Thursday, September 04, 2008

Molar Madness: The First Dentist Costs $20

(Note: A series in which our hero details the process -- and costs -- of wisdom tooth extraction in Thailand. Previous post here.)


Bangkok, Thailand

"Good, he's old," I thought, appraising the Thai dentist. "Old is good."

The discomfort in my jaw had increased daily, to the point where I knew in my gut I would have to cancel my planned Dith Pran Memorial Visit to the Cambodian Killing Fields and, instead, stay in Bangkok, paying penance for decades of oral sin.

So, after a night in which I could not sleep due to the pain, I went straight to the Dental Center at Bumrungrad International Hospital. Although Bumrungrad is the Western expat's hospital of choice, most of the patients in the waiting room were affluent Thais bringing their kids. An excellent sign -- when ill on the road, go where locals with money go.

I explained my situation to the woman at the registration desk -- her English was serviceable -- and she told me to wait. After about seven minutes, I was called in.

Dr. Sukhum Thiradilok is a 1969 graduate of Mahidol University's dental program, meaning that he's been a dentist longer than I've been alive. Score.

I explained the problem, and he examined my teeth and called for an x-ray of the painful area. After the film arrived, Dr. Sukhum explained that a vein of discoloration behind the right, lower third molar was an infection caused by trapped food. He also explained that my wisdom teeth were generally misaligned, exerting pressure within the jaw.

Dr. Sukhum advised that I consult with an oral surgeon, which I agreed to do. He wrote me a prescription for ten 500 mg Tylenol tablets. (As I'm discovering, Thai doctors are chary about prescribing pain medication.)

After the examination, a hospital employee handed me a document which contained a service number. I walked the document down to the second floor and handed it to a cashier, who finalized an itemized invoice. I paid in cash -- credit cards also accepted-- and then waited less than a minute. A pharmacist called my name and handed me the prescribed medicine.

The entire procedure took less than one hour.

THE BILL

Dentist's Fee: 420 baht (US$12.73)

Dental Supplies: 80 baht (US$2.42)

Facility: 120 baht (US$3.64)

Medicine: 30 baht (US$00.91)

TOTAL: 650 baht (US$19.70)

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm following this topic with great interest (and enjoying your writing style, too)... As somebody who spends at least 25% of my time in BKK (as a result of Bumrungrad connections), I feel compelled to comment. I'm sure you realize that acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) is available OTC in Thailand, just as it is in the states. Also, just as in the states, you can buy it at a shop for a much lower price than BI charges (about 1/3). Actually, many, many meds that still require an Rx in the states are available OTC in Thailand. Clearly, getting your meds at the hospital is much more convenient, and the price is still ridiculously low in comparison to meds obtained at US hospitals. But, in case didn't realize it, you can easily find acetaminophen tablets for no more than 1 baht each at any pharmacy. Enjoy your stay at BI -- the purpose may not be fun, but the facility and its people are amazing!

1:54 AM  

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