31 July 2008

Scaling...my teeth

Now, I don't want you to all rush out an examine old photos of my teeth, but I must confess that it's been over a year since my last dental cleaning. I know. I'm so ashamed...

Since I'm often in Hannam-dong, Cyndi made me an appointment at International Mee Dental Clinic (across from Dankook University, next to the KFC). With U.N. Village just a hop, skip, and a jump away, Mee Clinic caters to a foreign clientèle and offers an English speaking staff. See. They even have a website in English. As my luck would have it, however, my teeth were cleaned by a dental hygienist who spoke little English. As she told me, the only phrase she knew was "It's o.k.?" Fortunately, I was just going in for a routine cleaning, or as they call it "scaling," so conversation was limited.

(Until today, I had no idea that the official term for the removal of calculus and other deposits on the teeth" is actually scaling).

When I walked into Mee, I was greeted by the photos of smiling blonde children. "This is indeed an INTERNATIONAL dental clinic!" smiled the blue-eyed children. After filling out my basic info (All in Korean! Good job, Annalog!), I sat in one of the comfy leather chairs and got to peruse a couple of fashion magazines.

Then, two friendly, pink-clad, dental hygienists guided me into a private room. They graciously ushered me to a comfy chair with a personal TV screen. (It's hard to view the TV screen when your seat is reclined fully, but I do appreciate the thought). The hygienist noted that I was American, and asked me where I was from. When I replied "California," she exclaimed in Korean, "Ooh. Good pronunciation." It's good to know that I'm still able to say "California" with an American accent.

When I opened my mouth and said, "Ahhhhhhh," the hygienist made some sort of muffled exclamation in Korean. I'm guessing she said something like, "Wo! That's a lot of plaque." Then, she proceeded to "scale" my teeth. The cleaning I received at Mee was a little different from what I recall getting back in the Homeland. Yes, it was a little uncomfortable (especially due to my sensitive gums), but my teeth didn't end up feeling violated by buffing tools and fluoride as it has from past cleanings. The hygienist did do a lot of prodding and twirling in between my teeth, but it felt as if she was giving my teeth a thorough cleaning.

The service at Mee is excellent. They are very considerate. Usually, when I'm in the dentist chair, I'm gagging on saliva and water before I'm finally allowed to spit. At Mee, the staff made sure to stop regularly and allow me to daintily rinse my mouth in a mini-sink.

After the scaling, the hygienist sat down and gave me the lowdown on my teeth. This is the point when I should have admitted that I couldn't understand everything she was saying, but instead, through gestures and some familiar vocabulary, I simply guessed at what she was saying (this tendency to guess is a very bad habit of mine). I don't know the Korean for common dental terms, but if I understood correctly, she basically told me that I need a couple of fillings and should replace a couple of old fillings. Eeps.

She then gave me a very helpful demonstration of how I should brush my teeth. Apparently, I've been too rough on my gums. She also told me that, ideally, I should brush four times a day! This must be why I'm always seeing Korean women brushing their teeth in public restrooms. I was surprised that she made no mention of flossing. Dentists are always lecturing me about flossing.

The scaling took less than 30 minutes and cost 60,000 won (without insurance). I wish I had come earlier in the year. I will have to return again next winter, if not sooner. Maybe I should take care of those fillings...Cyndi, onegaishimasu...

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