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There’s a scene in the Godfather Part II movie where a sick Hyman Roth, in Havana, is being seen to by a Cuban doctor who only speaks Spanish. Before leaving, the doctor gives his instructions as to what Roth should do to recuperate. As this is being relayed in English to Roth he says he wants his doctor flown in from the US as he doesn’t trust one ‘who can’t speak English.’

'You want the tooth?! You can't handle the tooth!'

It seems Wrong Way can’t handle the tooth, not in Colombia anyway … (Image from cartoonstock.com.)

It was, perhaps, a tad unfair to the Cuban doctor, he was probably competent enough. (After all, it wasn’t Roth’s bad health that eventually killed him but a bullet.)

Fictitious as that episode is, this is very often how people feel when dealing with medical professionals (and others) who don’t speak their native tongue. The fears or lack of confidence may be unfounded yet the prejudice is hard to put to one side.

Personally, for most of my time in Bogotá I’d managed to avoid such encounters. However in recent months this has changed a little. A long-standing dental issue i.e. having a false front tooth for over a decade and a half, has required attention for the first time in years.

The results of the dentists/orthodontists advice or labour I’ve had thus far have been — bar one — underwhelming.

Leaving aside the experience of the first ‘dentist’ who didn’t even wear gloves when inspecting my mouth with his hands, most of the others consulted immediately offered the most expensive option available without a thought given to cheaper alternatives.

Sonría logo, Colombia.

Of all the options, from what this blog could gather, Sonría’s one of the worst …

Basically we’re referring to an implant with the accompanying surgery required for it.

OK, I’m obviously no expert in this but what had worked well for five years, a relatively cheap Maryland bridge, would be fine again. Or failing that — and for reasons I don’t comprehend some of the dentists have said it’s not an option — a standard denture would do the trick for now.

Also, it has to be stated that, unlike Mr Roth, my Spanish is good enough to both explain my situation and understand, more or less, what I’m being told. And I don’t — or at least didn’t at the start — have a negative opinion of these guys. All this apparent subterfuge must be because I’m not from these shores.

The whole experience has certainly made one question the mantra, which usually comes from North Americans, that dentistry standards in Colombia are exceptionally high.

A reason, maybe, for such a viewpoint is that the ‘gringos’ are really screwed over back home when it comes to this line of work.

Regardless of that, it be might be time to call for my own native English speaking dentist. Mother tongue knows best.
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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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4 Comentarios
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  1. ma.isabel.arias2

    I’m Colombian and I have the same feeling when I have some medical appointment… It’s not easy to tell to your doctor every symptom or discomfort….. my husband translate me sometimes! I hope your teeth get better….I think our doctors are reliable….I wish you can find the better one for you. Have a good day.
    PD…. I’m sorry, but SONRIA sucks.

  2. Some years ago. I bought a SONRIA family plan. later, i need a dental treatment and how i wasn’t where i inicially bought it; these experts told me You must pay again!.
    impossible i’ve a member card and my plan is going on.
    to pay again, doesn’t make any sense.
    anyway, i needed their help but it wasn’t a rush. So, i prefered to lose my money than go back again.

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