Adventures in Korean Dentistry: The Initial Fear
When I first moved to Japan, over three years ago now, my initial fear about Asia was the same as what it is still.
I was terrified of the doctors and dentists.
Honestly, I had good reason. When it comes to my health, I want it to be dealt with in fluent English that I’m going to understand, and I wasn’t going to get that. As well, I come from Canada, where health care is free and I never have to worry about it.It’s just there. In Japan, there was health insurance, but I was constantly confused by it. Luckily, in Japan, I never really needed to use the health care.
But then I moved to Korea.
Back story! I’ve been putting off getting my wisdom teeth removed for almost 5 years. In Canada, it would be a $1200 procedure, since dental isn’t covered by OHIP, and my dad’s health insurance wasn’t clear about getting wisdom teeth removed. And as a university graduate, I obviously did not have $1200 in my pocket. So I’ve known that all four of my wisdom teeth would eventually need to be removed. I was also aware that one of the teeth was causing a cavity under my tooth, but since it was blocked by the wisdom tooth, it couldn’t be treated. I dealt though, because it didn’t hurt.
Guess what. Last month, it started to hurt. Right now I can’t drink anything hot or cold. I knew exactly what was happening, and was filled with terror. The pain wasn’t going to just leave though, so I put out some feelers on the great evil of the internet, Facebook, to see if anyone knew any English speaking dentists in Seoul.
Within an hour, I had a response from a friend from choir. I was pointed in the direction of Dr. Seongsu Cho, who worked out of Sadang. I was reassured that his English was quite good, and being located in Sadang, only 20 minutes away, I couldn’t be happier. I gave Dr.Cho a call and, amazingly, I had an appointment arranged for 5:30 the next day.
When I got to Sadang station, I gave Dr. Cho a call, and he was able to send one of his staff down to pick me up from the subway exit (usually, it’s easier than giving direction the first time around.) It was only a stone’s throw away, so we were in the dentist office in no time.
It was such a relief to walk into that clinic and see something identical to what I would go to at home. I had heard so many horror stories, I was expecting something that looked like what you would see in a 1970’s dentist or something. This place was gorgeous looking though, with really cool looking equipment, and nice staff. Plus, the woman working the reception was the dentist’s mother. Right away, I had huge respect for Dr. Cho, because anyone who can work with their family is doing something right, and has more patience than I would be able to exercise. As much as I love my family. J
As told, Dr. Cho’s English was great. I had very few problems understanding him, and he was really friendly. He really seemed to understand me and my concerns, and was able to keep me feeling relaxed and comfortable, despite the fact I was terrified. Within a few minutes, we had some pretty epic x-rays done of my teeth (it was actually a CT scan, so I could see my whole jaw, which was REALLY COOL) and Dr. Cho was able to confirm my fears: I needed my wisdom teeth to come out. But then he went on and said the two words I NEVER wanted to hear: root canal.
I fear two things: pain, and really expensive things. And back in Canada, root canals and wisdom teeth extractions are both things. I was close to tears, or an anxiety attack.
But then I was reminded of something amazing. While OHIP never covered dental in Canada, the Korean national health insurance does cover health related dentistry, like removing wisdom teeth, and the procedure of the root canal. So while removing all four of my wisdom teeth in Canada would cost $1200, to get it done in Korea costs about 50,000 won a tooth. In other words, $40 CND a tooth. This doesn’t include anaesthesia, but even with that, it will be a fraction of the cost in Canada. Same goes with the root canals. The only thing I’ll need to pay for are the crowns, and I have time to save for that.
I felt really comfortable with getting the procedure done in Korea at this point, knowing it wouldn’t put me in the poor house. I was referred to an oral surgeon in Gangnam to see the next week, and was sent on my way with a yoghurt drink from the dentist’s mom. I felt so comfortable with the whole situation.
Oh, how quickly that would change.
~~To Be Continued~~