Guatemalan Root Canal

By Robin Friday

Guatemalan root canal. I could not imagine a more frightening combination of words. In fact, it sounds more like the name of a punk rock band than an actual procedure. But yes, today I underwent the granddaddy of dental operations, and the result was a surprising success! My apologies in advance if you were hoping for a painful entry about the horrors of dentistry in the developing world.

A few weeks ago, I realized the pain in my molar wasn’t taking the next bus out of town, and that I would either have to find a dentist here or return to the states for an operation that would – no pun intended – eat up much of my travel funds. I saw a dentist a month before I left and told him that I was highly concerned that the pain in my tooth would worsen during my 8 months of travel. He told me that the pain would probably subside and there was nothing to do but wait. Well, the wait came to an end about a week ago when I began to experience excruciating pain while eating soft white bread. I had to act!

Luckily, a friend here recommended a dentist who had gone to school in Barcelona, and I found myself in his chair two days later. Now there is something unimaginably disturbing about smelling your own oral flesh burning as a dentist channels down the nerves of your teeth, digging them out forever, but I suppose this is an inevitable part of a root canal wherever you go.

While the whole burning oral flesh thing is no picnic, the real fear of dentistry in the states is not the threat of physical pain, but of “crowning” financial pain (okay, that pun was intended). For this reason, many Guatemalans who live and work in the States abstain from dental work until they return to Guatemala. For example, I was quoted $950 for a root canal in the States yet here it set me back less than $90. Perhaps I was lucky, but the Guatemalan root canal made me feel like a brand new man: ready to eat connect and return to the world with confidence and gratitude!

If you have a toothache that needs looking at, contact Dr. Jose Carlos Jacobs Arriola at Clinica Dental (14 Ave. 5-29, Zone 3) at 7767-4814. If you’re interested in reading more of Robin’s adventures around Latin America, check out his blog at

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