Bangkok Dental Care: one woman’s medical tourism experience

Even dental care can be an adventure in the context of a big, foreign city. Given Bangkok’s international reputation for excellent medical care, breaking my twenty-four-month dental abstinence in Thailand was an easy choice.

Not my photo, but the cab is the right color. And if you click the photo link at the end of the post, you can read a SE Asian (Malaysian) perspective on the BKK tourist scene.

Originally I planned on tackling the mysterious web of bus routes needed to get from Banglamphu to Siam Square. Two hours before my appointment I was feeling so anxious about screwing up somewhere, I scrapped the whole plan and jumped in a lime-green cab. I failed, however, to recalculate how I should proceed upon arriving in the neighborhood.

Thank god I have a photographic memory from which I could piece together a recollection of a few landmarks and their relationship with the dentist’s office. Lessons learned:
1) Bring the electronic device (with its maps and contact information), even when you don’t think you need it.
2) Always get the hotel reception to write — in Thai — the name of your destination. (Remember that worst English in SE Asia thing? The taxi drivers  know no more English than you know Thai.)

Once at Siam Square (this is like saying “once at Central Park” – the place is huge), I spent ten minutes orienting myself. In the process, I embarrassed myself only once when I confidently strode toward a moving walkway thinking I’d lead by example since some folks were obviously on the wrong side. I stopped just short of a treadmill moment!

While wandering around, a shift in gratitude occurred. Previously I thought my ability to navigate my way out of small disasters could be attributed to the same source as the possession of fingernails that don’t break and hair that doesn’t need brushing. As I cut through a low-class shopping mall, I decided my “sixth sense” actually has been cultivated over time thanks to my father, grandfather, an ex-boyfriend, orienteering courses, lots of practice with maps, and the nerve to set out knowing I very well may get lost (said ‘nerve’ is in turn thanks to many other people…).

I continued mulling over these thoughts after I found the office and sat in the super-modern waiting room — wood floors, leather furniture, complimentary beverages, glass coffee tables. When my appointment time arrived, the doc consulted me as to the goal of my visit (check up and cleaning, please) and sent me to have xrays.

Biological width in graphic form

It was just like at home, only the xray-bite-wing films were mounted on a positioning frame that stuck out my mouth. Fool-proof perfect xrays guaranteed! I got a lead vest, but that poor technician didn’t even leave the room!

Dr. S pointed out two trouble spots. Thanks to my aggressive curiousity and my insistence on knowing “why” – even if you’re an authority figure (my father loved this growing up) — I already understood the concept of biological width from quizzing Dr. Omey in the past. Final results: floss better on the upper left or (thanks to biological width) the bone in that area will recede and leave behind the teeth.   Warning duly noted as I trudged upstairs to the teeth scrubbing room.

The down-to earth hygienist treated me to a pillow in the cleaning chair! The only moment of weirdness in the whole visit was when she put a paper blanket over my face and chest with a hole for my mouth. As soon as I said, “Oh. Um, a blanket on my face. I’ve never had this before,” they folded it into bib form and warned me there was about to be “lots of water.”

My turn for some teeth cleaning…

Instead of the cleaning pick that looks like a lethal version of Captain Hook’s namesake appendage, my Thai hygienist’s was a tame curve that took advantage of the new super-sonic vibrating technology. Pain-free teeth cleaning!! She only polished the front and tongue-sides of my teeth. Why? They don’t want to stretch my cheeks to clean that side at the back. Okay, then!

The hot-pink taxi that I caught home frequently went from zero to 50 and back to zero in less than two city blocks. Sometimes our tires even screeched and squealed. I don’t mind the driving as long as I get there in one piece! Despite his obvious pre-disposition to rushing, my cabbie still waited his turn in traffic lines — just like everyone else. It’s a true phenomenon here. You know the jerks that pull out of a long line of traffic only to race to the front and cut back in? (If this is you, may you be reincarnated as a cockroach!) It just doesn’t happen in Bangkok. Everyone sits there waiting their turn. “Maybe there is a law against it,” I thought, running my tongue over my nice clean choppers. ♣

Photo credit links: cab, lost tourist, biological width.

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