During my four months in Argentina, I have been to the dentist a total of 12 times, had two root canals, two crowns and one standard filling. For about 15 minutes of that time, I had no more than a small metal tooth in place of my molar, and my inadequate Spanish left me convinced I was going to have to face the world with it until my crown was made the next week. Luckily, the temporary plastic tooth had simply got lost in translation and saved me the embarrassment of looking like a pirate.
But why so many dentist visits? Well it could be that my Dad had a mouth full of fillings and I’ve inherited his darned weak teeth, or that my dentist in England was a sham and replaced my old amalgam fillings without telling me this would weaken them and potentially lead to root canals just four months later (lesson learned: never get a ‘3 for 4’ offer when it comes to your teeth). Or, a more fun explanation could be to draw a correlation with the fact that Argentina is perhaps the sweetest country I’ve ever been too. So yes, I think the story will go something like this. “You think that’s sweet? Try going to Argentina. I had to have three fillings while I was there.” If I could, I’d then pop off my fancy porcelain tooth to display my pirate peg.
The curse of Argentina’s sweets
Now, this might be a bit dramatic, but there’s truth in one thing: Argentina is SWEET. Stop at a petrol station, or head into a corner shop, and you’ll be confronted by a dazzling array of colourful wrappers filled with sugary delights. Super sweet alfajores are a national delicacy, the ice cream rivals Italy, and merienda (coffee and cake) is a favourite time of day.
And don’t forget the dulce de leche – not that you could seeing as it is in everything. Whole supermarket aisles are dedicated to the stuff. One morning we were even woken up on an overnight bus ride to a 6:30am breakfast of six items, all containing dulce de leche. That was the turning point for both of us – nothing like a white chocolate alfajore to push you over the edge of dulce de leche indulgence.
And it’s not just the things made of sugar. It seems that Argentines like to sweeten everything. I once counted six sugars served on the side of my coffee; you can feel the grains in a lemonade; and smoothies even come with a (un)healthy dose of sugar. Heck, even the bread is sweetened!
Perhaps most telling of all is the Argentine tendency to sweeten words – besito, gorrito, juegito – anything small is made into its diminutive and giving a little topping of syrup– even words aren’t safe from sugar.
So, there you have it; the proof in the pudding – Argentina destroyed my teeth.