So my tooth. (Or toof, as I will jokingly call it to make light of a situation I was not feeling light about at the time...or over the next 30 or so hours that followed the discovery of the piece of toof).
As I held it in my hands, panic definitely started to set in. I could feel the little gap where that little piece of toof used to be, and man, if you've ever experienced anything similar, you know how odd that feels. The discomfort. The feeling of being...unwhole. Of being...somehow similar to a gap-toothed hill billy. In other words: the situation was completely, and utterly, unacceptable.
I snatched my phone up and started dialing anyone in my local phonebook who could potentially help me. There is no panic like the panic of being in a country where you don't speak the language and you have no idea where you can get help (lamely I don't even know where the closest hospital is). And generally speaking those you would normally call for help are 30,000 miles away.
I dialed German K, but she failed to answer - legitimately she was fighting a 100 degree fever and happened to be slowly sponging herself in the shower when I called. I would have dialed Hong Kong P but she was out of the country in Turkey and I didn't know when she would be back. As luck would have it, I then called Finnish Irish T, and thank god I did. Because she was quick on her feet and knew just how to handle my situation.
She quickly got the appropriate numbers I could call. She also explained to me that because it was a Sunday I would likely need to wait until the next day unless I wanted to see a private place and pay out the nose for a procedure. Paying out the nose is not something I wanted, especially having spent 125euros on pants that fit earlier that day (I'll get to that later).
So, we calmly made a plan that at 8am the next day I would call the appointment line and beg for an urgent appointment to get my toof fixed. In the meantime I would take deep breaths and try to keep my anxiety from taking over and convincing me to pay out the nose and get it fixed before the appropriate time.
It was admittedly not an easy night.
After I hung up with Finnish Irish T, I quickly ran to the mirror and tried to assess the damage. Being a sort of toof-crazy person in general (I've only had one cavity in my life - it's tiny, and since then I've sworn to take crazy care of my teeth to ensure that no toof-related procedures would ever need to happen in the future, ever again), I have a mouth mirror with an LED light, so I used that to check out the hole. In my state of panic it took me about 25 minutes to remember I owned such a thing but once I did it gave me some comfort, knowing that I could now see what was going on (silly, I know).
Another thing I took solace in - nothing hurt except my head, which was likely from all the stress and not from anything physically wrong with me. There was no weird soreness or aching, so I figured there was no rotting or nerve damage. Good, this is good.
And so my night ended as such - me, checking my hole every 2 minutes to see if I had dreamed it (with and without the LED mouth mirror), and a night of fitful sleep.
At exactly 8am Monday morning I called the Finnish dental line and...
was greeted with an entire 5 minute message...completely in Finnish. F$*^%.
I call back Finnish Irish T to get some assistance. She assures me that it's a voice message asking you to do simple tasks like press 1 for Finnish, 2 for Swedish, 1 for cancellations of appointments, 2 for making appointments. She puts in the appointment request for me and eventually, after some back and forth we get an appointment for me that day a few hours later at a hospital located just 10 minutes walk from my apartment. Oh man, relief is in sight.
I am told to arrive early to fill out paperwork and to leave some time to potentially get lost. Since it's located somewhere in a hospital I leave an hour early to make sure I will definitely get there early and definitely not get lost. Knowing my luck and navigational skills it's likely I'll never find this place and end up only 10 minutes before the time.
Wrong. I find the place with relative ease and end up checking into my appointment 45 minutes early. Oh well, from what I understand this is normal for Finnish people. You tell them the party starts at 9pm and most of them will show up at 8:30pm. No joke; this actually happens.
Anyway, I fill out my paperwork (one side of one sheet of paper, thank goodness in English) and wait maybe 20 minutes before being called in.
Fearing the worst I step into the office. It's clean, professional, and completely...new. In fact it looks like one of those operating rooms from a science fiction movie it's so clean, new, and modern. I am shocked.
I am asked to sit down and explain why I have made the appointment. I explain the ganky toof. The doctor examines it and says it can be fixed. I shakily ask what the filling will be made of. She answers, "composite." I say, "so not metal?" She laughs at me.
The procedure commences...and ends. It actually was very similar to what happens in a dentist's office in the States. Same equipment even - nothing unusual or scary. Extremely efficient, and extremely fast.
The doctor tells me I am done. I ask her if I need to go back out to the receptionist's desk. No. So I don't need to do anything else? No.
I leave in a daze. I look at the clock in the hallway as I am leaving. It's still before my actual appointment time. The procedure took less than 15 minutes to complete. My toof is completely fixed. It's like the hole was never there. I am whole again. It took less than 15 minutes. And it costed absolutely nothing.
My faith in the Finnish health system has been boosted even more. A procedure of this kind in the States would have only been partially covered by insurance, probably still costing an out of pocket amount of around $100. Here? Free. Not even a co-pay or an appointment fee. Just free.
And now I am free. Free of the anxiety, and free of the worry that I look like a hill billy. I am just once again, tSH.