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Getting dental care in Cambodia: A visit to Roomchang

Posted on 16th January, 2013

I have a confession to make. I hadn’t been to the dentist since I moved to Cambodia two and a half years ago. Even at home I dread the dentist. But in a country like Cambodia, which is renowned for the low quality of its medical care, I’ve managed to put it off. Until now, that is.

As part of a wave of New Year’s remorse, I decided to head straight to the dentist for a consult, cleaning and a couple of x-rays to see what sort of damage I had wrought. I can’t pretend I wasn’t nervous–after reading the bit on medical training in Cambodia’s Curse I vowed to never get any sort of medical care in Cambodia. But I’ve heard many, many times that the dental care in Cambodia is outstanding, and that there are a few clinics with high-tech equipment that’s more advanced that what you’ll often find at home, and technicians that are internationally-trained and gentle.

So I decided to give it a shot and go to Roomchang, a dental clinic in Phnom Penh that is both highly recommended by expats and ridiculously cheap by Western standards. To give you an idea, consultations are free, cleanings are $25, x-rays, which include a panoramic x-ray and bite-wings, cost $6 – $17, and it costs $25 or $35 for a filling, depending on the severity of the cavity.

Best of all, I rolled in with no appointment but since the ten-story building is filled with more eager young dentists than they can provide work for, walk-ins are welcome. I went with a friend and we were each were in a chair with our mouths open within fifteen minutes of arriving.

I initially went in for just a cleaning and x-rays, but was told I had a cavity in exactly the spot a previous dentist told me I would be unable to avoid getting one (a deep crevice in a back molar). The dentist told me she could see it from looking at it, and the x-rays confirmed it. Although I had decided I was not going to get any work done beyond a cleaning before I went in, by the time the cleaning was over I trusted her enough to let her do the filling as well.

The cleaning was excellent — very professional, gentle and remarkably fast. Much less of the scratchy scratchy scraping, they were using some sort of electronic scraper that did the job faster and with less head-wrecking noise.

In the West, my dentists usually spend a fair amount of time berating me for not flossing enough or rolling their eyes at my overwrought grimaces of pain. In Cambodia, on the other hand, my dentist was delighted with the fact that I manage to brush my teeth twice a day and congratulated me several times about it.

The facilities themselves were immaculate, with a gorgeous view of Phnom Penh. In all of the Western countries I’ve spent time getting dental work (USA, UK, Ireland) this was by far the most impressive clinic and most advanced-looking equipment (whether it is actually advanced is impossible for a layman like me to judge).

The filling was quick and they emailed me my x-rays in case I wanted to have another dentist look at it. They also gave us free Roomchang t-shirts and calendars because it was our first visit. My friend later went back for a wisdom tooth extraction that cost him $150. He said the care he received was outstanding — both the surgery and the after-care.

Overall, despite the fact that I’m terrified of the dentist and terrified of getting medical care in Cambodia, I was very pleased with my visit to Roomchang and would highly recommend the place to other expats.