It is well-known that many immigrants, upon landing in their home country for a visit after one year, five years, or twenty, depending on the intensity of their filial love, do not rush to the house or gravestone of their grandmothers. Instead, clutching their jaws, they gallop to the nearest dentist. Dental care is not covered by the much-bragged-about Canadian state health insurance, and the bills reach astronomical proportions. 

Last September, realizing I could not chew adequately on the left side of my jaw, and feeling safe because of my newly-acquired dental coverage as a Dalhousie student, I tentatively stepped into a dentist’s office. Aboout five beautiful ladies and gentlemen talked to me, poked in my mouth, showed me coloured x-rays of my teeth, and eventually murmured the dread words “root canal”.

How much?

The ladies went back and forth. They checked their computers. They called the insurance company. They held a conference. This is a small city, and root canals are something of a major event. Eventually, they came up with a figure: around 500. After Dal’s insurance.  Please note that in Iran, a root canal would cost between 50 to, if the dentists is an absolute skinflint, 180 (dollars).

After they revived me from my screaming fainting fit, I staggered home, determined to continue chewing on the right side, and drink only soup, coffee, and muffins soaked in coffee, which is after all the proper diet of a student. (Together with pizza and pasta).  And rice. And potatoes.

Yesterday, I got a letter from the dentist’s office. I actually wanted to scan it and and put it up here, for it was a work of art.

`Dear Newcomer`, it began, and then went on for a full page. Basically, it said they missed me, and they wanted me back in their office. How was my tooth, they wanted to know? Why hadn`t I gone back? Was I aware that dental problems became exacerbated with time, increasing the complexity of the remedy? Was I pleased with the service? Was I worried about the , um, ahem, you know, the financial arrangements? I shouldn`t worry about that, they would be happy to come to an arrangement with me. (Actually, now that I am writing this, it begins to feel a bit sinister. What possible arrangement? What are they talking about? Who do they think I am, Pretty Woman?)

A ticket home costs about 1400 dollars. Line up a couple of dental problems, added to the free meals you`ll hog at your parent`s table- well, you would almost offset the cost of a visit home. Almost, not quite. The Canadian dentist will not grasp at your soul, the way a visit home does.

But he will make a spirited attempt to do so.


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