The most important thing when we travel is of course health. It’s always number one. Without health we are bound to one place. Until this year, I had been relatively lucky in terms of dentist visits and work needing done on my teeth. I’d had a few fillings here and there and some teeth removed as a child. But for over 11 years, I hadn’t had any teeth issues. Problem is though, I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I love sweet food. Haribo Fangtastics, cake, biscuits and I always add sugar to tea and coffee.
A few months back just as I prepared to leave for Brazil for the World Cup, one of my teeth completely cracked (while eating a chicken wrap), and another had a big cavity in it. I admit that life was moving too fast for me, I was often eating on the move and not getting enough sleep, this was a wake up call really.
I went to the dentist in Lok Fu, Hong Kong for a check up. They cleaned my teeth and exposed the two teeth that needed work done, it was actually very urgent, but there was no time to get the fillings or the possible tooth removal. Because I was flying to London in 2 days and my travel brain knew that within a week I’d be on a beach in Fortaleza Brazil playing football. This meant I had no time to get the teeth operated on, and plus a part of me still thought – I could get it done in Northern Ireland on the NHS (cheaper). When I travelled the last 4-5 months, I started to really look after my teeth and made it a priority now. Then I booked to come back to Europe at short notice, earlier than expected.
During that time, I cut down on putting sugar in tea or coffee, I restricted my lager quantities, I limited the fizzy sweets to twice a month and for fizzy drinks – I basically gave them up, unless it was a coke bunged in as part of a meal deal in a restaurant. I also avoided any tough food and especially food with bones in it. I am scared of dentists, I really don’t like going.
Northern Ireland being part of the UK has the NHS (National Health Service). Probably the best health service in the world (quit the moaning local people, please – the NHS is pretty damn good. Be sure that their staff work hard). But I’d been away from Northern Ireland for 11 years so had to get my NHS number again and get re-registered. It’s been a real week of health worries as my Mum has been in hospital and I’ve been worrying about my teeth.
My Mum found the Oasis Dental Centre in Balloo in Bangor and I called in and registered on my return to my home country. I have to admit I was pretty scared. Yes, even more scared than (1) the time I fed hyenas mouth to mouth in Ethiopia (2) the time I went skydiving in New Zealand (3) the time I was held at gunpoint in Venezuela.
I got into the dentist’s room and was confronted by the usual dentist’s chair. Sat down, but immediately made to feel at ease and welcome by the young female dentist, Jenny Gullen. She called me by my first name, settled me then inspected my teeth. I swear I had not had my teeth properly looked at in this way for a decade. Jaw open wide, food remnants scraped out and 2 x-rays taken confirmed that I would need work done. That was the first appointment. The next day I was scheduled in to get work done on my teeth. This worked out perfect as this lifestyle is fast moving and in two days, I’d already be in Birmingham. It was now or…wait a few more months. So it was now.
So I went in the next day a bit nervous as ever. I was called to the surgery and got a full scale and polish of the teeth, then a couple of injections to numb the pain in my mouth and 2 amalgam fillings. One on my left lower jaw and one on my right upper jaw. It all went smoothly and was over pretty quick. I wore dark glasses and tried to close my eyes too for most of it. Obviously with the injections, I didn’t feel the pain of the actual fillings. I rinsed my mouth out and was glad that it was over. The fillings were in place, my mouth was numb, but it felt good to have it over and done with. On the NHS the cost was £31.14 for the second visit and about £14 for the first visit. I could now concentrate on my travels again, thanks to Jenny and the staff at Oasis for helping me.
So now as I travel through England again (Birmingham, Nottingham and my old stomping ground of Bournemouth up next) and onwards to Romania and Moldova, I am concentrating on keeping my teeth and gums in good condition. While in the past I probably milked the free toothpaste in hotels and hostels, these days it’s my own toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash and dental floss.
Safe travels and happy brushing!