One Evil Tortilla Chip: a dental adventure

(Warning: this may gross out some of you)

The Most Evil Chips Ever

It all started on Monday when I was eating these new Santa Maria “American Barbecue” tortilla strips. Unlike the traditional triangle-shaped variety, these are shaped like long rectangles with surprisingly sharp edges. One of them became lodged quite painfully into the lower right corner of my jaw. I tried to maneuver it out with my tongue, but it was really stuck in there and seemed be digging deeper into my cheek. After a few seconds I managed to remove it but the area felt weird, almost like I could still feel the offending object there. Oh well, I thought, mouth injuries usually heal pretty quickly. It should be okay in day or two.

However, in a day or two I had developed a rather painful hard lump on my lower right jaw, which kept increasing in painfulness and size and I was starting to resemble a large chipmunk storing up food for the winter. There was definitely some kind of infection in there or something that wasn’t going to heal on its own, so I left work early and went to my local medical center. Because the injury had nothing to do with my teeth, I thought they might be able to help me. Instead, they told me I needed to see a dentist and sent me on my way without looking at it. As it happens I have a dentist appointment next week for a checkup, but this needed immediate attention. I went home and called the emergency dentist, kicking myself (at least metaphorically) for getting myself into this situation. Unlike regular health care, dental care in Sweden is not covered under the national health plan, and this had the potential to cost me a fortune. I was told that I could come in that evening but that appointments after normal working hours cost twice as much. Since I wasn’t in excrutiating pain I decided I could wait and got an appointment first thing in the morning.

By morning the lump had doubled in size. When I got to the dentist’s office, I filled in the requisite health declaration form and was taken in within minutes. So far so good. The hygienist looked at the affected area and tapped my teeth firmly with a dental instrument just to make sure there was nothing wrong with them, and indeed, there was not. She then took an x-ray just to be sure. Then the dentist came in and my condition presented him with a bit of a challenge. I told him that this had never happened to me before and he told me that he had never seen this before in a patient. He even brought in a colleague to take a look. They both kept remarking at how nice my teeth looked and I said that yes, I have very good teeth and hardly ever need to see a dentist.

What neither of them had ever seen before was this, a gingival abscess, an infected area in the gums which apparently can be caused by aggressive tooth brushing, toothpicks, or in my case, food that is forced into the gumline. I am very lucky in that the infection never got into my teeth since that’s a much more complex problem to fix. He lanced and drained the infection, which involved a lot of squeezing of the very sore infected area. (I think that many dentists are secret sadists.) However, it needed to be done. He then prescribed me some penicillin and an anti-inflammatory painkiller.

Then came the most painful part of all (or so I thought): the bill. I was fully expecting it to cost a fortune but, surprisingly, the entire visit and treatment came to only 475 Swedish kronor (about $70 US). The antibiotics and pain medicine came to a further 175 (about $25). For someone used to the exorbitant costs of American health care, just under one hundred dollars for an emergency visit to the dentist including the medications is really not that bad at all.

Still, it’s lot to have to pay because of one evil tortilla chip. I’ll certainly be avoiding those in the future, and I recommend that everyone else do the same.

8 thoughts on “One Evil Tortilla Chip: a dental adventure

  1. This just in! Santa Maria new “American Barbecue” tortilla chips are sponsored and brought to you by the IDA! (International Dental Association) Glad it didn’t get more serious.

    The dentist got excited,
    Gave out a little shriek,
    Seemed almost delighted,
    Called others to take a peek,
    Never seen naught like it!
    I’d thrilled the dental geek,
    Left me kind of feeling,
    Like an orthodontic freak,
    It’s a dubious point of pride,
    To be medically unique.

  2. Yeah, you know it’s going to be an interesting appointment when the dentist/doctor says, “Hey, everyone! Come and look at this! You’re not gonna belieeeeeve it….”

  3. From all the stories I’ve heard about health care in Sweden, the prices have always been reasonable, it’s the bureaucracy and lack of out-of-the-box thinking that is slowing down the health care system. The example of a clinic sending people to the hospital and giving people the run-around, etc, and the long waiting periods. But once you actually do get to see a doctor they are good and you pay very little compared to USA prices and insurance. The insurance company is trying to get money from us because we did not pre-approve our son’s ICU visit. How do you pre-approve an ICU visit? Seriously? They said, well, you should have done it within 30 days after the hospital stay! How many parents do you know that think about calling the health insurance company when their son is in the hospital? We were kind of busy, sorry! Of course it’s always our fault, and heaven forbid we forget to pay them once and they will raise the premiums. They are leeches. Why can’t they just have customer representatives that notify the parents when they see bills coming in and ask them what is going on? 100% of people don’t read the fine print because they can’t understand it or they don’t have the time. I wish I had my own health insurance company, it would have the best damned customer service in the world. Whenever a bill would be submitted the representatives would try to make contact with both the hospital and the patient to make sure everything was okay. For Niklas the hospital billed the insurance company for a circumcision which he did not have, and the insurance company paid it! Then they wanted their copay, which is ridiculous because the operation did not happen! See what I’m talking about? If only the insurance company had checked, a lot of time and energy and money would have been saved. Oh well, money, money, money. It’s a rich man’s world.

    • The hospital billed the insurance company for a procedure that did not take place? Is that even legal? I mean, it is fraud, right?

      It sounds extraordinary but it probably happens all the time.

  4. I think I have a piece of chip still stuck in the roof of my mouth right now. Probably wouldn’t lead to an infection, but I’ll set up a dentist appointment just in case. I’m due anyway, haha.

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