From the old Lonely Planet Thorn Tree:

Posted: 18 Apr,

Chinese Dental Update
So I've been requested to let everyone know how my first visit to a Chinese, err, "dentist" turned out.




1.) I had to pay for my own anesthetic, which is fine, I was in enough pain that I would have paid with my firstborn child for anything to reduce it. The dentist assumed this when she tapped the teeth to check the one in pain, and when she hit it I screamed so loud that the patients waiting outside jumped. She thought I was exaggerating until she saw my X-ray and just let out a long, sad "aaaiiyyyoooooooooo...."

2.) Not only do I have a deep cavity that turned into a VERY BADLY INFECTED abscess, it killed the root and I need a root canal when I return from Xinjiang. She drilled and filled the cavity and gave me a pile of antibiotics to fix the immediate proble, however.

3.) This is where it gets bad. Chinese novocaine is sort of the pirated VCD to America's premium DVD dope. I could practically see the metaphorical cameraman fall asleep as she injected me with, not probably had some sort of knockoff "UCLA Cowboy Yankee Cola" Panaphonic name like "Navocaine" or "Nova-kane". She didn't do a very good job of this anyway, and the needle got driven straight into a nerve ending or bone or some other painful thing and my cheek swelled up to five times its normal thickness. That didn't do it, so she added two more syringes...nope. My entire mouth now looked like some sort of blowfish. I was crying from the way she was jamming the needles in. She tapped the tooth again - instead of screaming, I yelped. This apparently was good enough for her. I asked for more drugs and she said I'd die or something if I got them (I replied with "That's absolutely fine.") and added that my abscess was bad enough that no amount of painkillers in the world would kill what was to come. I began to shake.

4.) I was right to shake, for then we moved on to drilling. No, not drilling. Evil King Maleficia Dracul IV medieval torture wrenching of my tooth. With insufficient NO vocaine and an already painful abscess. My fingernails have permanently damaged the handrests of the chair I was in and I've still got blue upholstery foam stuck under some of them. One of the patients outside, at the sound of the life being slowly sucked out of my body (a la Wesley in The Princess Bride), actually got up and left. I felt it from my jaw up into my sinus cavity and down into my shoulder. She kept stopping to tell me to spit out water, and I wanted to reply (but was in too much pain to speak) that I would rather she just get it the hell over with, seeing as I could barely breathe and the nurse was trying to comfort me (actually, I suspect it was more of a gentle attempt to hold me still for further sadism than actual sympathetic comfort).

I was then given three different kinds of antibiotics and some painkillers and left to stagger into a taxi, told to come back when I returned to Zunyi to begin my root canal.

I'm thinking I might like to find my own opium and smoke it before that?!

"I think you should get a prize." "The prize is enlightenment and inner peace." "Enlightenment? Aww, I wanted a plastic monkey!"

Posted: 18 Apr,

Excellent trip report! Make sure you post a follow up if you go back!

I would have taken myself to a western clinic though, even if it ment flying there.

Posted: 18 Apr,

hee hee, I wish I had that luxury. I've got two days of teaching starting tomorrow and then I am literally IMMEDIATELY on a plane to Urumqi after my last class. And I don't live in a province that has things like western dental clinics.

Oh well, I am a stronger, but possibly emotionally scarred, person, right?

"I think you should get a prize." "The prize is enlightenment and inner peace." "Enlightenment? Aww, I wanted a plastic monkey!"

Posted: 18 Apr,


You have confirmed my worst fears. I have heard a few stories about Chinese dentists before, all pretty nasty and yours sounds even worse!!! I'm waiting till I get back to Taiwan before I make a trip to the dentist again.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.

Posted: 18 Apr,


I was squirming in my seat, reading about your experiences. That is until I read your other post requesting 'non sleazy Indian boys'! Sounds like you are getting better! have a good trip in Urumqi.

Posted: 18 Apr,

well, considering the state of your tooth, I'm not 100% sure a visit to a western dentist would have been that much better.

DFA Crew - For Life
I am anti-YLD

Posted: 18 Apr,

#4 - hey, that was a joke. :) My friends make cracks about me and Indian boys constantly, only because a disproportionate number of my friends are Indian and male. I'm not even sure why that is. I mean, I lived there for awhile but that shouldn't affect the ethnicity and gender of my friends THAT much, should it?

#5 - possibly not. But then I think with better anesthetic it would have been slightly less traumatic. Novocaine numbs the side of your face completely, which is nice and happy and good. What they used on me was not as numbing, only localized slight numbness vs. novocaine's "drooling and biting your tongue" numbness. With real, hardcore novocaine, it might have been more bearable.

Anyway, it's over. Thank the gods.

"I think you should get a prize." "The prize is enlightenment and inner peace." "Enlightenment? Aww, I wanted a plastic monkey!"

Posted: 18 Apr,

I can only add one thing....I'd get a large bottle of some sort of 100 proof alcohol and start drinking 30 min before I get to the dentist and plan to be carried out of there. It maybe the only way I can do it.

I got into a serious accident as a kid and have a number of false teeth/root canals and I can tell you that those are NOT FUN even with western medicine!

Posted: 18 Apr,

have you tried/did you try temporary relief with cloves (could try xiang1 ding1, fragrant nail)? Or baijiu... By the way, you can tell a good tale - hope you're a writer.

Will be in Zunyi some point late July/early August if you want a drink

Posted: 18 Apr,

You poor thing!

That is worse than my Bangkok root canal experience. He had novacaine but no assitant, and asked me to sterilize the instruments for him over what looked like a bunsen burner as he went along. After the second visit (the last thank goodness), tried to grope me and offered to reduce the cost if I went out for dinner with him! Hmmmph. I walked out without paying.

Do a follow up at a with a trusty dentist elsewhere when you get the chance!

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