That incredibly weird time I went to the dentist in South Korea

On the road to Peace Corps, there are all sorts of medical clearances you have to go through to ensure healthy and safe service. Because I was accepted in to the Peace Corps while teaching in Korea, I have had the wonderful joy of completing these tests while here.

Not an easy thing to do.

I live in a very small, rural town in Korea, so finding a dentist who speaks English at all was challenging enough, not to mention a dentist who could also read and write in English and was willing to deal with my five pages of requirements.

I was lucky to find Dr. White, a dentist who speaks English amazingly well and has a sense of humor too. I thank my lucky stars for Dr. White. When I first explained to him what my packet of instructions was asking for, he shook his head and asked “Why is America so complicated?”


After my initial laugh, I explained the clearances were all to make sure I wouldn’t have bigger dental problems down the road to which he (still) laughing replied, “Well your wisdom teeth need to come out, so you’re lucky they sent you to me.”

He was a super humble guy.

During my next appointment is when things got interesting. Dr. White was in a less comical mood as he ushered me in to one of many chairs in his one-room dental office, each separated by a small sheet of glass. I could clearly see the patients on both my sides as Dr. White ran between all of us performing different procedures aided by multiple young women.

I’d like to point out, that although I was very lucky to find an English-speaking dentist, non of the dental hygienists in the room did speak English. So, as Dr. White ran from chair to chair, occasionally sticking things in my own mouth, other people were constantly speaking to me in Korean and stabbing anesthesia into my gums.

As my jaw began to grow numb and my concept of what was going on around me grew more vague, Dr. White returned to me with a hammer and chisel to remove my teeth. I’m not kidding here, a hammer and chisel. Suddenly, poppoptink. My left wisdom tooth is removed. No pain, no worry.

AND THEN. Lot’s of Korean yelling, lot’s of Korean arguing. My dentist disappears. I am in a dental chair leaning all the way back with a burlap sack over my face with only my open jaws exposed and my dentist is suddenly gone. I thought that was the end.

As it turns out, my right wisdom tooth has been growing horizontally and the dental hygienists are refusing to allow Dr. White to remove it right after the first procedure. White explains, that because I am a woman, I could not handle the pain of a more difficult procedure right after having my left tooth extracted. I must come back another day at least one month from now.

Can’t. Wait.


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