Saturday, 30 May 2015

Living Life on the Edge: Visiting the Dentist in Riyadh

The King’s Dentist lives down the road from us. His other title, so my early morning walking friends tell me, is the Royal Flosser. His job is to accompany the King on all his trips so that he’s on hand should there be a sudden royal dental crisis. On one hand, it sounds exotic, but I’m guessing it’s also pretty boring. A pack-a-good-book sort of job.

And talking of crises and dentists, I’ve my own story to tell, but there’s no royal dentist in my narrative. Actually, it’s really a story in three parts, or if you like three separate dental crises spread over several years.

Crisis One
To sort my first crisis out, I visited a dentist recommended by a medical clinic near where I worked. I’ll call him Mr Grumpy Scottish Dentist. I had misgivings from the moment I walked into his clinic. Firstly, the place was undeniably grubby. There was a thin sheen of dust over every surface. I could have written my name along the window sill. Minutes later, when I was prostrate in the chair, his nurse dropped an instrument on the floor, then picked it up and handed it across to him. (He was left-handed and this seemed to complicate matters enormously.) At this point, Mr Grumpy Scottish Dentist tore strips off her. It was unpleasant and unprofessional. I left soon afterwards with absolutely no intention of returning.

Crisis Two
Enter Mr Noble Smile Dentist. He came highly recommended by a friend. “Ah, ” I thought as I walked through the door. “ Clean and pristine.”  State of the art equipment, all gleaming and glistening in its bold white newness: I was impressed. So was my husband who’d come with me. After looking at the problem tooth, Mr Noble Smile explained what he thought the problem was and his proposed treatment. To my husband. I asked some questions which he answered. Also to my husband. As we left, he opened the door. For my husband, of course. And so we left. My husband, and me, wearing my abaya of anonymity, fully intending to never darken his doorstep again.

Crisis Three
This time around, I knew the treatment would be relatively straightforward. One filling out. One crown in. Looking for a place to go this time that was neither grubby nor noble, I decided to use Google. Read some reviews, I thought. See what Mr. Joe Public is saying. The first forum I looked at had an anguished plea from a young expatriate male. He’d visited an Egyptian dentist and had had his jaw broken in the process of having a wisdom tooth out. Like me, he was looking for a reputable and professional dentist. The words needle and haystack came to mind. Discouraged but not defeated, I eventually chose an American dentist. My friends on the compound assured me that I'd made a sound choice and he came through my Google review search with flying colours.

Last Saturday I had my first appointment. I was immediately reassured by his pleasant conviviality and brisk efficiency. “Yes,” he said. “A crown,” and then after a brief explanation of the process, he showed me a printed breakdown of the costings for approval. After some initial work and an anesthetic he disappeared. Just like that. There one minute and gone the next. Meet Mr Invisible Dentist.

I spent the next hour and half with his assistant. She poked and prodded, took impressions and fitted a temporary crown. She called me ‘Mam’ which is a Philippine form of address. I couldn’t call her anything since I didn't know her name. I left, not seeing Mr Invisible Dentist again, but being promised that next Saturday he would fit my crown. Promises.

Today is Saturday and I’ve just been to get my new crown. Or not, as it transpired. After the dental assistant had removed my temporary crown, Mr Invisible Dentist appeared. He attempted to place the new crown but sadly it just didn't fit. Something must have been wrong with the impressions that had been taken last week, Mr Invisible Dentist told me. I'd have to have new impressions taken, the temporary crown refitted and then return again for the final crown next week. With these words Mr Invisible Dentist once again vanished, leaving me with Mary. (I asked her name this week, since it appears we are going to have a longer than anticipated acquaintance.)

I’m going back on Tuesday for my permanent crown. It's all beginning to feel like one of those awful circular stories that just go on and on and on…. I’ve my fingers crossed for a successful outcome, but I’ve also decided one thing. Next time I have a dental crisis I’m climbing on a plane and flying straight to London. 


  1. Oh I laughed. So typical.
    I usually fly home just to get my hair cut properly :)

  2. Glad you laughed. And I'm with you on the hair cut score too...

  3. I have this exact same crisis with a crown..still looking. My next destination was going to be that very same Noble smile clinic but after reading this am not sure anymore :/ I hate when the doctors here do that! Even some of the gynecologist speaks to my husband at the maternity check ups. Seriously! And it's not a language problem, or a gender issue since the are all females.

  4. And I don't know how to sign in with my own profile to comment, sorry about that, it's me Layla :D

    1. Hi Layla,
      Oh dear, I'm sorry if I've confused your decision making.... however it wasn't just the manner of Mr NS that put me off. I wasn't convinced about the treatment he proposed, but I didn't want to go into that much detail in my post.

      Good luck... and if you find someone wonderful please let me know :)