On Oct 12, 2017, I felt a large hole inside my left upper molar. This was due to the falling out of the mercury amalgam covering my large cavity over 50 years ago. I could feel the sharp edges and a large hole, but no pain. This meant that the pulp cavity was not there or the tooth was "dead."
On Oct 13, 2017, I walked in to my family dentist who said: "Your cavity is large and challenging. I will do my best to plug it. If you feel the pain later, you will need a root canal treatment. I will refer to you a specialist in Takashimaya Shopping Centre as I don't do this treatment."
I sat on the dental chair. The dentist educated me on the anatomy of the tooth by showing me a chart of illustrations. "The pulp is where the nerve is," she said. "If my treatment of plugging up the cavity cause pain later, that means there is pressure on the pulp and you will need a root canal treatment."
"Why don't you extract the molar since the crown is 90% cavity?" I asked.
"It is best to save the tooth," she said. "Hence the root canal treatment. Do not worry."
Some drilling of the tooth. Suction. Rinse my mouth. More drilling. Only a short time of mild pain during drilling, all to my surprise. Is the tooth dead?
"It has been some years since 2009 since I saw you," the dentist checked the records. "If I depend on you for dental services, I will need to close down," she joked. Two new dental clinics have now opened.
"How many dental clinics are there now?" I asked.
"When I started, it was 300," she reminisced. "Now there are over 1,000."
"I ask my children not to go into private medical practices," she said. "The big private medical groups need to make more money every year. It is better to work for institutions."
She advised me not to go to private practices as they need to justify their bottom lines and therefore will recommend unnecessary treatments to generate revenue. Large groups are now formed from mergers and acquisitions of smaller groups and so they must make more money for the shareholders. That means more unnecessary treatments.
"The younger generation is not loyal," my dentist said.
"Most of the young is time-pressed and wants convenience of proximity, immediacy and low price," I said. "So, there is no loyalty.
We spoke on family. Her son is a medical undergraduate overseas. "The senior consultant is good," she said. "He has many important clients. That day, he told the other younger doctor to get out as this doctor came to work without a tie."
She is pro-family as she said that a married couple should have children soon after marriage. "Some wives may want to achieve success in their new careers and motherhood meant being side-tracked," I said.
"The Chinese saying: ''Suffer hardship early (in life), enjoy sweetness later (in life)," she told me that I was westernised in advocating a married woman's right to choice of career over motherhood. If the wife is ambitious in being top in her profession, let her do it. It is not possible to have both although there is "work-life" balance being advocated and there are domestic helpers to look after children. It is her personal choice and the husband has better accept it.
"What would you do if you have a person who says he has no money but insisted vehemently to be treated by you?" she had such a male aggressor. "If he was poor, I can reduce the charges." This person just wanted free services by being aggressive and hope to get away with it.
"There are such people in life," I said. "Some years ago, I have a case when a young couple had no money for deposit. I did a Caesarean section for their Jack Russell and never received a cent from the couple!"
My filling needed two tubes. I had to bite on some paper tissues to confirm the grip. Then I was not supposed to eat or drink for 2 hours. No hot and cold food and drinks for 2 months. Is my tooth dead? Will I need root canal treatment which will be costly if down by the downtown specialist whom she says is good and has excellent bedside manners, from her feedback? Only time will tell.
On Oct 19, after Deepavali, I have a 8.30 am dental scaling appointment with her. She is busy but not overwhelmed nowadays. The two new competitors open till 8.30 pm but she closes in the evening. So, it is her choice for family and to bring up the children well. .
The two children are now undergraduates overseas and they prefer to come home rather than going around Europe during holidays. "They want the family to holiday together," she told me. It is such a joy to to have such filial children, well brought up and able to study to university level.