Originally appeared in Chiang Mai City Life magazine
I had put off going to the dentist for about a year and a half. It isn’t only the exorbitant amount American dentists charge. It is the way they are always putting me down for not flossing correctly or for brushing too hard. But that lower molar was crying out for attention so I got a recommendation for a good Chiang Mai dentist and I went to check it out.
The first thing I had to do before walking into the office was to take my shoes off. Instead of my crusty old dentist back in Seattle, I was met by an attractive woman who looked so young I was tempted to ask if she had graduated from dental school yet. Later I find out that she is a 35 year old assistant professor at the College of Dentistry.
The dentist had me sit down in a very comfortable chair and asked what she could do for me. I described the problem molar I had and was quickly taken to get x-rays. She said it looked like I needed a root canal. Bummer! She sent me to the next office to see the root canal specialist. I was then told the cost of the procedure. The price she quoted me was a fraction of the U.S. price for a root canal, which costs more than a deluxe round trip plane ticket. (There are also popular expat-centered dental clinics who charge farang-like prices but where expats might feel more comfortable.) “OK” I said. “Let’s go for it.”
Then the most shocking thing that ever happened to me in a dentist office occurred. The root canal specialist said, “I have changed my mind. You don’t need a root canal after all. I don’t see any infection so we’ll just do a simple filling for now.”
Whaa? A dentist turning down work, and money? I’m pretty sure that my American dentist wouldn’t have done that. The tooth feels fine now. Total cost: for check up, two x-rays, seeing two dentists, one a specialist, and filling a hole in my tooth the size of the Grand Canyon, 700 baht, or just about $20. My crusty US dentist charges me more to say hello.