Colours of Life
My Tryst with Dentists
Coping with health, tooth and gum
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
Coming back to the main story, those days besides Dr. Jai Narayan Sharma, Dr. Savitri Hamal and Dr. Shiva Kumar Rai there were very few dentists in the STNM Hospital (Dr. Khadanand Neopaney, Dr. Sundeep Pradhan - both of them husband and wife dentists - when patients used to come from districts even with no such facility over there. Later Dr. Kedar Nath Pradhan and others joined them. Once I had nagging pain of my molar tooth and went there to be done away with it once for all. Young lady dentists tried their best but could not help it and I had to rush to Dr. Arjun in the next building to get it extracted out. He is still practising there for last two decades and I visited him recently to revive our old memories with a dental refill, I found his neat and clean clinic well made up to suit the modern taste and trend. He was counting in my mouth the crowns I collected all these years that glow even in the OPG x-ray he wanted me to get done from the Ruchi Diagnostics. This molar tooth refilled is better without a crown as the cap next to it would not let it fit it snugly but allowing infection to set in all the time if covered. This was what Dr. Hamal also used to tell me of a few years ago. Those days the system of RCT for the teeth was not so popular so as to suggest/recommend by a dentist to his patient as the best was to get bad ones extracted out and finally a denture made in lieu of a few teeth thus gone to take place by whole denture by the end. These days they advise to retain the original teeth as far as possible as there is no substitute for the natural teeth. When octogenarian Mahanand Poudyal (born 19 January 1931) visited me last week with his latest book Avashisht Sahitya-Yatra (Remainder Literary Journey, 2015), I found him without any artificial denture but managing with whatever was left of the original teeth. My Muma a few years elder to him manages difficultly with the denture she had some years ago as the gum position does not allow to fit it in –we were told so when tried for a new set. My Buba had found a few new teeth coming up like that of a kid similar to that of a rat, he used to tell us. I remember Dr. Hamal also telling me not to remove the molars for the sake of cosmetic value as it would give sunken cheeks with a look like that of a weak and aged man. What the dentists did not tell us those days was to rub your teeth and gums every morning with mustard oil mixed with common (better, rock) salt that would save you from lot of the dental problems like Swami Ramdev often seen on television telling the audience while advocating the cause of Yoga for the overall benefit of your mind, body and general wellbeing. They would rather recommend using saline water for mouthwash but not Sensodyne or the like toothpaste for sensitive teeth and that was the time when there were not much advertisements to be seen as in the present day. I remember once of the radio talk by a senior dentist in the weekly programme aired over All India Radio - when one listener asked his view about massaging the teeth using mustard oil with common salt, he said that the salt would work like an abrasive and so it might be damaging the teeth and gum. I have, however, been benefited by using it from my early days and has saved me from visiting the dentist that often. Sensodyne is quite popular with the dentists in the US as they give it with Reach dental floss to their patients in every visit invariably as I found it while there. I also met Dr. Manjari Thapa, who studied here in the Paljor Namgyal Girls’ School, to help me for swollen gum. Previous day I had enjoyed my best ever tall glass of ice cream filled with nuts from the Hagen Daz in the Outlet Mall with Ranjana’s sister Rajani with Dipak from Hetauda visiting us there that instead took me to the dentist’s chair by Rachna known to her on the Bubako Mukh Herne Din. It was just little cleaning with a prick to the gum by her that the swelling was gone bringing much relief. Such a sweet thing is now left for good to my memory only following the bout of diabetes thereafter that keeps me off from such sweet tooth items and potato preparations like Macdonald’s French fries though I cannot stop myself to indulge myself once in a while for chocolate-filled small servings besides gulab jamuns and jilebis occasionally to keep with my taste buds happy in memory of the pleasant habit once I had. So, I avoid visiting shops displaying their sweet fares as these might not tempt me back again!
We were in Nepal that winter in 2010 someone in the family suggested me why not visit the People’s Dental College and Hospital one of our relatives had started. It was easier to get the work done quicker with appointments for RCT arranged with lesser gaps in between and finally I had covered it up for the one done earlier here. They too prefer patients to come RCT done to save my time and their efforts and often asked if Sikkim did not have qualified professionals for such a service. In fact we have many here well qualified and available located conveniently some with nice music played all the while you are there and also watch television waiting with the choice of channels made available at the mercy of the people in the wait desk. There are spacious airy chambers well-kept tiled floored besides some dirty smelling cluttered cubicles that makes us feel sick. As government doctors are also practising privately, many find their behaviour while examining patients in hospitals somewhat rude - quite different to their attitude when they see them in their home or outside chamber in some medicine shop privately. Yet we find the hospital crowded that make even the retired people consult them in private knowing well that the senior citizens get priority without waiting in the queue. People, however, prefer to go to consult them in private clinics perhaps to get better attention and treatment than in the crowded hospitals. There too they have to wait for their turn comfortably watching television but without clamouring for the preference of being a senior citizen or otherwise. It could also be that those in the government service may be getting consultancy fees reimbursed but medical expenses incurred on getting dentures are not covered thus - very much like that for spectacles or lenses. I am not quite sure if the insurance people allow these too.
I had long pending appointment in Kathmandu with dentist Dr. Tina Shrestha, who had done RCT for two of my teeth during my previous visit. It is much convenient and quick process to get done there at Chettrapati Free Clinic Hospital (do not be misled by the name, it is free only to asamartha - who are helpless) nearby. So, whenever in Nepal the first thing first is to get the dental check-up done otherwise I had to stay for a month getting treatment there in 2010 in spite of the people known there. Dr. Arjun found the job done quite nicely as there they match the crown made to the nearest possible natural colour of your teeth from the shade-card and it is ready overnight to be fitted on very next day. Otherwise, we have to be satisfied with the crown dazzling white not matching with pearly teeth like I had. I hope someday our Gangtok too have this facility with the number of dentists practising in the capital and many joining the fray in places around it like those private practitioners in Tadong or Deorali and in different parts of Sikkim if rates are competitive and quality good enough to secure the patronage from our dentists though some of them are good in making traditional denture themselves but in their spare time as they are quite busy in practising, I suppose.
If a tooth or even the whole set of all the teeth is lost there is nothing to worry about with the advancement of dental science in tune with the modern day necessities – more out of need than the desire to have cosmetic touches to enhance the facial look. I have heard of instances where serious dental problems bring in emergency situation and the patient has to be rushed to outside the state for the immediate treatment. I have also come to know of cases when people go far south to get their whole set changed by implanting as it is convenient and cheaper too and you just have to shell out some cash to enhance your look if you can afford. A few years ago when I enquired of the rate for such a help, I could know that it is mere around twenty thousand rupees each and down south the whole set to be done for two lakhs only. Not much of a problem if you can afford and much within your reach and could just take the trouble to go all the way southwards. Me too thinking it of as an option in hand if needed in future as little is left of my molars more by way of occasional drilling with every refilling than my weakness in enjoying chiura with khasiko mansu, eggs or dalmut even till my teeth give with me following the trait Newars inherit over the generations that the present day offspring lack to find it too hard to chew and digest – more so might be this story rather than the food items mentioned therein. But I would rather go for saving my teeth rather than saving some chips for getting the implant done in days to come whatever be the hassles thereof. If anything possible in between then let any of my dentist friends help me with the advice well in time to keep with whatever age has left in my mouth but hope this story not a foul mouth of me! Concluded
This is author’s personal account just in praise of the dental profession I am acquainted with and of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. No wonder if some narratives are found read earlier also. Some names (*asterisk for those no more), places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9434022677 / 03592-202677 and at Rachna, opposite Manan Bhavan, Development Area, Gangtok 737 101 Sikkim India.