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My bad trip – the World Cup holiday that became a tour of Europe’s dental clinics | Life and style

I arrived in Europe with a sore tooth and World Cup fever. I left with a half-completed root canal and the unpleasant memory of shitting myself in a Barcelona club.

The holiday had been planned for months: my family’s “boys tour” through Russia for the 2018 World Cup, followed by a wedding in the sunny south of France.

I had given myself a month after wisdom teeth removal before travel, expecting that I would have made a full recovery.

What I hadn’t counted on was the development of a dry socket – a horrendously painful condition when the clot that develops after a tooth removal is dislodged, exposing underlying bone and nerves.

I was told it would be fine in a few days – a hilarious lie. Unable to drink booze, I spent the first night in Moscow hazy on codeine, miserably sipping borscht and watching crowds burst into nationalistic cheers.

On my second day, I visited a dentist – the first of six. My then-boyfriend and I spent a sunny morning wandering the streets, helplessly refreshing Google Maps and entering random offices until we found our destination in a near-deserted shopping centre.

I gave them $70. They packed my mouth with a medicated gel and gave me a script for drugs.

We flew to Kazan, an old city on the banks of the Volga, to watch Australia lose to France. I vomited on the plane, sick from antibiotics and strange painkillers.

Our apartment looked like a crime scene but there was a kind dentist a few doors down who I visited a couple of times, showing them a useful screenshot I had saved on my phone which translated from English to Russian.

“Hello,” it read, “I have a dry socket after wisdom teeth removal. Can you please help me?”

The third dentist was in nearby Samara, during the second week of the World Cup. A woman in heels ushered me up four flights of stairs, gazed into my mouth, told me I had “very bad gum” and gave me a script for painkillers banned in almost every country on Earth.

Australia drew with Denmark.

We flew to Nice, France. I was ecstatic to leave Russia, where my brother had downed shots of vodka and sung The Horses on pub tables with boozed-up locals while I spent hours Googling “painful dry socket forever”, more acutely sober than I had ever felt in my life.

Caitlin Cassidy at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after having her wisdom teeth out.
Caitlin Cassidy at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after having her wisdom teeth out. Photograph: Caitlin Cassidy/The Guardian

The dentist in France was a lovely guy with a charming accent, who didn’t charge and told me it was OK to have a “glass or two” while on antibiotics, which I translated to “get absolutely blind at the wedding”.

My then-boyfriend spilled red wine on my white dress, we toasted the bride and drove to Barcelona. I was, frustratingly, still in pain, which led to dentist number five.

Dentist #5 wore a confronting red uniform and had a teenage receptionist on crutches. They told me I didn’t have a dry socket, but needed a root canal.

An hour later, I had a sheet pinned to my mouth and a dentist chipping gleefully away at my gums while chatting about football, as if I had capacity to reply beyond a vague moan.

After weeks of antibiotics, I was more constipated than I’d ever been in my life. But finally being off medication meant I could drink, so I took a laxative and celebrated with a few glasses of champagne.

By midnight, I was standing in a club off La Rambla, unaware I had quite literally shat my pants, dancing like nobody was watching.

But no longer constipated.

We flew to Berlin. Dentist #6. They completed my root canal and cleaned my gums for good measure. It cost several hundred euros, but she gave me her card so I could “visit her next time I’m in Berlin”.

My trip’s ending was on-brand. Our flight was delayed, which meant we missed our connection home from Munich. I arrived back in Australia just in time to make the dentist on Monday morning.