Little did I know, but much did I suspect, that when I last wrote about the joys (lie) of visiting Korean dentists, that this was merely the beginning of the saga.
It transpired that I had a serious problem with a deep filling and the only solution was some root canal work followed by crowning the tooth. The dentist provided so little proof of this he could have worked for the Bush Administration, and his vague pointing at X-Ray smudges only served to extend that Colin-Powell-at-the-UN vibe, and much like the the International Community at the time, for some reason which I'm not entirely clear on with the benefit of hindsight, I went along with it.
Then we suffered from mission creep, as it transpired that a cosmetic white crown was not recommended, and I should instead consider a nice gold one instead, because clearly in Korea, the Bond-villain look is in.
Recently we got a psychologically disturbed dog who will of late has taken to rooting himself to the ground for no reason those around him can fathom, growling at the incomprehensible events unfolding around him, and I fear he may have learned this behaviour from me.
So I growled at the dentist for some time as a battle of wills ensued in which only one of us was armed with sharp dental implements. Eventually I agreed to have the gold crown put in towards the back of my mouth where he insisted nobody would notice. And maybe he was right; I'm married.
He also insisted that this would be a good time to remove all my wisdom teeth on the grounds that they would 'eventually become a problem'. But explaining that they weren't a problem now seems to be an entirely illogical line of defence in Korea. Finally, another tooth had a temporary filling courtesy of the first dentist I'd seen - Kim Pain as I called him - and this would have to be filled with gold too, not ceramic or even amalgam.
More debate ensued in which it was alleged - in a remarkable outbreak of honesty - that Korean dentists don't do amalgam fillings because there's no money in it. Finally it was mutually agreed in the interests of preventing a diplomatic incident that I would get my inferior British dentist to undertake this clinically dubious work when I got back to England, which at the time I thought was a matter of some weeks away, but the British Embassy had other ideas, and this is how I happened to discover that a temporary filling can last at least nine months.
So after three weeks of having root nerves scraped out on a weekly basis, and about a week after I pronounced myself minimally satisfied with the gold crown, it started to hurt a little when I ate, which just about brought me full circle to where I was when I started, but this time I opted for the ignore-it-and-it-might-go-away sanctions-type strategy, as opposed to another round of shock-and-awe. Nine months later, I'd have to admit that didn't work either, but much like Korea, I decided to live with it.
It's not that Korean dentists are bad, but it's one of the experiences where I can say there was eventually an insurmountable culture clash, with one person insisting things are done the Korean way, and me drawing my line in the sand and saying you know what - this is the point at which I don't go native and want things done the way I would back home. In reality, that meant not getting any treatment at all when the Korean dentist refused.
To be fair the UK's National Health Service should be renamed the National Stealth Service because actual treatment is so hard to find (something I fear Michael Moore omits to mention when he extols the supposed virtues of universal health care). Relevant case in point, my NHS dentist back home has closed, or had his practice closed, for some indeterminate reason, leaving me without a British dentist now anyway, and with no guarantee of being able to get one, because they're about as rare as pacifists in the Pentagon. My nephew - who's in the same practice - needs a painful tooth removing under general anaesthetic - and because that can't be done just anywhere there's a four month waiting list, which the implosion of the practice is turning into seven or eight. I wish that I could get the treatment I want in Korea, but when I compare it with my own country, I have to accept that at least here you can walk in off the street and get treated. In my country, such a thing is unthinkable.