Going to the Dentist in Jakarta

After spending half of the day yesterday consulted the dentists about my teeth condition, I have made a firm decision to do my wisdom teeth operation in RSCM Gigi dan Mulut (Cipto Mangunkusumo Public Hospital for Teeth and Mounth) in Adityawarman street in Jakarta.

At first, I was quite unsure about this because (a) it is a public hospital and (b) it is very cheap compared with Australian or Singapore standard. I haven’t checked the costs in Australia yet, but I reckon the wisdom teeth operation will cost me around A$1,000 (even though I had a MBF insurance which will give a small amount contribution on this part). In Singapore, it will cost me S$500 in a local dentist in Sengkang area. And in Jakarta it costs me Rp 305,000 (less than A$50). Of course in order to do this I’ll have to pay extra cost of panoramic size teeth scanning (A$12) and pay for a week take home medication of A$25.

On my first day, I was observing and went to many doctors just to make sure of the place and the doctors’ quality. In this particular hospital, every time a patient go inside a consultation room, she/he has to pay for the service given at that particular room. Just to give a picture what I have gone through, these are the steps and the fee for the service:

1. Registration desk – you’ll get a card and had to write on your details in the application form. This is quite tedious process and the form asks you a lot of personal question for Australian standard such as your religion, educational background, how much money you’ve made in a year, etc. This registration costs Rp 15,000 (less than A$3).
2. General examination room – In this room you’ll need to see a dentist (without specialization) to get your teeth examined and she/he will determined which room you should go next. I paid Rp 20,000 (A$4) for this.
3. The photo room – this is a scanning room with a very big machine to check your teeth and you’ll get the result right away after you’ve paid for the fee. The doctor asked me to do the full panoramic version because I was considering to get the wisdom teeth operation. This scan costs me Rp 75,000 (A$12).
4. The orthodontist room – In this room an orthodontist check your teeth and decide what can be done in order to make your teeth nicer. I was planning to get braces for my teeth and have to ditch it later on because it is a two years process and I’ll have to come to the dentist every month. I paid Rp 20,000 (A$4) for this consultation.
5. The operation room – This is where a specialist doctor in teeth extraction and operation do their job. I just come here to get a feel of the room, how people reacted during or after the operation and to see the doctor. I know this is impossible to do in Australia but very possible in Indonesia.

In the operation room, I made a new acquaintance with the nurse. Her name is Yani, she is quite nice and bubbly. Even the doctor was there, I was not supposed to direct my questions to him but through her I asked questions, she’ll answer and if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll ask the question again to the doctor (as if he can’t hear me asking the question). In the meantime of chatting with Yani, I observed how the doctor works. When I came there were two patients sat on the patience chair. The one that he worked on was a lady, who seemed didn’t mind and can’t feel the pain whilst the doctor (dr. Setiawan) pulled her teeth. She made a grin but then it’s over and the doctor sat next to Yani did a bit of paper works. This is really my chance to ask questions to the patience:
“Did you just get your teeth extracted?” I asked the patience.
“Yes” she said shortly (of course, what else can you say after the pain??)
“Did it hurt?”
“No, it didn’t. I got 6 injections so I am numb now and can’t feel anything”
“Six???.. “
“Yes, six, so it will be fine, it doesn’t hurt at all”
“Oh..okay.. thanks for the information, I was thinking of doing my wisdom teeth operation..”
“Oh.. it should be all right”.

She was then taking a note from the doctor (through the nurse) – I just wondering why can’t the doctor give the note directly to her since he sits closer than the nurse to the patience. The lady heart fully thank the doctor, the doctor said ‘sama-sama’ which literally means ‘same-same’ but actually it means ‘you’re welcome’ and nod his head.

I was still there counting my moves and chatting with Yani the nurse. Yani’s first worried was about my ability of footing the operation bills. When I told her that I’m considering of doing this, she instantly said “I need to explain to you in advance that the cost will be …”. So when I stood there, chatting with her, she must be thinking it’s all about cost that made me considering the options. I was asking her so many things and my eyes were wondering across the room, peeking at the operation theatre room, asking about the doctor and lots of things. At the end, I told her that yes I might come back tomorrow for the operation, let me think about this overnight first.

During my long journey home whilst my mom and uncle complaining about Bush’s trip to Indonesia, I have made a decision to just do it. My reasons because (a) these doctors are professional at their own field, they work in the public sector for about 3 hours a day just because they want to maintain the ‘public servant’ status and it’s not for the money—they are wealthy to Indonesian standard—i.e. the dentist who live near my mom’s house and work at the same place owned at least 3 cars with several domestic staffs in the house and a nice swimming pool, (b) The hospital is clean and not too crowded. I guess this is because most people still think it is expensive so they’ll find other alternative place that offer more competitive price and (c) they have generally happy staffs. I love being surrounded with happy people. The dentists are nice, they are smiling, joke within one another and they are gorgeous. Most of the dentists are female. They sport very nice hairdo (the latest in town), matching outfit from head to toe (including bags and mobile cases), and they smell very nice. I even complimented one of the dentists on how beautiful she is. The nurses dress with their blue outfit but keep on smiling and greeting people nicely. Well.. don’t expect that they won’t answer their mobile phone whist doing the examination though. In Jakarta nowadays seems to me one existence and their status symbol is based on their mobile phones.

Oh… Dear: Light Went Off

I came late because I have to pick up my uncle so he can drive me to the hospital. Well.. my mom doesn’t really trust my driving ability nowadays (plus I don’t have an Indonesian driving license). The nurse remembers me and asking me jokingly about my anesthetic request yesterday. I told her that I don’t mind if she charge me more as long as she gave me more anesthetic so I won’t feel any pain. I told her that I was joking, just do what ever she thinks best and don’t worry about it, and told her that not to worry because I’ll give her some cigarette money (uang rokok)—even when she doesn’t smoke or snack money (uang jajan) later on after I finished.

I had to open my shoes in order to enter the operation theatre. I sat there; the doctor came and injected me (using a new needle) several times on my gum. He then waited there and I chatted with him whilst waiting for my mouth become numb. I found out that he works in three different practices. The others are one prestigious hospital and a personal practice in a prestigious Jakarta street. After part of my mouth went numb, the dentist assistance put a white cloth on my face with a hole for my mouth.

Then, I closed my eyes, thinking about something else other than the operation, fantasizing wonderful things that I like and hearing those machines work on me.

Suddenly, I heard a blast. Well…the nightmares came true, the light went off. Oh my God, this is the worst thing that ever happened to a patient. Imagine your mouth is opened and it should be lots of blood, suddenly everything went dark. The dentist who had lots of experiences in this matter instantly worked under a torch. Yes, a small torch with a dim light which I reckon won’t be enough for me to read with it let alone operate a patient with it.

“Doc, the torch didn’t work” said the assistance
(Oh dear.. what else.. please God, help .. this is too much too take) – I said to my self.

“ Oh really??, how come??” said the doc
(Oh dear.. yes, it doesn’t work because might be you forgot to change the battery… No, I’ll be fine, they are professionals and they got this problem from time to time, this is public service and problems are their daily encounter, it’ll be fix soon)—I tried to console my self and think positively.

“Hm..have you pushed the button?” – said the doc
“Yes doc, but it still doesn’t work”
“Let me see it..”

The doctor put the needle and the tools down and examined the torch.

“See..you have to click on this little button”
“Oh.. I see that now” – said the assistance

Well.. I got the light from the torch and ten seconds later the lights went on. Hurray!!..

The dentist said “oh..thank God, it’s on—this is happened when there are too many electricity usage in this building”.

(Well..what else would you expect with 12 examination rooms and a lot of dental equipments in it. They should have calculated the electricity usage based on ‘what if every equipments run at the same time’ base)—I said silently.

Then.. he began using the equipment again for 5 minutes and “Bam” the electricity dropped again. We went through the almost same deal but this time the assistance knew how to push the torch button.

There I was, get the saw on my gum under a dim torch light. I was just wishing that he’ll have enough light to know what to saw and he made sure that he extracted all of my wisdom teeth.

“Yes, we’re done now.. bite this and throw it away after one hour” the doc said.
“Doc, have you took my upper teeth as well?” – I said to him
“Hm..what upper teeth?”
“Well..the one that you said obstructed my gum and will have no function at all especially after this operation”
“oh..yes.. Oh.. I almost forget about that”

The nurse laugh..
I also laugh.. or grimace.. coz my mouth was still hard to moved.

“Okay, you sit again in the chair”.

I obliged and requested for the white cloth again.

“Are you afraid?” said the doc
“Yes, and it will be better for me not to see anything”
“Oh..don’t worry..this is easy, it’s only for a moment”

Yes, he was right, it was only took him less than 10 minutes in extracting one of my upper teeth.

The job is done, I went to the cashier and pay the bills, went to Yani gave her some ‘snack money’ and she gave me a very big smile and a nod of thanks.

I have to be back in 7 days and hopefully there will be no drama this time around.

Many Indonesians I know who live abroad opt to have operation in their hometown for ‘being close with the family’ reasons. This is so true because we get people around us taking care of our being while we’re sick. The social system is different than the one in developed country. People do care with other people. At least the people in my networks do.

Jakarta, 21 November 2006.

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6 thoughts on “Going to the Dentist in Jakarta

  1. Just had a tooth pulled in the modern Sydney dental system.
    Highly painful for at least a day and a half afterwards.
    I feel like Mrs Dubose in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, weaning
    myself off Panadol by taking longer and longer between hits.
    I was running at 2 every 4 hours but so far today I’ve
    managed 8 hours, so maybe the pain is finally dieing down.
    I’m sure I’ll need to take some to help me sleep tonight though.

  2. In my undergrad years, I went to a nice old dentist around the block from my parents house. His hands shook and I was sure he owned a pensioner card. He ended up spilling acid on my tongue – now that was yuck!!!

    He retired that same year and the next year when I went back there was a new lady working there. She had just finished university, so she was very young. She obviously felt a connection with me because I was going to the same university that she attended and I was doing a related degree: Biomedical Science. She felt so comfortable chatting with me that she ended up confiding to me, her patient, that she had cheated on her dentistry exams and asked her friends do her dental assignments for her – A great way to give your patients confidence in your ability and knowledge!!! NOT!

    Anyway, I have watched her practice grow and expand and I have seen how she has developed a very lucrative business. A normal checkup, which had previously cost me $30, now cost me $180. Once, she even charged me extra for ‘dental hygiene training’ – while I was waiting for the x-rays to be developed, she told me to brush my teeth using a particular motion. That lesson cost me an extra $20! Can you believe that??? Anyway, if you deconfabulate a dental bill, you will find an enormous amount of meaningless and useless so-called ‘work’ that they charge you for. She once used dental floss on my teeth that she coated with normal toothpaste simply by applying some to her fingers and rubbing it onto the floss. This was called ‘topical application of cleaning agent’ and cost me $110!!! It took her less than five minutes to perform this ‘highly specialised dental procedure’.

    The last time I went, I specifically said that I don’t want any extras. She opened my mouth for less than a minute and then asked me if I wanted x-rays done. I asked her if it was needed, her veiled response was, “If you were to choose between a clean and x-rays, I would opt for the x-rays.” That didn’t really answer my question, it was just a way for her to hide the truth! Anyway, it had been a couple of years since I had x-rays done so I said okay, but first I enquired about the price.

    “How much is an x-ray?” I asked.
    “$35″ She said.
    “Okay.” I replied.

    They ended up charging me $70 for the x-rays. Note the plural – x-raySSSS! Thanks for pointing that out, Bi… . Anyway, she said that the x-ray was inconclusive and said I needed to go to another person to get a panoramic scan. This particular scan was free because of Healthcover! Why didn’t the stupid dentist send me there in the first place? Because dentists milk every patient for every last cent!!! Dentists have an uncontrolled monopoly on dental care and it is CORUPT!!!

    I’m one of the luckier people who see through the devious practices of these ‘dental professionals’, simply because I can understand the misleading jargon they put on our dental bills… It annoys me on behalf of all the people being deceivingly misled by these greedy con-artists!

    Anyway, as for the wisdom teeth experience: $1250 for the doctor – the hospital fees were covered by my health insurance (~$86 a month). The experience wasn’t painful (the dentist gave me a general anaesthetic- her refused to do it under local), but I did find it annoying not being able to talk properly, open my jaw (What the heck did you do Mr Dental surgeon???) or chew… Also, I’m not sure that the dental surgeon was meant to stitch my cheek to my gums… But they are degradable stitches, so if he did make a flaw, there will be no trace of it in a week’s time… The nurses were nice. One of them was a cutie, and if I didn’t have my mouth so full of gauze and my head full of anaesthetic, then I would have loved to ask her for her number (even if it was totally inappropriate)… but I missed that opportunity! ha ha ha!

    I can’t winge and moan all day though. I had a great week of watching DVDs, reading books and taking baths that lasted way too long! hm hmmm! I love my baths! especially baths with bubbles and essential oils, Jojoba and milk bombs!!! Yum!

    As for the location of the operation? If you can’t go to your family – bring your family to you!!! My parents came up to look after me. I enjoy my parents and I like seeing them. I have to say just one thing though, not being able to move my mouth to tell my dad to shut up is undoubtedly the most frustrating part of a Wisdom-teeth operation. I love my dad, but he can get on the nerves!

    hmmm… It seems that I should have written my own blog about going to the dentist… Thanks for giving me an opportunity to voice my opinion about dentists! All I can say is, thank God they don’t write our taxes!

  3. Okay, so it’s almost three weeks since my wisdom teeth were pulled out. On monday, I went to see the surgeon again for the post-operative checkup and everything was clear. We shook hands, I went home.

    Today, I just received an unexpected bill from the anaesthetist! There was no mention of this payment in any communication with the surgeon, secretaries or the nurses! The bill amounts to $504 for an hours work. In the bill, $84 was atributed to a pre-anaesthetic consultation, which consisted nothing more than the doctor introducing himself to me and asking me questions that two nurses had already asked. What a flaming joke!!!

    $504 is more than i earn in a week and after petrol, food and generic bills (electricity, phone, gas, water, strata, various insurances etc), that’s more than I can save in a month!!! This is a blatant rip-off!!!

    I complained to a friend of mine, a med student, and she supported the doctor but blamed the medical system. She said that the doctor studied hard, and I believe it. I did Biomedical Science and there is no way I would want to repeat or continue that absurd brain-washing intense study experience by doing a medical degree. Sometimes people who have studied hard forget the privileges they have been afforded in being able to have gained the knowledge we have had access to. I include myself in that category. I believe that this privilege deserves to be treated with humility, not with arrogance. I view that I should use my degrees in order to be a servant to the world and the people in it, not to abuse the power, manipulate people and make them pay money just to shake my hand.

    Grrrr!

  4. Was browsing on the net for this particular dental clinic. I live around the corner from this place. My parents advice me to go there as I need to go to dentist. NOW, after reading your experience there you have convinced me to go there! Thank you!!!
    I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow!!!! hahaha
    Wish me luck!!!

  5. Hi,
    I”m coming over to Jakarta in June and was thinking of getting veneers. I was looking on the internet for the clinic you guys are talking about but couldn’t find a website or email adress. If you know the adress please let me know.
    Thanks,
    Caroline

  6. I need a dentist near Lebak Bulus, Jakarta who FULLY understands English….not Bahasa English but REAL English. I went to one today who took an x-ray and while looking at it (I had to tell her it was the wrong way round!) she pointed to a filling that needed changed were in fact it was a route!!! That was enough for me!
    Any suggestions for a good dentist?

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