Ronald Reagan Gave Me Cavities (Part II)

After getting the first round of three treatments to fix my 8 cavities I had almost forgotten to show my dentist my toothpaste on the way out.  I proudly presented it him, only to receive an “ah see, here’s your problem,” in return.  What could be my problem I wondered, everyone on that box was so damn happy, thus I should be too.  “This is not tooth paste, this is tooth whitening cream.”  I was as dumbstruck as I had been before. “What?” I murmured out again, this dentist must’ve thought I was the worst English teacher in the world, only capable of monosyllabic responses.  “This is a bottle to whiten your teeth, this is not toothpaste.  There is no fluoride; it doesn’t clean your teeth.”   I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  That would mean I hadn’t properly brushed my teeth in 3 months!  No wonder I have 8 friggin cavities!  Who cares how little candy I ate, kim chee was destroying my teeth!  And at the same time they had been getting whiter, so cosmetically they even looked decent!

Still in shock I had the dentist write down the word toothpaste in Korean.  I then went to a pharmacy on the way home, showed him the paper, did the requisite acting to overcome language issues, and bought whatever bottle he gave me.  I did the whole process again at another place just to be certain.  And a third for good measure in the 10 minute walk back to my house (Koreans sure do like their pharmacies).  For all my thoughts about how easy life had been in Korea and how well I had adjusted, I couldn’t even complete a simple task like making sure I came home with toothpaste instead of whitening cream.  At least I had gone to the dentist now, before my teeth started falling out in at school in front of the kids!

I blame Ronald Reagan , somewhat in jest but not really for my situation, because his policies supporting the Muhajideen in Afghanistan in opposition to the Soviet Union invasion spawned a radical Islamist network that eventually turned its head on its former backers, and sets its sights on attacking the infidel West.  Without the radicalization of millions of young Muslim youth, which occurred for numerous other reasons as well (though the Afghanistan situation hardened the movement and gave them battle experience, helping use this prestige to indoctrinate the next generation of fighters), some young Britons would have been unlikely to possess the desire to try to take down 7 passenger aircrafts, or at least the creative thinking and technical know-how to do it.  In turn we would all still be able to bring liquids over 3 oz on planes, and my Costco toothpaste would have made it safely to South Korea with me.  In turn my foolish attempts to buy replacement supplies without outside help would not have resulted in me using tooth whitening cream for 3 months as a poor toothpaste substitute.  Thus Ronald Reagan, you gave me cavities.  8 to be exact.

Ronald Reagan Gave Me Cavities (Part I)

My most recent trip to this dentist this week reminded me of my last dental visit in South Korea in 2008, and the complicated shenanigans that ensued.  Needless to say, I always buy travel sized toothpaste now.

“You have 8 cavities,” he stated matter of factly.  I stared at him astounded.  He had been speaking relatively good English this entire time, but I assumed he never learned his numbers.  I managed to stagger out a “what??”  He repeated, “you have 8 cavities, many problems in your mouth.”  I was flabbergasted.  “But . . . but I don’t even eat candy,” I stammered,  “How is this even possible?”  “Well you should brush your teeth,” he began, before giving me a condensed lecture about how Koreans brush their teeth after every meal and that many even carry toothbrushes with them.

After talking with my English speaking Korean dentist a while (already a miracle to find in my small town), he asked me to bring in the toothpaste I was using the next time we met.  I readily agreed, pouncing on the idea of demonstrating my half used bottle as proof that I do indeed occasionally brush my teeth.

Korean Pine Tree Toothpaste (something I never thought I would desperately desire at some point in my life)

I had been in South Korea nearly 3 months by this point and had adjusted fairly well.  However my teeth apparently had not.  As soon as I got home I rummaged through my 4 foot x 4 foot bathroom/shower/toilet area to find my toothpaste and put it in my bag, ensuring I would not forgot for tomorrow’s dental appointment.  Buying toothpaste was actually one of the first things I had to do this in land, as the Cost-co sized Colgate my parents had procured for me was promptly taken out of my carry-on bag at airport security on the way over.  This was part of the recent changes in airport travel thanks to an unsuccessful shoe bomber, and having lived in West Africa for the two years prior, I hadn’t really kept up with the changes.  Thus my toothpaste, contact lens solution, and shaving cream were all deducted from my baggage’s total weight.  At least it gave me reason to explore my town initially.

I had found a supermarket located in the basement of an apartment complex near me, and bought the required items.  Given my recent stint in the Peace Corps I assumed I could do anything on my own, and eschewed asking my Korean co-teacher for help in the process.  The toothpaste package was strikingly green, covered with pictures of happy (South) Koreans and their white teeth.  It was so shiny, even if I didn’t need toothpaste I probably would’ve bought it.  I soon found out the minty taste did not match appearance, but then again after eating kim chee all day my tastebuds were dying a slow and painful death anyways.

Fast forward to three months and one day later, and I’m carrying that beloved bottle with me to the dentist office afterschool.  I am still highly annoyed that something in Korea has turned my generally good dental record upside down, but was relieved to hear that all those numerous fillings would require a total of $60 of work, thanks to the Korean national health insurance plan I was a part of ($60!!).  The private clinic I had gone to earlier was demanded $2,000. I liked my teeth but not really that much.

to be continued  .  .  .