LIFE IN KOREA: Never Thought I'd Love My Dentist!

by Jimalee Sowell, 18/12/2008

I once had a dentist whose office artwork consisted of a small wooden plaque that said, “Ignore your teeth, and they’ll go away.” Although impressed by the plaque, I hadn’t heeded the warning. High dental costs in America left me blissfully hoping the dentist’s plaque had simply been mistaken and that ignoring my teeth didn’t have to mean they really would go away.

But the time finally came when ignoring dental treatment could last no longer. The need for dental records for an application first took me to my now beloved dentist, Dr. Kim, but the need to redress the years of avoiding dental treatment kept me going back. 

I’m not sure what it is, but something seems to happen to foreigners once they meet the two-year mark in Korea. Like some sort of rite of passage, they start losing teeth. So, when it became apparent that I would have to get a several crowns, Dr. Kim insisted on gold. “Gold lasts longer and is cheaper,” he said. He held a mirror in front of my mouth and let me imagine having gold teeth. In Korea, gold teeth seem to be a reasonable alternative to natural pearly white, but no one… I mean no one in North America, with the exception of rap artists, wants a gold tooth. It’s just not trendy where I’m from. Like my friend said, “it’s like having jewelry in your mouth.” Luckily, I dodged the gold-tooth bullet and was fitted with a fine set of made-in-Korea, porcelain teeth.
replica watches As tooth decay seems to be contagious among the foreign community in Korea, it was not long after I started seeing Dr. Kim that my friend and later, her coworker started seeing him too. We’ve all had major work done, and we’re thinking of starting a support group for foreigners in Korea with fake teeth.

Dr. Kim knew we were all friends, and each time one of us visited, he would talk about the other two. Now, whenever I see Dr. Kim, he promises to take us out for Chinese food, a promise that has never materialized, but one that is well intentioned nonetheless. I can’t imagine any American dentist spending much time talking to me much less inviting my friends and me out for Chinese food. When Dr. Kim went away to a dental conference in Canada last year, he promised to bring back souvenirs for my friend and me.

The last time I saw Dr. Kim, he refused to finish all my dental work, saying he wants to stretch it out. “I want you to be my patient for a long time,” he said. Maybe I will get that Chinese dinner and Canadian souvenir after all. 

Photo by Dean Poulson

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