I Visited Seven Dentists in Europe on a Trip to the World Cup
It’s my second day on the streets of Moscow and the dentist I think I’m booked in to see doesn’t exist. I walk with my boyfriend to the address on Google Maps and it’s an office. I ask an information centre and they direct me to a random street where there should be an American flag. There is no American flag. I am sweaty and yelling about wanting to restart the Cold War when I realise the dentist I thought I was booked in to see was the wrong one.
I get in a cab to the right dentist, already 30 minutes late, and drive to the other side of town. I burst into their office smelling bad with crazy eyes and they greet me warmly.
It’s been three weeks now since my wisdom teeth removal and the horrendous dry socket that developed. They tell me it is healing and I’ll be fine in a couple days. A hilarious lie. I give them 70 dollars and spend the next few days only able to ingest soup, completely sober because of my medication and increasingly opposed to Russia, the Russian population and the World Cup.
We fly from Moscow to Kazan on the fourth day of our trip to see Australia play France. On the flight, I’m on heavy antibiotics, feel immensely sick, and have a little vomit at the end. We stay at an apartment that looks like a crime scene. There’s a dentist a few doors down from it, though, whom I visit a couple times.
They don’t speak a word of English, but I show them a useful screenshot I have saved on my phone. “Hello,” it says, in English translated to Russian, “I have a dry socket after wisdom teeth removal. Can you please help me?” They repack my dry socket with paste and send me warmly on my way, free of charge.
Australia loses to France.
We drive to Samara in the second week of the World Cup, the day before Australia play Denmark. The day afterwards, I’m standing in a dentist on the outskirts of town desperately trying to show a woman the screenshot I have saved on my phone.
She ushers me aside and tells me to wait. I wave the phone around some more, but she wants none of it. Reluctantly, I take my seat amongst a strange gaggle of Russians waiting for checkups. They eye me off warily.
Eventually, a young, attractive woman in tight white clothing and high heels arrives on the scene.
“Hello!” she says brightly. “Follow me.” You are not a dentist, I think. You look like you’re dressed as a dentist for a costume party. But I follow. We go up approximately four flights of stairs, while I continue trying to show her my phone screen.
She sits me in a room, opens my mouth, gives me a once over, and announces, sternly, that I have “very bad gum”.
She shakes her head, “Very bad.”
“No,” I reply desperately, “I have dry socket. I just need it to be repacked with paste.”
She shakes her head again, sprays some weird, unpleasant stuff in my mouth and packs me with a bandage.
“Very serious,” she tells me. “Maybe go to hospital.”
I am shocked and appalled by the idea. She also gives me a script for Russian painkillers that are banned in nearly every country in the world. I am spat back onto the hostile streets of Samara.
We fly to Nice after Australia draw to Denmark to meet my family for a wedding. I’m ecstatic to leave Russia, repeatedly declaring it will be “forever”. To get there, we have to wake at 3.30am to catch a connecting flight to Moscow, then Rome, then onto France. My brother stays up all night getting drunk off vodka and passionately singing ‘Horses’ by Daryl Braithwaite with random Australians in pubs.
When we finally arrive, I Uber immediately to the dentist, he Ubers immediately to bed. The dentist in Nice is trustworthy and clean, with a charming accent. He prescribes me more antibiotics, heavier painkillers, and gives me a reassuring smile. I visit him three more times, maybe just because I like the guy, and he doesn’t charge.
He also tells me it’s okay to have “a glass or two” of wine on antibiotics, which I translate to “five to 15”. This gets me through the wedding, just.
My family and I drive on to Barcelona after a week on the French Rivera, where I have successfully cried a few times and gotten really constipated.
At the dentist here they all wear red uniforms and have tattoos. When I first visit the surgery, a young teenager with crutches is manning the reception desk. He doesn’t seem to have a clue what’s going on, but he speaks English. They tell me I no longer have a dry socket and need a root canal.
No longer having dry socket means I can drink heavily, so, immediately after visiting dentist number five, I start cracking into champagne to celebrate. This coincides with me being on laxatives for a couple of days (heavy amounts of codeine really clogs up your bowels).
Fast forward a few hours and I’m standing on a dance floor in a club off Las Ramblas, blissfully unaware that I’ve shat myself, messaging my family WhatsApp asking where we’re staying because I have no idea how to get home. “Don’t worry,” I write, as my brother gets up to try to check our buzzer code. “I’ve booked an Uber with no destination.”
On my second Barcelona visit, I find myself with a sheet pinned to my mouth, unable to speak or move for an hour while a young British guy hacks away gleefully at my face, talking about football.
Afterwards, feeling no relief from the root canal procedure, I ingest a firecracker (weed sprinkled on Nutella between a biscuit) which causes a nine-hour high so immense that the existential angst it brings on distracts me temporarily from the pain.
The last week of our trip is spent in Berlin. It consists of watching England lose in the football, shit kebabs and getting torrentially rained on in the middle of an airfield.
The dentist I visit in Kreuzberg is very nice. They complete my root canal and give my gums a good clean. One of the women gives me her card so I can “visit her next time I’m in Berlin”, as if I’m ever going to want to set foot in a dentist again.
What started as a trip to the World Cup ended with a root canal and several hundred euros of debt.
I fly home to Melbourne two days later with the Berlin dentist’s card in my wallet, and see a dentist first thing Monday morning.