My Dental Emergency in Italy

I wake up just as I do on any other day. After some (quick) causal scrolling through social media I crawl out of bed (or rather climb since I’m in a bunk at this flat) and make my way immediately to the bathroom where I use the toilet, and put my hair up and out of the way to wash my face. I bed over the sink and start to gently washing my face when it happens; I feel something small and hard and foreign in my mouth.

I finish washing my face and spit the object into my hand. At first, my brain doesn’t comprehend. What is this white chunk in my palm? A hardened ball of food? A massive ball of plaque buildup? My tongue begins to roam my mouth and quickly finds it, a gap between two of my molars where there previously had been none.

Suddenly the morning fog in my brain clears and I realize that what I am holding in my hand is a giant chunk of my tooth!

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I won’t gross you out with a real photo of the fragment, but trust me when I say that the entire front half of my tooth (circled in blue above) was sitting in my hand.

“Great,” I thought. Of all the days to break a tooth, that day was probably the worst. I had just an hour to eat breakfast, put on my makeup, get dressed, and get across town where my group from my Green Management course was presenting to a multinational consulting corporation. Good thing I wasn’t in excruciating pain because it was just one of those things that was going to have to wait.

After the presentation (which went very well in case you were wondering), I went back to uni to see if I could sneak into the career fair (spoiler alert: I couldn’t) and finally, went home to change out of my business clothes and get lunch (or whatever you want to call it at 3 pm). I was so stressed and busy with the presentation and getting around town that it wasn’t until I was on my way home that I even remembered the chunk of tooth sitting missing from my mouth.

The brain is a wonderful thing because I wasn’t actually in pain until I remembered that  I should be and thats when the tiniest of aches set in. I could feel it mostly in my cheekbone under my eye and it was the kind of ache that just screamed foreshadowing. While it might not hurt much yet, I felt like it was getting a clear warning not to let it go untreated for much longer.

I got home, carefully ate some pasta and started making calls. First I called my (German) insurance, to make sure I understood how my coverage worked in Italy. I won’t bore you with the details (unless you are actually curious, in which case I can write a post on my experiences with European health insurance… let me know in the comments), but basically they told me to go to whatever dentist, that I would have to pay upfront, and afterwards submit my bill later for partial reimbursement.

Having to pay up front and no guarantee of getting much back made me very nervous, especially with the dollar-figures that were floating around in my mind. We all know how expensive healthcare is in the US and I’ve already spent a lot in my lifetime on fillings. Of course I knew it would be cheaper but I had no idea how much and I didn’t even know if a filling was going to cut it since, to my untrained eye, the chunk of tooth missing looked pretty significant.

After having a small panic attack, I decided to just deal with whatever costs might come, loaded my wallet with every credit card I own, and called the first English speaking dentist office I found on Google. I’m so glad that I did because after 2 hours, 2 fillings and a very puzzled dentist, I put €260 on my debit card and the whole ordeal was over. Or so I thought.

After five days the pain finally completely subsided and I could tell something wasn’t right. While the tooth wasn’t sensitive to hot, cold or sugar, I still couldn’t chew on it. I called the dentist office and they had me come back in. After some extra reshaping (free of charge) I think everything is back to normal.

Overall, I had really great experience for something that could have ended very badly. The dentist said that the original break was a freak accident because it wasn’t anywhere where I had tooth-on-tooth contact so it wasn’t like I bit down too hard. It was also on the inside of my mouth so it wasn’t like I got hit in the face and broke it (which obviously wasn’t the case since you’d think someone would remember something like that).

The weirdest thing is that I have no idea when I could have broken it. There are a couple of hard snacks I’d eaten a long time ago but I don’t know that they’re so hard as to actually break a tooth. I must have done it months ago and then dislodged it when I was flossing the night before.

I had been having some sensitivity problems with that tooth despite the fact that I just got that filling replaced in December so I’m guessing the sensitivity was sugar seeping into the crack from the break. If that theory is correct then the tooth had been broken for months and only just then fell out. Talk about great timing.

Anyways, like I said, it’s (hopefully) over now. If not, it seems like it will just be a bit more reshaping in my future until we finally get the fit just right. The dentist has been really good about listening to my concerns and being meticulous about the shape since the filling is such a significant chunk of that tooth now.

Overall the experience was about the same as in America with the biggest differences being of course the cost and also, this dentist was the very best I’ve ever had for giving the anesthetic injection. I barely felt a thing and I’ve experienced a lot of them already in my lifetime. Let me know if you would like a post about my insurance experience. I would be completely down to write about it if you want to hear it or would find it helpful.

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