UPSTAIPS IN ONE OF BANGKOK SMILE’S COMPACT consulting rooms 1 Dr. Sunisa Jueng JitRak is reexamining the X-ray that sent O’Neill into a spin and down on Australian dentists, to be fair, she was already halfway there. She’s suffered teeth problems for six years and has shopped around Queensland dentists trying to find relief she’d already spent about $12,000 on extractions, root canal, crowns and bridges before deciding to check out Thailand.
Sunisa has agreed to show me the cause of O’Neill’s dummy-spit. She point to a root canal on an upper front tooth towards the left, and explains it has not been filled to the apex. It’s about 3mm short, not sealing off the roots from bacteria. It’s infected.
Sunisa, though, is not as keen to dump on her fellow dental professionals as O’Neill. “This can happen to any general dental practitioner,” she says in English. “It could last forever without any symptoms, but we cannot be sure.” The pain and swelling O’Neill complains of is what makes Sunisa believe the root canal needs attention.
(As O’Neill was singing ‘Thai dentists’ praises downstairs, I asked why she was convinced a dentist she’d just met was more credible than those in Australia. “Because she is thorough,” she replied. “Because she cares. I’ve been in there an hour-and- a-half and she’s listened, the bloody dentist back home just said, ‘It’s receding gums, take Panadol’.”)
O’Neill’s consultation helps seal her plan to have five dental implants. Including two in the place of bridges she will have removed. She’s had hepatitis B injections in readiness. She hates how food gets stuck underneath a bridge, a false tooth that is attached to teeth on either side but not embedded into the gum.
Implants are a more aggressive form of tooth replacement hut leave adjoining teeth untouched. A dental surgeon implants a titanium fixture resembling a screw into the jawbone to act like the root of a tooth. The best result is achieved if a crown is fitted to the implant after three to nine months — which means O’Neill will need to make a return trip.
That’s not looking likely for Patricia. She’s having her teeth X-rayed in an adjoining room and was a little taken aback at the concept of implants when Sunisa mentioned them. The idea of “cutting into my gum” makes her squirm. When she returns with her X-ray, Sunisa pops it up on the screen over the examination chair, Patricia’s decision is suddenly casier. Her sinuses are too low; meaning implants would require a bone graft.
Her response is brief. “Forget it.”
Bridges it is. However, one of the anchor teeth on the bottom right side is not rooted well enough to support a bridge. Sermsakul is consulted and agrees, leaving Patricia to consider an implant.
O’Neill will undergo her own improvements next week after spending much of the first week having bridges removed, her teeth whitened, and X-rays and mouth moulds organised. Her root canal has been redone and one of the clinic’s in-house periodontists has spent two hours cleaning her gums.
She has no problems with the clinic’s professionalism. “They are brilliant, they just listen and they’re so quick and efficient and gentle. Couldn’t be better.” She loved the complimentary foot massage she received during the teeth whitening and the fact they stayed open into the night, or worked weekends, to satisfy foreign clients.
She is bucking their advice, though, and insisting on having veneers placed on five of her front teeth. “I’ve thought about it, and it’s what I want to do, for me,” she says. “I don’t drink ... much,” she says, remembering the night of the hawkers. “I don’t smoke, I don’t go to nightclubs. This is what I want.”
She counts all implants, crowns and bridges as cosmetic work and argues that a place like Bangkok Smile is more likely to take time with clients than a “busy run-of-the-mill dentist doing a good health job, trying to keep people’s teeth going”.
Bangkok Smile says it has a strict system guarding against cross-infection and uses the autoclave system of sterilization, with headpieces also going into the machine — highlighted as important by Coates — at 135 degrees Celsius.
Of course, there are excellent dentists in Asia, says Cones, and some not-so-good practitioners here. “It’s just I would be very selective about who I went to in Asia. Whereas in Australia, 90 percent of the time I could be a lot less selective.