Korean Dentistry

DSC_0844As I entered the shiny Seoulian (!?) shopping centre, a sign informed me about Seoul Line Dental on the 12th floor. The sign also informed me about a cosmetic surgery clinic…

I decided to choose the former, as a dental check-up was long overdue. I entered the clinic and two reception ladies – both around my age – welcomed me in Korean. I greeted them in Korean and English, and asked – in English – how much a check-up would cost.

They thought for a while, exchanged nervous looks and laughed, and called upon a dentist. A Korean man in full dentist attire came out of a room, and greeted me in very good English. He asked how he could help, and I explained why I was there.

He asked the reception ladies to give me some pricing information. A full check-up would cost around 30 USD – including X-ray.

The Dentist: Are you working and living here in Seoul?
Me: Ehm…no, just visiting for a couple of days. Tourist…
The Dentist: Ah, we very rarely get tourists here (referring to the clinic), how did you find us?
Me: Uhm…I saw the sign, and thought ‘Why not?’. I needed a check-up and I thought it would be cheaper here than in my home country.

The Dentist said that he had time to see me straightaway. He asked me to have a seat, and told his reception staff to help me prepare the paperwork.

The form was all in Korean… and one of the receptionists giggled while she tried to explain the different sections in English.

Then what I think was a dental nurse brought me to an X-ray machine, where I had to stand and bite a small plastic thing to keep my jaw in the right position. She explained everything to me in Korean, and asked me in English to close my eyes.

Then I was escorted to a semi-secluded space where I was asked to have a seat in a reclined dentist chair. I looked at the 24-something inch flat screen hanging a few inches in front of my face. I had been at a dental clinic once before where a screen was in front of me. That time they showed an illegal copy of Pirates of the Caribbean. But then that was in Lagos.

Just when my mind had started to drift unto stranger tides, transparent plastic thingies where put in my mouth to keep it open. There was no doubt now that all my teeth were clearly visible. All this happened while probably all the female staff in the clinic – perhaps six people – were watching me. Then one of the ladies put a massive digital camera in my face. I thought maybe they were just taking promotional photos and that I would be the new face and teeth of private dentistry in Seoul. Alas, I was wrong.

After a few quick clicks on the computer, my teeth turned up on the screen. The Dentist showed up and said that I had two cavities, and that the reception lady would explain the cost to me. I told him I was happy to get it all fixed now if he had time, which he had.

I was escorted to a glass office next to the chair, where the receptionist explained everything to me in Korean. She used a computer screen with pictures of other people’s teeth to give examples of what was wrong with mine.

I talked to her in English, which she seemed to understand. But having said that, I was nodding in agreement when spoken to in Korean. I can say ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ – plus read seven letters in that language… Korean may possibly be the warmest sounding language in the world though, so it is hard not to nod in agreement.

After agreeing to pay around 280 000 (in Korean Won thankfully!), it was time for the resin fillings.

I was directed to another dentist chair in a more secluded area. I lied down in the chair. One of the dental nurses cleaned my teeth with the usual high pressure water.

After the cleaning, the dentist sat down next to me and told me to raise my hand in case I felt pain. No anaesthetic was administered, but I thought I would probably be alright. A green napkin was put over my face. It had a hole in it for the mouth, but not for the eyes. I did not see anything.

The drilling started, and I felt a little pain. Not more than I got teary eyes though, and the cavities were filled and polished off properly.

I settled the charges, and celebrated with a proper Korean lunch!