Karachi’s Chinese Dentists: A Unique Group of Immigrants

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Chinese dentists: an institution in Karachi

By Amna Rizvi

Chinese dentists have been a part of Karachi’s landscape much before the inception of Pakistan itself. Immigrants from China settled in Karachi, set up dental clinics and made a name for themselves, particularly among the low-income, residents of the city.

These Chinese immigrants came to Karachi sometime in the 1940s after having traveled the length and breadth of the Asian continent in search of better prospects for themselves and their families. While on the hunt for employment opportunities, a number of them adopted the trade of dentistry during a brief stay in Malaysia. Serving as mere assistants or apprentices to Malaysian dentists, some of these Chinese adopted this profession as their own, mastered it through trial and error, and proceeded to market themselves as dentists from China.

A number of them traveled all the way down to the southern belt of Asia and made a home for themselves in Pakistan and various other cities of India.

After the birth of Pakistan, during the nascent years of the country’s existence, there were virtually no dental services for the Karachiites. Graduates seemed to prefer to specialise in the medical fields of general surgery and gynaecology while dentistry was mostly regarded as a field required for cosmetic improvements. In fact, until only a few years ago, Hyderabad offered the only dental training institution in all of Sindh. The population, on the other hand, was in dire need of dental care and the Chinese were sharp enough to capitalize on this opportunity and stepped in to fill the void.

Chinese immigrants opened up their dental clinics in Karachi’s city centre, Saddar, and made quite a name for themselves. They established their practice in the city, became Pakistani citizens as time went by, enrolled their children in local schools and attained a command over Urdu, making them extremely accessible to their primarily low-income and middle-class clientele.

It was clear that these Chinese dentists as a distinct group had come to stay with no intention of going back to the motherland. This can be gauged from the fact that a number of second and third generation Chinese settlers have never been to China to this day!

Chinese dentists had roaring practices. During the early stages, when Karachi’s population was still manageable and Saddar was no so outrageously congested, these dentists had patients pouring in from all over the city. Not really having any sort of competition, except from dentists in their own community, the Chinese settlers charged a nominal fee for simple procedures, mainly the making of dentures and the extraction of troublesome teeth. It is also safe to say that these were really the only procedures these dentists had mastered.

Today’s world of Chinese dentistry in Karachi is extremely different from what it was in its heyday. Very few of the Chinese dentists remain in Karachi today. The majority of Chinese immigrants that came to Karachi sixty-five years ago have passed away, bequeathing their clinics to their families and descendents.

As is the trend with most families, a great majority of the second generation of Chinese settlers have also opted to become dentists like their fathers. However, unlike their fathers, the children have acquired formal training in dental institutions. After having gained more dental know-how and practice than their dentist fathers, the second generation has primarily opted to move out of the city to places that offer better opportunities and a chance to excel.

The few Chinese dentists that remain continue to practice in Karachi, with the majority of them still located in the heart of Saddar. The present-day Chinese dentists have expanded their fathers’ clinics to include more procedure rooms and more staff members. Some of them have even proceeded to move out of the congested streets of Saddar and have set up clinics in more accessible areas, such as Boat Basin.

The Karachi dentistry scenario is no longer what it was in the past when Chinese immigrants first came and settled in the coastal city. Numerous dental clinics and institutes have mushroomed in the city, bringing in its wake, major competition for the Chinese dentists. Due to the population’s growing awareness about dental health, Chinese dentists have been forced to employ other local dentists in their clinics that perform procedures that the original Chinese dentists were never groomed in. These procedures include minor surgeries, root-canal work, filling, polishing and orthodontic remedies.

Despite the increase in the population of local dentists, Chinese dentists are still extremely popular and sought after as they continue to perform procedures for comparatively minimal charges. Chinese orthodontists charge their patients 40,000 rupees for treatment whereas the fee for a number of local orthodontists ranges from 80,000 to over Rs100,000. However, it is interesting to note that the majority of the Chinese orthodontists have not received accredited specialised training in this particular field after graduating from their respective dentistry schools. A number of them have merely attended numerous courses and workshops and now claim to be orthodontists.

Nevertheless, the popularity of Chinese dentists is far from dwindling, particularly among the low-income community of Karachi. The streets of Saddar and Lea Market, to this day, are lined with clinics owned by Chinese dentists. However, a number of these clinics are occupied by local dentists who shamelessly lure patients while their clinics pose to offer a Chinese dentist providing care. This in itself is evidence of the reputation that the early Chinese dentists established for themselves in the low-income community.

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2005-daily/08-07-2005/metro/k10.htm

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Posted · Report post

made a home for themselves in Pakistan and various other cities of India.
sorry, but i find that very strange to read.

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Posted · Report post

sorry, but i find that very strange to read.

Why??? :confused:

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