“Something’s not right with my tooth,” Jarred told me a few days after arriving in Tampico, Mexico.  He cranked open his jaw and I got a good view of the gaping hole in one of his top molars where a filling used to be.  

We asked at the front desk and surprisingly there were two dentists with in walking distance of the hotel.  Only one had a website which said it was open until 9 pm.  We had the receptionist call for us because neither of us was confident in our Spanish enough to make a dental appointment.  To Jarred’s dismay, he’d have to go to the dentist on his one day off.   

The next morning we headed out with Arnie, our tour business manager who speaks Spanish and could translate for us.  When we got to the Hospital Dentista de Los Angeles, which resembled a five star hotel, a security guard directed us to the right office.

Going to the dentist even at home can be uncomfortable and nerve racking, but going in a foreign country, especially one known for botched boob jobs and subpar surgeries, really puts your nerves on edge.  Jarred’s wasn’t looking too happy about the situation, but I was more nervous about the pain he might be in if he didn’t have his tooth fixed.

The dentist took him in to examine his tooth while Arnie and I sat in the waiting room.  Not too long went by before Arnie was called in to translate.  He was in there for a while and when everyone came out, it was not with good news. 

The damage was worse than just a missing filling, and Jarred had to have a root canal, a procedure that’s usually spread out over 3 days.  We had shows all week, and then we flew to Monterrey.  So for the time being, the dentist gave Jarred a temporary filling and we decided to try and figure everything out later.

In Monterrey, we met Anna, the shows promotion liaison.  She grew up in Monterrey and told us she’d personally take us to her own dentist.  

So once more, on our one day off we headed to the dentist in the company van.  The driver parked on the corner of the street and Anna lead us to a glass door.  She knocked and a man with glasses and thinning hair he’d swept into a comb over unlocked and opened the door. 

Before arriving in Mexico, we were warned about the violence caused by skirmishes between the drug cartels in the larger cities, and I’m guessing that’s why the doctor kept the door locked.  But out of curiosity, I ask Anna how bad things really are, and she said the violence is mainly between the warring drug cartels and the police, although innocent people do sometimes get hurt in the crossfire.  Although I’m not about to walk the streets alone at night anytime soon, I did feel a bit more comfort hearing this from someone who lives in Monterrey. 

After Anna explained to the dentist about Jarred’s tooth, and he had a look himself, we sat down in the front room and waited for the anesthesiologist.  It was an older office building with wood paneled walls and hard wood floors.  A table near the front door was lined with photos of young kids in soccer uniforms and dance costumes all smiling at the camera with pearly white and straight teeth.  The fact that his kids or grandkids have nice teeth is a good sign, I thought to myself.

The wall above the pictures was covered in San Antonio Spurrs knickknacks and photos.  I think the doctor must be the basketball team’s biggest fan because it looks as though he’s displayed every pennant, towel, hat and team photo imaginable.  The souvenirs also covered the wall behind the reception desk. 

In fact the only thing that was not black and grey was a small card with a painting of Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns, blood dripping down his sunken cheeks.  As I looked around a little more, I realized there were quite a few religious symbols sprinkled throughout the office like the rosary hanging above the door. 

I’d only been in the country a few weeks but I could already sense the importance of Catholicism in the Mexican culture.  Not only was it present here at the dentist’s office, but just the other day I rode with a cabbie who handed out religious cards displaying images of the Pope and the Virgin Mary along with loose change to beggars on street corners. 

When the anesthesiologist finally arrived, Jarred was led to a back room and I watched Anna do the sign of the cross and blow a kiss to the sky.  She looked to me and said, “for good luck.”    

Almost two hours later, Jarred emerged from the room, but the look on his face told me he hadn’t had good luck.  Although I expected numbness, drooling and difficulty with speaking for a few hours after, he told me quite clearly that he was going to have to come back on Thursday and Friday to finish up the procedure. 

Unfortunately, because of rehearsals, I wasn’t able to go back with Jarred on Thursday, which he said was the most painful of the visits or on Friday when the dentist placed the crown. 

It wasn’t exactly the adventure we were hoping for in our first few weeks in Mexico, but now Jarred has a very permanent, shiny white souvenir to remind him of Monterrey, Mexico.