Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A scary story, or about Azeri teeth

I had a dentists’ appointment this morning. Just a filling but I am still drained by the whole experience. You would have thought, I should have got used to it. Because, my relationship with dentistry goes way back.

My new dentist is a husband of a mummy friend. Patted me on the shoulder when I went for a check up, and told me a filling would normally cost £120 but since it was me, it would only be £95. Very Azeri of him.
(Had to get a new dentist recently, as the old one made so much money on my Soviet teeth that he took a year off, gallivanting around the States.)

I think I was about 15 or so when my cousin and I went to the park across the road for a game of badminton.

In the middle of the game, I noticed a local youth- a dodgy-looking geezer from the Pohlushka.

(Pohlushka, which is a sort of an affectionate Azeri-Russian term for a sh***hole, is basically the Baku slums. Along with the nearby Kubinka, the area is famously dodgy.)

The guy was slowly moving towards us, while staring at me. This is where I got confused. My gut instinct was telling me to run for my life. But my stupid pride demanded to act cool. So, I chose to pretend he did not exist, until he walked up from behind me and, muttering something in Azeri, wrapped his arms around my waist. I did not have the time to think and analyse what would be a sensible thing to do. Still holding the badminton racket in both hands, I swung it all the way around and whacked the youth across the head.

As he half-collapsed on the ground, swaying from side to side in pain, I told my cousin we'd better get out of the park.

Unfortunately, we were not fast enough. The pohlushka warrior caught up with us and punched me in the face. Having been knocked to the ground, and struggling to get up, I remember telling him he must have been pretty brave to fight a girl. He stumbled away, swearing and still holding on to his head.

A couple of Russian babushkas rushed over as soon as the coast was clear. They were petrified. The guy was pretty famous in the pohlushka neighbourhood.

- You are lucky he was not carrying a knife on him, you could have been dead by now! – They were telling me, wiping my face and pressing a wet handkerchief to my mouth.

I thought I escaped with just a swollen lip. However, a few months later, a large crack appeared across my front tooth. In a year’s time, I had to have it crowned.

Apart from my scary story though, bad teeth is just something that most Azeries have to live with. Perhaps, some of it is genetic, and some due to the environment. I also realize now, that there is no concept of dental hygiene in Azerbaijan. And of course, you can (still) occasionally spot some gold teeth. (It used to be some form of investment. More reliable than banks, I suppose) My toddler was quite impressed by them. For weeks afterwards, she kept talking about “that lady with pretty, shiny teeth”.

I personally always had some dental problem, and spent years moving from one dentist to another. Most of them were not either not good or left the country, and the only good one I had finally found decided to put his hand on my leg during the check-up. (And still had the nerve to charge me!.)

My first dentist in the UK was not familiar with Soviet dentistry. What he anticipated would take a couple of weeks, took over two years. He spent hours sweating and cursing over my old Soviet fillings, but what he did not know was that Soviet fillings were not just for Christmas. Soviet fillings were for life.

So, he sent me to his colleague in Harley Street. In case you don’t know, Harley Street is where the real (dental) mafia is based. They are all related and interconnected. (I got suspicious when I noticed my dentist’s family portrait on the mantlepiece at this specialist’s surgery.) One would direct you to another and so on. Once caught in their net, there is no easy (or cheap) way out.

But eventually, after a number of expensive tortures, and at least three different specialists in Harley Street, my teeth got fixed, whitened and polished.
I told my toddler the other day we must look after her teeth so they would not end up like mummy’s.
She looked into my mouth and announced my teeth were nice.

Thank you, sladkaya- I thought- If you only knew at what price!


  1. Love your blog. Cheers from NYC.

  2. Shannon,
    Nice to meet you, and thanks for stopping by!

    LOVE NY.

  3. You are very elegantly named "Poxlu Dərə" as "Pohlushka".

    It's very interesting to know more about the Harley Street. What is this place?

  4. Sorry, Stomatolog. Should have put a link there, I have now added it.
    But you can read about Harley st here:


  5. No matter where you come from, going to the dentist is always a torture.
    Luckily for you, it all ended up fine.
    Saludos desde Lima.

  6. I was born in Baku and lived there for 26 years but never heard of "Poxlu Dərə." Luckily, I assume. Live and learn.

  7. If only you played badminton like we did, with tennis rackets! That would knock the jerk out cold.

  8. Agree that we, azeris are doomed to have constant dental problems. Perhaps genes and bad oral hygene are to blame. My husband hasn't had a single cavity in his 38 years of life, I really envy that. And I think I wasn't introduced to a tooth paste till I was in 5 or 6, let alone regular cleaning. Tha story about you and a "pohlushka warrior" is pretty creepy, I remember finding a treasure, a bunch of used siringes left by drug addicted neighbors, and it was our "secret", how silly we were.

  9. I think that our tooth problems were caused by terrible toothpaste, the best of which was bulgarian "pomorin" or "pamarin", can't remember exactly. I remember using tooth powder and when the shortage couldn't allow us to have ANY tooth paste or powder, we used soda, or even salt. I am quite old though:)

  10. Oh, no..

    I totally remember the tooth powder in a round plastic box! Wow...I forgot about it until you mentioned it here. Gosh. I guess, I am old too. the soda thing we used when we thought we needed to whiten the teeth a bit. It worked. But probably destroyed the enamel. :))

  11. nice post, triggered some bitter memories.
    i was punched too in mouth-nose area by a classmate (cant remember why). but i was lucky to not crack my tooth thanks to a gap between my front teeth (like this http://news.softpedia.com/images/news2/The-Day-Vanessa-Paradis-Was-No-Longer-Hot-3.jpg)and angle of punch which mostly hit my nose.

    stay healthy and unpunched.

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