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Dental Care In Papua


… Not as bad as you might think!

For a while now I have been suffering from a nagging pain in one of my molars. While home in NZ I did intend to go and see a dentist and see what exactly was wrong but unfortunately both time and money ran short. The nagging pain has been getting a little more constant since I got back to Papua and because its the same tooth that I have a plastic filling in it was really time to have it looked at.

I’m sure you can conjure up all sorts of gory images about the dentistry options in Papua but in Sentani we are very fortunate indeed or blessed I think might be the more appropriate term. The ‘Godfather’ of flying in Papua so to speak, a wonderful American mission pilot called Bob – yes they exist, is somewhat experienced in dentistry.

A lot of things in Papua get organised over the radio and the Base Manager had mentioned to Bob a while ago that one of our pilots needed to get a tooth looked at. So last night we drove out to the International School to where Bob uses their pretty well stocked Dental Room (very similar to the School Dental Clinics we used to have at primary school in NZ).

So I sat down in the chair and Bob had a look around noting that I should probably go and buy some Dental Floss but otherwise my teeth weren’t in too bad a condition. He tried to aggravate the pain in the tooth but it didn’t seem to co-operate so did an x-ray. He admitted he wasn’t the best at reading the x-ray but there did appear to be a crack there and possibly another cavity just below the gum line.

He used some acid and sealant to seal up the crack in the hope that it would reduce the nagging pain and give me enough time to see a dentist in Jakarta when I head up there at the end of the month. It was interesting to  hear him talk about the plastic fillings and the fact is they’re not that great in comparison to the old silver ones that were able to expand more readily. The plastic ones seem to get out of sync and can often lead to cavities developing under the filling itself. The metal ones fell out of favour because of the mercury content but like Bob said we tend to get more mercury from normal fish consumption.

After a bit of cleaning he then asked me to show him how I brush my teeth, embarrassingly I have been doing it wrong for the last 20 or so years. Need to brush up and down over the gums and teeth rather than side to side – whoops.

So about an hour later after some quality dental care I was all finished, Bob gave me the x-ray and said he would give me the address during the week for a good dentist in Jakarta that he has sent a lot of people to with good results. I asked him how much I owed him to which he replied Rp50,000 (NZ$8.20)! An absolute bargain.

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