VIew from Vitalia: Of accents, techno hotels and DIY dentistry

Dental engineering can be a tricky business, particularly if you have to apply it to your own teeth

To begin with, my heart-(and gum-)felt thanks to reader Peter Brooks from Palm Bay, Florida, USA, who responded to the previous instalment of this blog by:
a) listening to my BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Life of Dental Losses’, the link to which was given in the blog, and, in his own words, enjoying it very much;
b) sending me an email which, among other things, said: “I know that you are not British-born but it has been my experience (on my periodic trips to Orlando) to identify British people on its streets not by their accents, but by the poor condition of their teeth and the whiteness of their legs…From my personal experience I remember having my baby teeth drilled by a dentist in 1945-1946, who used a bicycle powered very low speed drill…”; and
c) sending me a link to the latest research on periodontal disease and its ability to cause heart valve problems (I had my own heart valve replaced with a bovine one about a year ago).

Thanks again, Peter. I just want to add that, although, as you note correctly, “not British-born”, I could have easily been mistaken for a Brit during my several visits to Orlando 17-18 years ago (when I was researching my Daily Telegraph column ‘Vitaliev’s America’), due to, indeed, “the poor condition of my teeth and the whiteness of my legs”. Of course, had you spoken with me then, you would have immediately identified me as non-British from my distinctive East European accent, which, incidentally, did not stop one young lady from Kodiak Peninsula in Alaska from once complimenting me on my “lovely British accent” (it was only in Alaska and also in Tasmania that I could occasionally pass for a Brit).   

As promised, today I am going to share with you my latest dental engineering adventures as well as my – almost literally – jaw-breaking experience of DIY dentistry in Budapest.

But let me begin in Krakow, where I stopped for one night on my way to the Hungarian capital, to unwind and to prepare myself morally for the forthcoming dental ordeal.

 Largely for the purposes of ‘unwinding’, I chose Metropolis Design Hotel, which rather intriguingly promised in its brochure (among other treats, like “a desk with LED lights”), an “independently selected light colour” for each room. My favourite colour is blue: it tends to soothe me and to calm me down (unless of course I spot it on something I am about to eat), so I was looking forward to relaxing in my colour-designed hotel room.

Well, the coveted relaxation proved hard to achieve, for no matter how hard I tried I was unable to sort out the TV and lights remote controller, given to me at reception. With just four buttons on its small coloured panel, it appeared easy to operate. And yet, no matter how persistently and in what combination I had been pressing the buttons, I was unable to colour the lights in my room blue (they stubbornly stayed yellow – a colour I detest!). Neither could I manage to switch on a large-screen TV set which I was supposed to do with the same remote controller.

Cursing my lack of technological prowess, I went downstairs and asked the receptionist for help. She said that the batteries could be the problem and replaced them. I returned to my yellow room, but the result was no different, at which point I decided to give up, my only consolation being that the receptionist was unable to make the remote work either…

The hotel, by the way, was otherwise very charming. Pity it allowed  technology to let it down.

Having stayed in the past at several other establishments proudly calling themselves ‘techno hotels’ (like Hi Hotel in Nice, Colour Hotel in Paris and a couple of others), I came to the conclusion that one did not necessarily need cutting-edge technologies for a quiet overnight stay. A clean warm room, with a comfy bed and a soft pillow would do very nicely.  By the way, the pillows at Metropolis were superb and fully corresponded to their description in the brochure: “That pillow knows you and adapts to the way you sleep. Memory foam helps you relax by moulding to the shape of your body.”

Yes, it was very nice to meet my friendly bed pillow, although I was secretly pleased that, despite all its ‘memory foam’,  it failed to “mould to the shape of my body”.  Perhaps, it didn’t “know me” all that well yet…

Back to matters dental. I came to Budapest for the third time in a year to have my new implants, installed in May 2017, mended and adjusted.

I was greeted like an old friend on arrival at the dentally familiar Implant Centre in Budapest. After a quick examination by doctors and technicians, it was decided that mending my beautiful implants and the bridges would take a couple of days, for the duration of which I had to part company with all my teeth. No need to say how reluctant I was to be toothless again, particularly in Budapest with its world-famous al dente dumplings that need to be bitten through for enjoyment. But I had no choice, or so I thought until my experienced dentist and implantologist, Dr Johanna Malita, came up with an option. The clinic still kept a set of my old temporary teeth, which I wore for five months last year before the permanent ones were installed. Those plastic dentures were well past their use-by date, which meant they could get damaged easily. Yet, faced with the toothless alternative, I decided to risk it.

The first moment of reckoning came about an hour later, when, in the company of my wife, who accompanied me on that trip, I sat down to lunch in my favourite Budapest pub ‘Polo’. Staring eagerly at the steaming plate of delicious Hungarian bean soup in front of me, I picked up a piece of bread and opened my mouth to bite into it…

Before my old temporary teeth even touched the bread crust, the upper jaw broke with a loud crack and fell into the soup with a splash… Ouch! It wasn’t really painful, but it was highly embarrassing… My wife couldn’t stop giggling… “Sh-sh-top laughing at me!” I hissed at her. “What’sh show funny?”

Having fished the soupy fragment of my denture out of the plate, I decided not to go back to the clinic to have it mended. After all, I still had the whole half of the plastic upper jaw in my mouth, almost intact. I thought I could survive like that for a couple of days, if I mostly relied on liquid meals in Budapest’s famous ‘ruin bars’ - so-called for their ramshackle decor - which had been my plan from the start anyway.

The only problem, as I discovered later, was the broken denture’s sharp edge, which kept cutting into my tongue. Pain makes you ingenious. I asked my wife to lend me her nail polisher and spent several hours reclining in an armchair, with my mouth wide ajar, polishing up the sharp edge with that mini-grater.

My DIY dentistry was successful (at least temporarily): after a couple of hours of tireless grating, the offending cutting edge lost its sharpness somewhat and I was able to carry on – if not happily, then at least semi-happily: the ruin bars did help! – until the following evening.

With my mended implants due to be returned the following day, we decided to mark our last night in Budapest by dinner at the local Georgian restaurant ‘Khachapuri’, chosen (partially) because Georgian food is normally supple, succulent, well-cooked and does not entail any substantial dental effort.

It all went well initially – as long as I was sticking to meatballs with fiery adjika sauce and Ajapsandali – a yummy (and very soft) vegetarian dish consisting of eggplant, potato, tomato, bell pepper and seasoning. But then I made a boo-boo of ordering the restaurant’s eponymous signature dish of khachapuri – a cheese-filled baked bread with eggs and herbs. The bread was warm and crisp, so I bit through its crust easily… Crack! Crack! Clank! The remaining half of my upper jaw fell out of my mouth and landed on my plate with a soft clink (or was it clank?), followed by the fellow diners’ (the restaurant was full) puzzled stares and my wife’s badly suppressed giggles.

“Shall I call an ambulance?” asked a worried dexterous waiter.

“I think a structural engineer would be more appropriate,” I mumbled through my non-existent, yet still clenched, teeth…

Needless to say, I did survive unscathed until my Implant Centre appointment the following morning. I even managed to fight my way through breakfast  (I still had two plastic teeth left in the right upper corner of my mouth), having refused the hotel’s kind offer of porridge and, having masticated a plateful of soft fried potatoes instead. By that point in my dental ordeal, I was careful not to open my mouth too wide lest I should inadvertently expose the sharp metallic bolts of the implants, protruding from it. The sight could easily scare the hell out of a child, or out of a sensitive adult too…

In no time, I had my beautiful new porcelain teeth reinstalled in my mouth. They felt and looked better than ever. I even finally stopped lisping… Well, almo-sh-t…

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