I’ve always been lucky with teeth. I never needed braces and had the same dentist for years in Canada (who routinely hummed Top 40 pop songs while hunched over my mouth). Two of my wisdom teeth were removed in a matter of minutes when I was 25 and one will most likely never emerge.
But then, like some act of dental karmic redress, the fourth burst onto the radar recently and sent me on the hunt for a reliable dental hospital in Beijing.
Last year, our company bought a stellar health insurance plan from NOW Health. We had 20 percent co-pay for dental, meaning that insurance covered 80 percent of the cost. However, unlike with non-dental procedures, we had to pay upfront and submit a claim to get reimbursed.
With upfront costs to consider, I decided on a local dental clinic called JD Dental recommended by our insurance rep himself. The best part was that it was located at Sunshine 100 right next to our office.
Around two months ago, I finally got around to scheduling a checkup and teeth cleaning. The main draw was the price (a cleaning cost about RMB 150), but service turned out to be friendly and the premises very clean. The dentist suggested an X-ray after I told her about a slight pain I’d been experiencing in one tooth.
She groaned when she saw the scan. The X-ray clearly showed a wisdom tooth lying completely sideways at a 90° angle in the lower left part of my mouth. "This is tricky," she said. "I’ll have to get my supervisor."
Over the next 15 minutes, the senior dentist explained that the wisdom tooth was completely encased in my jawbone. Only 3 percent of cases present this way (lucky me).
Worse, the tooth ran right alongside a nerve. A shoddy extraction could potentially paralyze the left side of my face; I could end up looking like a real-life Harvey Dent.
The dentist recommended a CT scan to determine whether the wisdom tooth was pressing into the roots of the second molar and to rule out the possibility of a cyst.
He told me to go to the Peking University School of Stomatology in Weigongcun, which apparently has the only CT machine in Beijing and one of the best dental surgery departments. (Am I the only one who assumed that "stomatology" meant diseases of the stomach, by the way?)
However, I had no intention of going by myself. I speak Chinese just fine, but my vocabulary is limited when it comes to mouth-related medical terms. Faced with an expensive CT scan and a potentially risky surgery, I was as concerned as ever about keeping upfront costs low.
In the end, I made an appointment at OASIS because (1) I’d heard from many parents that it was a surprisingly affordable for an international hospital and (2) I’d done a When I Grow Up in the past with Dr. David Lee, the chairman of the dental department.
After explaining my situation to the receptionist, I sent OASIS the X-ray from JD Dental. The same day, I got an email from a dentist called Dr. Wang Yang, who also recommended a CT scan.
It turned out that he worked at the Peking University School of Stomatology and could explain the results to me himself – in English.
In addition, OASIS would arrange a private car and a nurse, Mindy, would accompany me to minimize any language barriers.
I showed up to OASIS at 9.30am on a weekday, registered with the hospital, paid for the CT scan, and was on my way by 10.30am. An OASIS dentist, Amber He, briefed me on the day’s procedures before we left. The clinic’s billing department also called NOW Health and had a representative personally explain their dental policy to me.
At the School of Stomatology, Mindy stayed with me while I got the CT scan (which took all of 30 seconds) then took me upstairs to see Dr. Wang. However, we realized once we got there that the technician had given us the wrong scans. "You don’t look like a 34-year-old man to me," said Dr. Wang.
He personally accompanied us downstairs, got the right scans, and sat down with us to explain the results. Good news: There was neither a cyst nor an infection, and the wisdom tooth wasn’t crowding the second molar.
In the end, Dr. Wang recommended that I simply leave the tooth where it is. "Just make sure to keep it clean by brushing and flossing regularly," he said.
In all, we spent about an hour at the School of Stomatology. Mindy and the driver dropped me off at work with my CT scan, medical receipts, and patient booklet in hand. A few days later, an OASIS representative followed up to ask about my experience.
I would recommend the dental clinic to anyone. The medical and administrative staff were courteous, efficient, and able to answer every question in detail (and in English). They diffused a potentially stressful situation and walked me through every step of the process.
The next time a tooth is ailing you, try giving them a call.