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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Dentists & Internationally-Adopted Kids

It all started when our dentist put in a capuccino bar and hired Eastern European model-types to sit, draped here and there for effect. We were handed laptops to type in our own info upon arrival, so there really wasn’t much left for them to do.

The dentist himself often sat in the urban rear courtyard, a small expanse glimpsed through a wall of glass doors. He sipped espresso with them and checked either his e-mails or his stocks on an every-other-minute basis. His office was open exclusively on Wednesdays and Thursdays, which didn’t suit our schedule at all, then he hired the Nazi-like dental hygienist, and next, his prices shot through the roof.

“I will not be funding your new memorial wing,” Benedetto told the young guy in Gucci loafers and designer jeans, as work in the $10,000 range was being strongly suggested for an adult with no discernible dental problems.

“Never again!” my husband promised me later, when the hygienist hurt Petya (see 16 October 2008).

“What will we do now?” I asked him, having experienced my fill of dentists pushing services that were not required, as well as a dentist who performed his own patient cleanings at great pain and at great expense.

Plus, that doctor did not have any eyebrows, another odd and disturbing criterion to consider when vetting a dental professional whose eyes alone would be seen above the mask. Apparently, he had some unresolved anger issues that he took out on my soft tissues, poking and scraping and jabbing until my mouth ached for days afterwards. I didn’t want to go through that again in finding a new dentist.

“The Russian woman,” Benedetto snapped his fingers, revealing his plan. “Petya and I met a Russian lady in the bank several years back. She heard us speaking Russian and mentioned that she worked for a dentist in the building.”

“Did you get her name or card?” I wondered.

“No, but it’s not that big of a building.”

And thus, he embarked on his mission of Finding the Russian Woman. Door-to-door, this determined dad went to every dentist’s office in the building. He would have done the Vacuum Cleaner Salesmen’s Association proud.

At last, he found the dentist who turned out to be both affordable and accommodating to internationally-adopted children who had experienced much pain and suffering at the hands of previous so-called dentists: willy-nilly extractions of teeth with no novocaine, no actual fillings, but the occasional drilling to make a big hole even bigger. Alas, the Russian assistant was away in the hospital with an extended illness, but emerged months later by the time Mashenka and Sashenka came home.

By then, Pasha had gone through a (numbed) extraction and several fillings. The female dentist came from Spain and was quite tender with children. It was kind and compassionate dentistry at its best, so we survived. The doctor said in passing that Pasha would require braces in the next year and she would recommend an orthodontist. Not having any experience in this area, I asked about price.

“Is there a ballpark that we should be expecting? Really, I have no idea,” I explained.

“Anywhere from eight to ten, maybe twelve on the high end,” she quoted.

Whenever a professional estimated large outlays of cash with many zeros in single- or double-digit numbers, I knew we were in trouble.

“Well,” I replied, “college tends to be overrated, anyway…” doing my own estimations of my children’s future sans funds.

But all paled in comparison when our own little drama queens arrived on the scene within the year.

We knew that both girls had “work” to be done. Major work, around the price range of buying a new roof for the house, or ripping out the HVAC, definitely not a bathroom remodel or resurfacing of the kitchen counters.

We spied black holes, and they were not just in outer space. Mashenka sported a brown tooth discoloration on one of her front and center lower teeth. Sashenka took the cake (literally) with a few obviously-rotting black teeth, resulting in a Hee-Haw-like, country bumpkin grin. Her exit exam from Russia noted three cavities.

“Twenty-one,” concluded our elegant dentist, looking over the top of her glasses, designer jewelry glistening under the bright light.

“Twenty-one cavities?! Is that even possible?! Does she have twenty-one teeth at eight years old?! Are they baby teeth?” I gasped.

That would be yes, yes, yes, and yes.

The problem with her severely-rotted teeth was that they would remain to decay in her mouth for another three or so years until the next wave of teeth fell out. The stench from the cute little girl’s mouth was overwhelming. She might need up to four extractions in addition to the twenty-one fillings.

Our retirement fund diminished with each visit. Retire? Oh, how passe’.

I threw myself on the mercy of the medical profession.

“Please, can you get started with something… anything… today? For instance, the black holes that are front and center?”

“Sure,” the dentist agreed. “We can maybe start with the most obvious, and go from there.”

At this rate, we would be visiting her office every week for the next few months, all with high drama, from the first numbing spray that sent little one into writhing fits as though we were poisoning her. To be followed by injections into the gumline, excruciating extractions, or high-decibel drilling. Just the way to start the day out right.

The Russian assistant was back, holding our daughter’s hand, soothing her in Russian, wiping away her tears. It was like a dream come true in the worst of nightmare circumstances. The ladies in this office were as professional and polite as possible, as a point-counterpoint to the little girl’s trauma of the past, and fear of the future.

A family friend stepped forward to fund Sashenka’s series of visits, a miracle if ever there was one. I took care of the other children’s appointments and expenses. Another friend commiserated over the ballooning balance of payments.

“You know you’re funding his kids’ college education?” she asks.

“Actually, our dentist is a “she” who is going to Italy soon (on top of her son heading off to college),” I comment, giving me pause for thought.

Yet, for her kindness to us, I forward the doctor several Venetian restaurant recommendations that only the conoscenti would know. She goes to two out of three and has the most amazing meals, ever.

Our next extractions are free.

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