Totally dental

Our friend Kenny, a Sri Lankan whose first language is English and who therefore totally gets this blog, occasionally sends us snippets which have made their way into his phone. One example: a photo of a clothing rail in a store containing women’s dresses, with a placard against it proclaiming FROGS 250/-. The other day he sent us a piece from Newswire reporting on yet another ministerial visit to Kandy (there are so many ministers they have to be found something to do, though Kandy remains a cultural and environmental desert for all that ministerial attention). “While in Kandy, the Minister went to pay his respects at the Temple of the Toothpaste” the article noted. A clear case of virtue SIGNALling, in my opinion. As a minister he would have entered and left not by the public entrance but by the entrance reserved for VIPs, known as the Colgate (Oh do shut up! – Ed.). I will now cease to call Kandy’s holiest place the ‘Temple of the Tooth Fairy’ as ‘Temple of the Toothpaste’ is so much better.

My own teeth, meanwhile, could not by any stretch of the imagination be said to be a temple, unless of the ruined kind to be found in Sri Lanka’s ancient cities, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. The occasional remaining tooth still stands, Ozymandias-like, in mocking remembrance of past glories. I’ve worn dentures for several years. While trapped in the UK in 2020 by the pandemic travel restrictions a couple more of my standing stones toppled and I had new dentures made. I brought back to Sri Lanka a large quantity of fixative since the only stuff you can get here is an almost useless powder. Why this should be so I don’t know. You can buy Marmite, Colman’s mustard, Lea and Perrins and a whole range of Heinz products easily. Powerful sedatives are supplied over the pharmacist’s counter, no questions asked. But nowhere can you get Fixodent – well, nowhere in Kandy. Even so, I recently ran out of my supplies of the tubed stuff and had to resort to the dreaded powder. And, in an example of irony only surpassed by catching Covid at the vaccination centre (see Jablog), I was fitting my dentures in one morning when the powder caused me to cough and said dentures flew across the room and cannoned into the unforgiving tiled floor, snapping in two.

Off to the dentist’s, then, for an emergency temporary repair and getting new ones made, again. Sri Lankan dentists, in my experience, are technically every bit as good as their British counterparts but haven’t learnt how to smarm their patients – an essential attribute of British dental practice which probably accounts for around half the curriculum at dental school. The Sri Lankan dentists I have come across have all been matter of fact to the point of brusqueness. But they get the job done. And at a tiny fraction of the price in the UK. When I had the dentures made in Kent the process took two months and cost me a bit north of £1,500. The new ones I’ve just had made here in Kandy took three weeks (same number of appointments, they just get on with the job more quickly) and cost me a little under Rs20,000/- – around £70. Yes, that’s correct. £70. How they achieve this is beyond me, but now we’ve decided to rent in England from next year and come out to Jungle Tide annually to escape the worst of the English winters I shall get all non-emergency work done while I’m here. In fact I’ve calculated that a solo traveller wanting some dental work done would actually save themselves money by paying the return air fare to Sri Lanka and getting it done here. Not good for the planet, I admit, but something has to be wrong when British dentistry can come out at more than twenty times the cost of the same work in Sri Lanka, don’t you agree?

So I shall continue living between two worlds for the foreseeable future, if only for dental reasons. Oh, and Sally, resourceful as ever, found me a tube of Fixodent available from Colombo by mail order. Cost almost as much as a major dental procedure and as usual it took the courier three days to find us, but it will keep me going until I get back to England next month.

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