Thursday, July 22, 2010

the arrival, surgery, and now.

All right, so here's the whole deal.

I'm here in Seoul for maxillofacial surgery, more commonly known as jaw surgery. I have an underbite, which I think I hide very successfully in photos, and it's been causing a lot of problems as of late as I've suddenly decided to start grinding my teeth at night. Right after my return from Europe, I went to Seoul to meet with doctors after receiving recommendations from family members to think about having the operation in Korea. This problem is fairly common in Asian people, so there's a plethora of practices that are dedicated to this one specific type of oral surgery. I felt fairly comfortable upon my return to Atlanta with the surgeon and dentist my mother and I chose and planned to return to Seoul after my birthday celebration to begin pre-op treatment.

 The day after I arrived, I plunged into dental works, aka getting braces. Got my spacers inserted, a few days later, had my back brackets put into place. That was when things started going downhill. One of my back brackets weren't put in correctly, so my back teeth wouldn't meet properly. (As of this moment, it's still fucked up.) The next day, I went to meet with the surgeon at Severance Hospital (affiliated with Yonsei University). With the operation looming less than 3 weeks away, I was expecting a more detailed explanation of the game plan for my jaw. (There are a number of options that I have: operating on just the lower jaw, doing both upper and lower, and also determining chin length.) Aside from me asking post-op questions, he had nothing to tell me save for the fact that he planned on going on vacation from Aug. 2-8.

Yesterday, I went to the dentist, assuming that they were going to put on my brackets. When I arrived, they first inserted an expander in my mouth without having told me previously that I was getting an expander. That was when I started to come to the realization that I was completely clueless about the dentist's plan for my mouth, in addition to the plans for the surgery. I was getting pretty upset while sitting in my chair, but the last straw came with the brackets.

The first day I arrived, I had discussed with my dentist that I specifically wanted to have enamel colored brackets for the top teeth and metal on the bottom. When I looked in the mirror after they placed the brackets, I saw that they put all metal. I was LIVID. When I complained that the metal brackets were not the ones I had requested, my dentist showed me the paper that showed the words "metal" written under brackets. I told him that I don't know who wrote that, but it was something I hadn't requested. The fact that his attitude was like, "They're on now, just keep them on" made me absolutely furious. If I'm paying thousands of dollars for a service, I expect for the job to be done well. That means that if I want enamel brackets and you put on metal, you go back and put enamel brackets in my mouth even if it's a pain because at the end of the day, you fucked up and this customer is NOT happy.

After more discussion, I come to realize that the dentist (the one who actually comes up with the plan for the surgery) hadn't made the measurements and graphed a chart for me yet, citing that he hadn't had enough time. He gives me more excuses by saying that this entire procedure is rushed. I heard that as him saying that he's inadequate to prep me for an operation that's now 16 days away. When I told him that I wanted to further discuss the plans for my surgery, he brushed me off by saying that he had a lot of patients to see today. I heard that as him saying that he didn't consider my status as a patient as important and that my concern for my surgery was unwarrented and an overreaction. I left the office with an internal struggle with how I should proceed.

Many phone calls and many emails later, I sit in front of this computer with a full braceface and only one decision made thus far. I will no longer forge a working relationship with the dentist at Eastman Dental Clinic (located in Apkujeong, Exit 6) and in turn, will not be working with the surgeon at Severance Hospital. The last question (and probably the most major of them all) is: do I stay in Korea, find another doctor and have the surgery or do I go home, meet with a new surgeon (and continue with the orthodontist I've worked with for 10 years) and have it in Atlanta?


  1. Wow, awful story.

    I think in this case it's important to have someone do it who you can trust, especially after you've been severely disappointed. Where is your mum or are your relatives who recommended you to do it in Korea?

    Hope, you'll find a solution you can feel comfortable with, and all gets well! Good luck!

  2. That's really effed up.

    I know there's a lot of people doing the medical/dental vacation thing now because of medical costs in the US, but I think where you're most comfortable is the place where you should have the surgery. In particular, I find that when I get medical/dental care in Asian countries (I had to see a dentist and a dermatologist in HK), they tend to treat young women as if you don't matter. I would think that's a bigger problem in South Korea.

    I don't know if you're paying for the surgery or if your family is, then they need to get in there and back you up. If you're paying for the surgery and they're not bending over backward to give you what you need, then walk out. If you were at a restaurant and the chef, much less the waiter, won't tell you what's in your food or how he's prepping it or that he's too busy to deal with you, wouldn't you just stand up and walk out?

    keep us in the loop!

  3. wow! that is redonkulous, its obvious that the dentist only cares about the money that you are giving him.
    I dunno if it were me i would look for an even better doctor. You've made your way there only to come back with braces you didn't even want so it would be kind of a wasted trip. But then again theres not much time left and you might be left disappointed.
    I say if you cant find one that comes with outstanding credentials then just go back to the one that you trust.
    I hope it all works out for you!

  4. Have it in Atlanta.

    That previous Korean dentist just messed up really bad. I'm pretty sure things would go more smoothly and you'd feel more appreciated as customer if you work with your regular orthodontist.

  5. That sounds so super stressful, so sorry to hear that!! I think that if you can find a good recommendation for a place in Korea, check it out, and compare places first. Then that would be good. But if you feel more comfortable getting it done in Atlanta, then go for that. Good luck with your decision!!

    <3 Kelly

  6. punch said doctor in the mouth. maybe then he will understand what it's like to be a patient.

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  8. WHAT THE FUCK! I've been following your tweets about the situation, but this is more outrageous than I thought. I would see if you could find a more suitable doctor, but failing that, come home. I've had like 8 years of orthodontia and they've botched it every time. It will be worth your time and money to find someone that will treat you right.

  9. hope everything go smoothly for yah..:)

  10. take care more of your self now..:)