The 2013-2014 beijingkids Health Guide is the latest resource for Beijing families dedicated to providing information on family health care, maternity, eating and breathing safety, mental health, emergency care and traditional Chinese Medicine. Articles from the guide will be featured twice a week on our website. Find the full version here.
It wasn’t so long ago when dental care was considered more of a luxury than a medical necessity in Beijing. Times have changed, of course, and now the capital has plenty of dental care experts and facilities, including a number catering to the international community. But for expats living in a place as dynamic and exciting and Beijing, it’s all too easy to forget those regular checkups they undergo back home. “Unfortunately we take in a lot of emergency cases, which we are always happy to do but it’s better for patients to take more care of their teeth on a regular basis,” explains Pat Christie, Marketing Manager and Patient Educator at the International Dental Clinic (IDC). “It’s very easy for your dental plan to fall by the wayside when you move to a foreign country.”
So what can you do to avoid neglecting your teeth while you’re living here in Beijing? Dr David Lee, OASIS International Hospital, advises that “the first thing people need to do is find themselves a regular and reputable dentist. At home people have the same dentist that they’ve been going to for years but when they move to Beijing they usually don’t have that consistency. My advice to expats is to find a dentist near you that has a high standard of care, especially if you’re planning on being here for the medium to long-term.”
He also points out the practicality of having the same regular dentist. “Medical records.” he exclaims. “How are you supposed to expect the best care for you and your family if you are moving from one dentist to the next? There’s no record of what kind of treatments you’ve had up until now so it slows down the process and very often leaves the job half-done. Continuity is vital when it comes to dental care.”
In addition to familiarizing yourself with a Beijing based dentist, both Christie and Dr. Lee offer some additional tips for families. “The water in China is not fluoridated,” Christie explains, “and fluoride is absolutely, 100% proven to help strengthen your teeth and cleanse them. I’m not encouraging people to overuse it but an occasional fluoride rinse can work wonders for your teeth and many patients will miss this, especially if they come from the US.” She too, is keen to stress the importance of continuity. “Coming in for cleaning every six months is highly recommended,” she says. “We are constantly trying to reach out and educate the community here at IDC. We do many talks in the international schools in an effort to get the children into good dental habits when they are young.” According to Dr. Lee, it goes back to the age old saying, prevention is better than cure. “Don’t wait until it hurts! That’s the number one thing I tell my patients.”
One of the things to avoid is places that offer mass discounts on treatments, warns Lee. “If you see a place offering a treatment for RMB 2,000 that other places are charging RMB 6,000 then the alarm bells should be ringing. You need to be asking yourself why they can afford to offer it this cheap. They need to be doing at least one of two things, either using poor quality materials or poorly trained staff. “This is your mouth you’re talking about,” declares Lee. “Do you really want to be putting something of low quality inside of it?”
He goes on to explain that in many cases it is fine to go to local dentists, but only for what he defined as “non-threatening procedures.” For any kind of surgery or complex procedure (these include crowns, implants, root canals and braces) you should only seek out an international clinic. “There is nothing worse than undergoing a poorly carried out procedure. If a patient comes to me after a root canal gone wrong and asks me to fix it, there’s very little I can do sometimes. It is ten times more difficult to fix an operation gone wrong than to do it right in the first place. If it is a case of doing it half right, it is better to simply do nothing at all.”
“IDC has internationally trained specialists to carry out surgeries and we bring in consultants regularly. That being said, if something is ever beyond or scope we will give a referral,” admitted Christie. “And that’s very important,” she elaborated. “You need to know your limits and what’s best for the patient. Some local clinics will operate beyond their scope at times which can have an adverse and in some cases, disastrous effect.”
It’s true that if you want good quality, then you have to pay for it. Both IDC and OASIS will charge the same and in some cases more than you would expect to pay at home. As far as Dr. Lee is concerned if he can offer you the same or even better service at OASIS than you would receive at home then he is “saving you the cost of a round trip.” He added that “when people leave and feel that they’ve gotten the same kind of service that they are used to in their home countries, that’s when I know I am winning.”
Christie also explains that internationally trained and accredited dental care professionals will inevitably charge international prices. “We offer price discrimination based on what particular professional you want to carry out your treatment but they will all invariably charge prices based on an international standard. If you want to receive an international standard of care then you can expect to pay an international price.”
Both parties cited sourcing materials as their biggest challenge whilst operating in China. Lee also pointed out the fact that there is a huge shortage of internationally trained dentists available. This of course, explains why prices are can vary so much from clinic to clinic and why some charge much more than others. You are paying for the scarce resources i.e. highly trained professionals and high standard materials. When it comes to your teeth however, that may well be a price worth paying.
This article originally appeared on page 16-17 of the beijingkids Health Guide.
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Photo by Lova Li