After having Lasik surgery in Vietnam, I am very happy to have cosmetic procedures during my travels. Perhaps this is incredibly vain of me, I don’t know. But with prices in the UK and Sweden being so high, many things are financially out of my reach.
It had been a long time since I last visited a dentist. In the UK free dentistry is available up until the age of 16. After that you’re on your own. And it’s not cheap. There can be problems signing up with a National Health Service (NHS) dentist as many are unable to take on new patients, and to go private is only for the wealthy. When I left home to attend university in another town finding a dentist seemed a lot of effort and I had other priorities for my new-found Student Loan wealth, so I didn’t bother to register with any dentist.
Fast forward 14 years: throw in litres of Diet Coke (thankfully I’ve never liked the sugary normal version), add more tonnes of chocolate than I care to think about, and you’ve got some teeth problems. I have never smoked and I don’t drink tea, coffee or red wine, but I have always had yellowed teeth. I’ve tried tooth whitening pastes and creams, all to no avail. I look at photos of myself and cringe.
In Colombia, dentistry is much cheaper than back home so I thought why not? I’m travelling and the best souvenir I can give myself is a smile that I don’t have to hide. It won’t even add weight to my backpack! So after some online research (performed by my boyfriend who has far more patience with that sort of thing than I do), I checked myself in with a reputable surgery in Medellin. The dentist spoke very good English during the pre-appointment emails, and I was confident that all would be well.
On the day of my appointment I arrived hoping to leave with a gleaming white smile. Things did not go to plan when, after his initial check over, he said that he would have to do an extensive clean-up as I hadn’t been to the dentist for so long. It was not entirely unexpected: Kids, you can’t ignore the dentist and get away with it! Surprisingly, I did not need any work doing other than the extraction of a painful wisdom tooth on my lower jaw. I am amazed that I did not need any fillings. We could go ahead with the procedure.
Tooth Whitening is a strange experience. Although it is often called ‘laser’ whitening there is no actual laser, only a high-intensity bright light. The initial clean-up was the most painful part of the whole procedure when a high-powered air stream is applied along the gum lines. When I washed out my mouth it was full of blood! Lying in the dentist’s chair with a plastic contraption holding open your mouth is never a pleasant experience but the first stage of the whitening is quite relaxing. The light is positioned a few centimetres from the mouth and set for fifteen minutes. It was only after about 12 that I began to experience discomfort on my bottom teeth. It didn’t particularly hurt, but felt very unpleasant: I imagine that it is a similar feeling to that when those with sensitive teeth eat ice-cream.
If you have sensitive teeth, I think whitening could be painful.
After the first 15 minutes you wash your mouth out thoroughly before the gel is reapplied and you are subjected to another session under the light. This time the dentist made some alterations as I had told him about the discomfort in the first session and other than a few uncomfortable twinges the second session was much better.
Once the whitening procedure was completed the dentist filed down my teeth ever so slightly to even them out. This is not part of the whitening, just me being excessively paranoid about my smile. And then we were finished. I left the surgery feeling much more confident and very happy with the work I’d had done.
Artica Clinica Odontologica is a professional establishment and Juan Carlos, the dentist who treated me, speaks fluent English. He offered sensible advice about what was best for my teeth in the long-run. I initially enquired about caps and veneers which he was unwilling to perform on healthy teeth that did not require such extensive treatment. Many surgeries would have just seen the dollar signs and agreed. Their website clearly states the prices and I was also given a price estimate in my initial appointment. Although it was not particularly cheap, it was certainly much cheaper than in the UK or Sweden. And I will be laying off the Coke in the future!
The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own. I am writing this post without the knowledge of Artica Clinica Odontologica, I paid for all my own treatment and have received no fees or advertising.
What do you think? Can you tell the difference?! Would you consider cosmetic surgery, dental or otherwise, overseas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.