A Dental Experience in Costa Rica
I was taught not to use the word “hate,” but still, I hate the dentist. I hate the smell of dental office, the stale air, and the sounds that escape the room where the chair is. As a child, even the joy derived from the toy-board – the reward of picking a toy at the end of time spent in the chair – wasn’t always enough to get me through the experience without fear.
So it was with trepidation that I accepted the opportunity to try a new dentist so that I could write about the experience. Jen and I were to go together to Sonria Dental Botuque in Escazú. Jen was getting a cleaning and I, glutton for punishment that I am, was to get a cleaning as well as have my teeth whitened.
I had never considered getting my teeth whitened before. Why spend more time in the chair than necessary? Plus, I was always self-conscious at the dentist. It wasn’t just the distaste for the smells, sounds, and feels of the office that made be anxious; I was always a bit embarrassed.
Our dentist in Dallas always took my blood pressure and despite being on meds it was always high. So I frequently got the BP Talk. Secondly, I was a life long dipper, you know, a pinch (or shovel-full) between the cheek and gum. Combining the tobacco habit with every-morning coffee I had created teeth that were always stained. In addition, my oral habit caused my mouth to constantly salivate creating an excess of tartar to build up on the back side of the bottom row of teeth, even with twice yearly cleanings and brushing the right way (which I was shown each visit without fail). I felt sorry for the hygienist and I really didn’t want to spend anymore time there than absolutely necessary.
I know – Too Much Information.
Once we moved to Costa Rica several things went away: 40 pounds went away creating a normal blood pressure; away went my BP script. My tobacco habit went away – it was not in our budget and even if it was it’s not available here. And, not surprisingly, the plaque issue went away.
We arrived at Sonría Dental Boutique and were greeted by Dr. Oriana González and I immediately felt at ease. Everything about the reception area was relaxing. There was no one else in the room, Nora Jones was crooning in the background, the lighting was soft, and a pleasant fragrance hung in the air.
Making our way to the office, where the chair was, I noticed a wall of degrees, certifications, and accolades adding to my sense of relaxation.
When it was my turn I walked over to the chair, sat and reclined. There was only one exam room, and only one chair. All of the dental offices I had been to in the States seem to herd you in with waiting rooms filled with people and multiple exam rooms set up like an assembly line. After the technician finished the hard work with one patient the Dr. would come by, check the work, say his hello and ask questions while you grunted back with his hand in your mouth, then he was off to the next room.
Wham bam thank you man.
Not so at Sonría, There was one exam room, one doctor, one assistant, one patient and one chair which was surrounded by glass walls giving the room an open feel. Through the glass was a little forrest of shrubbery – a stark contrast to the white-walled claustrophobic rooms I was used to.
I reclined in the chair; it was time to get down to business. I stuck out my arm, proud to show off my new blood pressure stats and was disappointed that it was not part of the process. What was part of the process was a heated blanket. I wrapped myself in a warm cocoon and accepted the proffered headphones.
Mounted above me was a monitor and it played a Discovery Channel’esqe nature show. The headphones were a great distraction; the sound of birds chirping replaced the awful sound of cleaning equipment.
My teeth were cleaned power-wash style and there was minimal scraping afterwords. Then the minty-grity polish, rinse and spit, and my teeth were squeaky clean.
7 Shades of Gray
Next up was the teeth whitening. I had no idea what to expect and it was nothing like what I would have expected. The Zoom Whitening process took place over three sessions of 15 minutes (they may have felt like 30 minutes though).
I think there may have been a subliminal message going on because once we started the whitening process one program on the TV ended and another began. The new one? Penguins in a bright white, icy snow environment. Uh, huh.
Each of the three sessions started with a jell being placed on my teeth, but before the jell I had to first wrap my lips around an oversized mouthpiece. This contraption stayed in my mouth for the duration of the three sessions and was the main reason the sessions felt twice as long as they were. Also, I was warned that during the process I might experience a light tingling shocking feeling. I did not feel that sensation at all until we were completely done, and then only for a couple of seconds. It was similar to the sensation of placing your tongue on a 9-volt battery… except it was felt on your teeth.
Once the jell was on a bright ultraviolet light was shown onto my teeth. By the end of the last session the light felt like it was giving my mouth a sunburn, even though my lips and gums were covered to protect them. Overall, it was not a bad experience, especially if I was able to see some results.
And I did. 7 shades different.
At the end of it all I was given a warmed wash cloth to wipe my mouth. The cloth reminded me of eating at a fine restaurant and that reminded me I was hungry. I had worked up an appetite just laying there so asked when I could eat. I salivated at Dr. Oriana’s answer, “right away.”
So after saying our goodbyes we headed to the Chili’s in the Multi-Plaza (hey, stop judging!)
It was a wonderful dental experience, truly the most relaxing dental visit I have ever had.
In addition to making you feel relaxed and comfortable Dr. Oriana’s specialties are dental implants and cosmetic dentistry. She also caters to those seeking a “dental vacation” and can help coordinate all arrangements. Dr. Oriana has been been a dentist in Costa Rica for over 10 years.
PS – The services described above were provided so that I would give an unbiased view of my experience. The fact that you are reading about my experience shows that I had, if not a good time, at least a very positive dental experience.
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In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
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