Last night after work I went to the dentist for the first time in Latin America. You generally have to wait 6 months for an appointment in the States, so you can do the math and figure that I hadn't been to the dentist in about a year and a half. Not that I felt that my teeth were in disrepair, but I wanted to keep them clean and prevent any problems.
Luckily I know someone who is a dentist, so I took the long transit to the neighborhood of Caballito and kicked off Friday night with some tartar scraping. I have to say that it was one of the least comprehensive dental visits I've ever had, though I don't know if that speaks for all of Argentinian dentistry. The cleaning basically consisted of just scraping for tartar and then a little fluoride washing. Unfortunately, I might have a little cavity developing, so I need to brush with some special toothpaste for a month or so to try to stop it, then go back and see if it has gone away. If it doesn't go away I'll probably need to get a filling--the first one I've needed since I was a kid.
It was a painless experience, though definitely not as thorough as a trip to the dentist in the United States. And at the end of it, there was no goody-bag with a toothbrush and sample size toothpaste. I didn't leave with that really clean feeling either, an actually brushed once I got home. It's hard enough to understand what a dentist is saying back home, but trying to get the gist of it through a mix of Spanish and English was a big challenge. We quickly realized that it wasn't so much a lack of language, but a lack of dental knowledge that made it harder for me to get it.
In the end the appointment lasted about an hour and by American standards was very cheap, without any need for insurance or records or anything else. And instead of needing to plan another visit in 6 months I can always go back whenever I need to.