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Setting up an international dental clinic in Kunming

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The service industry in Kunming has improved a lot in the past few years, and yet when it comes to medical needs, it is still not easy to find up-to-date, modern facilities able to comply with international standards. Hoping to help bridge this gap, GoKunming recently visited Lanchie Dental Clinic (蓝橙齿科), which aims at providing both local and foreign patients with a safe environment and the most advanced dental treatments.

On a sunny afternoon, we sat down with Mr Song, manager of the clinic, and Dr Wu, Lanchie's English-speaking orthodontist, to learn more about the facility's procedures and standards. Lanchie Dental is located just beside the Beichen Station (北辰站) of Metro Line 2, on the third floor of the Xindu Longcheng (欣都龙城) business complex. It is only a few hundred meters from Metro Supermarket. The clinic has now been operating for two years and Mr Song told us that this location was chosen because of its proximity to parking spaces and public transportation. Also, many of the clinic's customers — mainly composed of local middle-class people — live nearby.

Lanchie Dental Clinic recently expanded and is focusing on attracting foreigners to use its services. Mr Song explains they have hired English-speaking staff, saying, "At present, three of our dentists are fluent in English, in addition to two front-desk employees. So there should always be at least one person able to speak with foreign patients."

While introducing the staff, Mr Song gave us a tour of the clinic. Patients are welcomed at the front desk by the entrance and can then relax in a waiting area by watching TV, reading magazines or letting their kids play in a child-designated area. The clinic employs a total of 27 people, including ten dentists and their assistants. Mr Song tells us:

Each patient is always taken care of by at least two people during a treatment. This is what makes us different from other local clinics. We do not just perform dental procedures, we also want to establish a long-term relationship with our clients. The consultation phase is extremely important to us and we always involve our patients in the decision-making process, usually presenting them with multiple possible solutions to choose from. This makes us more similar to medical centers in the West, and I believe our customer service also meets international standards. We treat patients as human beings, not as machines which need to be repaired, and make sure they feel comfortable and taken care of.

A glass door separates the entrance and front desk area from the treatment area. I pointed at what looked like a dedicated consultation area in the corner of one of the rooms. Doctor Wu explained:

We want to ensure that the privacy of our customers is respected. For this reason, in room one, extra seating space is provided for the patients and, if they want, their family members, so that they can sit down with the doctors and discuss their clinical situation. In room two, there is also a shelf where clients' information and medical files are kept in order. This makes it easy to access for future consultations and guarantees confidentiality.

We then went on to check out the rest of the clinic. Each room is equipped with a desk and a computer, where the dentists record all the necessary files and information. An extra screen hangs next to each patient's chair, so that the doctor can show the results of X-rays and other examinations, as well as illustrate the various phases of each treatment. Special cameras are available to let patients see the difference before and after a given treatment.

There is also a children's room, furnished with colorful, child-friendly facilities and an additional TV screen on the ceiling. Here we meet Dr Feng, who is from Sichuan and specializes in pediatric dentistry. "We want the kids to feel good and we let them watch their favorite cartoon during a consultation. Once finished, they are rewarded with a small gift which they can choose from a nearby shelf...But of course only if they cooperate!" she says laughing.

Further down the hallway from a dedicated and radiation-proof X-ray room, is a space designed for the sanitation and disinfection of dental tools. "We are very strict about hygiene. In this room, everything goes only in one direction. First, things are cleaned, then sterilized, then stored," Mr Song tells us.

He also explains that most of the equipment installed in the clinic was imported from Canada, South Korea and Israel, and was chosen because of its quality. The clinic was also the first in Yunnan to install a special machine, imported from Germany, capable of taking digital dental impressions. This enables the staff to prepare crowns and onlays in just a few hours, whereas before, patients had to wait a few days. Dr Song then talked to us a bit about the process of setting up the clinic:

The biggest challenge was to recruit a team of good doctors. All our dentists are well-qualified, with different backgrounds. On average they have more than ten years of work experience. They have been trained in the best Chinese universities, and three of our doctors have a PhDs, and two of them have also studied abroad. Each doctor specializes in one field and we are therefore able to offer a broad variety of services in many fields, including orthodontics, cosmetic dental restoration, pediatric dentistry, teeth cleaning and whitening, and periodontics.

We asked Mr Song if such high standards were aimed at making Lanchie a possible destination for medical tourism. In the last few years, an ever-increasing number of people have begun to travel abroad, to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, to get medical and dental treatment.

Thailand definitely is becoming a popular destination for medical tourism also among Chinese people, because even though prices are low, Thai doctors have been trained abroad, and can provide advanced, high-quality treatments. For us, it's different. We want to make the same good services available here to both local people and expats living in Yunnan, so that they don't have to travel abroad for medical needs. Dental treatments, such as orthodontics, are not a once-in-a-while experience. Patients and doctors have to meet regularly, to check progress and make adjustments, so it's better if people can find a place to go to that is close to where they live.

Near the end of our visit, we were able to speak with a few of the clinic's customers and listen to their feedback. Ms Leticia Giron, who comes from Brazil and used to work as a dentist herself, told us that she and her family have been coming to Lanchie for dental treatments for more than a year. She told us,

This place is great because here I can find the same equipment and materials that we use in Brazil. Before coming here, I visited many other clinics but no one was as clean and modern as this one. I was really impressed when I finally found it. This is a place where I could also see myself working as a dentist again.

GoKunming also had a chance to talk to Mr Andrew Webster, who runs an ecotourism adventure company based in Shangri-la and has been living in China with his family for nine years. He and his sons have been visiting the clinic regularly, and he shared with us his opinion about Lanchie, saying,

Their English is good, which was great because my youngest son was a bit nervous [when he had to get braces]. My experience has been very good, and I think the prices are very reasonable for what you get. Recently, I had to put in a crown, which was quite a difficult operation. In terms of care and focus on the client, I have had a better experience here than in the US.

Practical information

The above-mentioned branch of Lanchie Dental Clinic is located on Beijing Lu, inside the VC Park Shopping Mall. It's on the third floor, next to the cinema, and accessible by elevator. If using public transport, take Metro Line 2 to Beichen Station and use exit C. Bus numbers 23, 25, 57, 61, 67, 72, 92, 96, 119, 142, 146 and K1 also stop nearby. The clinic is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. It is recommended to book an appointment at least one day in advance by calling 65626899. Lanchie Dental is also currently working on a new dentistry hospital, which is scheduled to open at the end of 2016.

Lanchie Dental Clinic offers a membership discount card to foreigners who are independently carrying out charity activities in Yunnan in the fields of poverty alleviation, medical care, environmental protection and education, as well as to those working for non-governmental organizations. Those in need can also apply for special additional discounts.

Images: Chiara Ferraris

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Wow, that photo of the staff at the bottoms really looks... ah... international.

Looks great, but if you live in the center city, Dr. Li's clinic at 55 Hua Shan Nan Rd. has been delivering modern dental services to locals and foreigners for years now. He and several other staff members speak English and his facilities are state of the art. Highly recommended. Here's his number: 13708738885

"We want to ensure that the privacy of our customers is respected." Yet fifth image down appears to show a communal treatment room.

Where's my april fool's article!

Time to update the bus routes. K1 was changed to 236 a few years ago.

I went to a clinic downtown once, forget the name, and the images I saw from here in GK were almost the same except a bit dirtier in real life. I demanded a private room and got it. They wanted to sit in one of those communal areas and I just cannot do it. The dentist was cool and wants to do a root canal. It was a lost cause and I had it extracted. I then discovered in China they do not give out codiene or vicodan type pain killers . Only for cancer they said. Damn! I felt like mike Tyson punched me after the nova ain't wore off. I was crying in the taxi. Luckily I had exceedine pm at home. Popped four or five of those and in fifteen minutes I was okay. Absurd.

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