Written by: HEIDI TIEFENTHALER
Any time you move, whether it be to a new city, a new state, or a new island, you have to go through the process of replacing all of your “people”. Leaving home, you also leave behind a whole host of folks whose jobs it is to keep you healthy, happy, and groomed – i.e. your doctor, your hairdresser, and, of course, your dentist. In the U.S., you can usually find new professionals by looking at reviews online. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as Yelp! on Anguilla, so when I found myself in need of a dentist, I was more than a little nervous about what I would find.
My teeth have always been important to me. Growing up, our next door neighbor was our family dentist, and my adolescence consisted of two separate sets of braces, a palette expander, the occasional filling, and countless retainers – all in the quest for perfect teeth. My dentist saw my chompers as his masterpiece, and after 30 years of precise dental care (including getting me to quit pacifiers cold turkey at age three, no small feat), he achieved the pearly white greatness he sought.
And then, one fateful happy hour, my boyfriend accidentally knocked my wine glass into my teeth, leaving one of them with a chip in the corner.
After confirming that flying back to the States to get my tooth fixed by my own dentist was not financially feasible, I asked my boyfriend whom I should go see on the island. He gave me the names of two dentists he’d seen, with the advice to make an appointment with one and avoid the other. I asked him why he didn’t like the second dentist.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
“Really? Why?” I asked.
“Because when I went to see him, he asked me to open my mouth, and then told me I had a beautiful set of teeth. That’s how I knew he was full of shit.”
Taking his sage advice, I made an appointment with the dentist he recommended.
On the day of my appointment, I woke up with a feeling of impending doom. I don’t think anyone is ever excited to go to the dentist, but the idea of going to a dentist I had never seen before on an island with very few choices brought my dread to a new level. After brushing thoroughly, I grabbed my keys and headed out the door to the medical complex where the dentist’s office was located. I arrived at exactly 8:30am and found the door to the suite. I steeled my nerves and pulled the handle.
The door was locked.
Sure that this was a sign from God that I was not meant to go to the dentist, I started to turn around to head for the front door. Right before I could make a break for it, a nurse quietly opened the office door and directed me to wait in the bank of chairs close by, foiling my escape. I sat down and paged through a Fortune magazine from August 2012.
The nurse came out again 10 minutes later and waved me into the office. I walked in and met a smiling young woman who politely identified herself as the dentist, and invited me to sit in the reclining clinic chair. I looked around the room and was overjoyed to see all of the same modern equipment I was used to seeing at my dentist’s office in Wisconsin. The dentist had me pop open my mouth, made some notes about my teeth, and then expertly filled in the jagged edge of my chipped tooth.
Ten minutes later, I was out the door and headed back to my house. Overall, the experience was just like what I would have had in the States. There was, however, one big difference:
The cost of the visit was about 1/3 of what I would have paid to visit my family dentist. Smiling my restored smile, I thought that it was amazing that I had finally found something on this island that cost less here than it would have in the United States.