Monday, March 14, 2016

Culture Shock at the Dentist (USA Edition)

I went to the dentist today.

Not a big deal, right? I mean, people go to dentists all the time. I've been going to the dentist my whole life. But you know what? I can only remember one other time I've been to the dentist in the States before today. It's possible I've been to more American dentists than I'm remembering (Mom?), but it's an infrequent experience, to say the least.

I had just been to my dentist over break when I was home in Czech, and since she found a couple of cavities, she told me I'd have to find a dentist in the States to get that all figured out, since I wouldn't be home again for a year.

So after it all, I experienced culture shock, homesickness, thankfulness and adulthood in one day.

So I thought I'd give you just a glimpse into the ups and downs of the Czech versus American dental experience. You might laugh at me, but let's look at some comparisons. Here's some honesty from a Third Culture Kid for you...

1. Czech healthcare is so much cheaper thanks to their social healthcare system. I know that this type of healthcare doesn't always work out in all places, but in Czech, the system is really helpful. The fact that a checkup itself cost me a paycheck from my part-time job was just painful, only because I'm not used to it.

2. The American dentist's office staff was all so friendly! This is to be expected in the States, since friendliness is a value here, but I am still caught off guard by it in new environments. Making my appointment was so easy, despite it being my first visit at this dentist, since the receptionist was gracious and kind on the phone (sometimes in Czech phone calls like these can be pretty intimidating)

3. Both dentists are really good at what they do. I can definitely say that! I did appreciate today that the dentist took some extra precautions in examining my teeth - using a UV light of sorts to check for cancer in the mouth, and using a laser to measure the density of teeth (not sure how that info is helpful, but it's different from what I've experienced in the past!). It's always helpful getting another expert's look as far as health goes!

4. When the dental hygienist asked about my background, school and future dreams, I didn't quite know how to respond. It's friendly and thoughtful, but my European side of the brain asks...why do you care and do you really mean it?? Also, I'm not really in the position to talk much when my mouth stays open half the time as he examines my teeth. Again, this simply catches me off guard, and once I get used to it, it's a welcoming gesture.

(By the way - same story with hairdressers in the States. Lara is a receptionist at a salon and laughed at me when she heard about my first experience there when I didn't know how to talk with the hairdresser. Apparently, that's kind of what you're supposed to do, and I definitely wasn't playing along as much as I should have been. I'm just used to that being "quiet-thinking-time" for Claire while someone cuts my hair!)

5. I had to travel by train for almost an hour and then walk 20 minutes to get to the dentist. I know I didn't have to find a dentist that far away, but I was referred to this office by a friend in JV, so I wanted someone I could trust, hence the long commute. I miss the quick drive and the walk across cobblestone plazas in Frydek-Mistek to get to my Czech dentist!

6. And lastly, the adult factor of today was simply that I did this all by myself. The forms I filled out would have needed to be signed by a parent had I not been 21. I suppose that means that I'm definitely an adult in the dental world and can and should be responsible for my own teeth! I'm thankful for my parents' help in making sure I had enough to pay for the visit I'm a semi-adult, which is completely ok with me for now!

Everyone experiences culture shock in the healthcare world when they move to a new country. I'm still realizing that I know very little about the American healthcare system (besides my childhood experiences with hospital visits when I was really sick), so most of these experiences are new; they just happen to be in my first language, which makes it easier than it would be for those who move to other new countries.

All in all, I guess I'm still learning to be American. It's good, but I'm still working out some bugs. Glad I can check the "dentist-on-my-own" off my (hypothetical) "adult firsts" list.

P.S. Dr. Fong says hello to the Till family!! His 21-year-old daughter was in Mr. Till's 6th grade class here in the States. I was in Mr. Till's homeroom class in Czech. It's a sweet, small world!


  1. Great blog post! And did you know ahead of time that the doctor's daughter was in Mr Till's class?? Crazy! How'd you get that referral?? BTW, that last photo of the post is AMAZING!

  2. This was just fascinating to read. I live out of the country and my birthplace is the U.S. I am now living on the other side of the world and really enjoying it. I usually do my dentist visit when I go home every year. I have yet to try the dentist in a third world country or any country.

    Freddie Gray @ Ballantyne Dentistry

  3. Going to the dentist can be a traumatic experience sometimes anyway, let alone if it's the first time you are going in the States. All dentist's (and hairdressers) want to talk with you - not sure why either. I always feel the pressure of what I am going to talk to them about. Glad to hear you made it through your first dental experience State side!

    Antony @ Implant Dentist Irvine


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