely has any reviews. You can only rely on other forms of social media for recommendations. I really wanted to pick a dentist close to the beach in case I had to make multiple trips into town (it’s nearly an hour’s walk each way). Unfortunately, the most recommended dentist was all the way up into the center of town by the town arch. Time for a hike!

I hate being late (and, as mentioned earlier, sometimes mapping apps have the location very wrong!) so I left early. Mojita the doggo decided to come along. This meant that I had to cross the street several times to avoid aggressive community dogs. They are fine with humans, but they sometimes don’t like other dogs wandering into their territory (got to protect that coveted spot in front of the butcher’s shop!). Luckily I found the dentist without issue, but I was an hour early. They were very confused. My pronunciation of my name wasn’t meshing with the names written on their scheduling sheet (I really should start saying my name as you would in Spanish), and they were absolutely sure I meant “nueve y media” when I was saying “diez y media” because why would this crazy gringa be here an hour early?

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of giant tree
Look at the size of that tree behind me!!! That’s a palm tree next to it for comparison! Mojita is getting a drink where she can.

It was very hot and I was very sweaty so I thought it best to wait inside with the air con to try and dry off a bit before my appointment. Now I’m really stressing out. What if they have to pull all my front teeth!?! What if they add caps to my teeth and my really expensive night-guard no longer fits!?! Stress. While waiting, people kept commenting on the cute dog waiting outside the glass door (she ended up crawling under someone’s truck to get out of the sun). One of the assistants asked if she was mine. I tried as best I could to explain that she just likes to follow me around, but is still a community doggo. It’s a weird relationship that I will never get used to.

Thank goodness for translation apps!

My Spanish is not the best, and Dominican Spanish has its own nuances, so I was using the translate app on my phone a lot. I typed out all my concerns ahead of time (and translated them into Spanish) so that the dentist would know all the reasons for this visit. Avoid confusion! She took one look and just started scrubbing away at both of my grey teeth. She looked perplexed but exclaimed that the grey comes off!!! WTF!

Las Terrenas Arch
This is the Las Terrenas Arch as you get to the center of town. It’s a long walk from my apartment!

She let me know that the grey was actually on all of my teeth. It was just so much more apparent on the two on either side of my veneers because of the contrast with the white veneers. She said it had to have come from something I was eating or some medication I was taking. She said she had never seen anything like it, but all I needed was a cleaning. How lucky is that?

The dentist starts cleaning as we try to figure out what could cause the grey crap on my teeth. Not coffee. Maybe tea? Nope. Medications? No changes. What about Pepto Bismol? That turns the plaque on my tongue black sometimes. She said no because it wasn’t the plaque that was grey. It was the actual teeth themselves. So very weird!

Gecko in the window
This is why I love the tropics! Gecko!!! Get the bugs!

A bit more research on The Internets

Turns out there is this chemical called cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) in some mouthwashes that will, on rare occasion, turn your teeth grey. Only in about 3% of the population. FFS! If you are that 3%, avoid that chemical! I had just started a new alcohol-free cool mint mouthwash, so the timing was spot on. Plus I used extra once I noticed my teeth turning color. No more of that mouthwash for me! Luckily my teeth were good as new after the cleaning. And it only cost me $50! She did an amazing job, and I am so thankful!

Mojita was very excited when I finally made it out of the dentist’s office alive. Now for the long trek back. I had a couple of errands to run in town, so I would be getting home well past lunchtime. I decided to splurge and go out to eat. There is this restaurant that does a Dish of the Day for very cheap and I have been wanting to try the Tuesday one. First order of business, I tried to get some monies out of the ATM but it was out of order. Next I tried to find bananas as it’s a long walk to town, so I might as well. No bananas. Sigh.

Neighbor's cat at the door
The neighbors left for the weekend and the community cat they feed was looking for handouts. He kills geckos and birds so you know I’m not a huge fan. That face though!

Finally, I’m walking down this long side-street and these dogs come lunging out at Mojita from a driveway. The problem was there was a large truck coming fast past us, with no way to see into the driveway. I panic yelled at the dogs before they could jump right in front of that truck! No dying! Everyone was okay, and I finally made it to the restaurant. No plate of the day, and I wasn’t feeling any of the other items on the menu! Ugh. Time for the backup restaurant. Closed.

Forget this. I’m going home with my gorgeous white teeth and cooking up some delicious leftovers! I’m so thankful that all I needed to fix my teeth was a good cleaning. So far, the dentists in other countries have really impressed me. I think it helps that many people travel from Canada, US, and EU for dental tourism. If you do, I definitely recommend Las Terrenas!

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1 Comment

  1. Wow! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything in life had such a simple explanation and fix.

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