Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Dental Date

Bobby & Dianna

Does he eat sweets?

Dianna: “If he wants a cookie, he can have a cookie. I’m not crazy about keeping him from sweets. But there’s no soda.”

Spring is in the air, so Claire and I make a dental date. This slideshow documents our trip to Dr. Young’s Chinatown office.



Claire hands Michael a pair of heels that need new soles. Michael’s Shoe Repair always impresses me. Now that I’m thinking about teeth — seeing teeth — Michael’s teeth impress me too. He brushes twice per day and rinses with Listerine both times.


Jacob, Lily & Polina

Just as we’re leaving, a family brings a turquoise belt. The girl needs holes punched because it’s too large. Polina says the kids go to a dentist who puts TVs on the ceiling to distract them.


Carroll Street Station

The MTA machines accept neither cards nor bills. I sneak through the turnstile behind Claire and nearly crush my knee. Our train approaches.


 Chinatown Firehouse

We exit at East Broadway, then head north. Claire guides us to Canal Street — where a sharp-toothed dragon adorns the local firehouse.


Pace High School

Two blocks away a group of high school students perform dragon dances.


Stevin, Cici & Rob

Does the dog have any dental habits?

Stevin: “Cici loves chewing peppermint.”

Rob: “That’s her primordial toothpaste.”


Mott Street

Turning on Mott Street, we pass women selling ginkgo nuts and sticky rice. A man says the rice gets wrapped in lotus leaves.


128 Plaza

Dr. Young is in the brick building at 128. It houses more than 40 medical offices.


Seventh Floor

Pleasantly dim corridors lead us to suite 707. The wallpaper is soft lavender. The door stands open.



Hi, we’re here to see Dr. Young.

“Welcome. Is this your first visit?”


Receptionist Desk

I tell Ling I’ve visited once before, and she moves to the cabinet, where she pulls my file. Claire mentions it’s her first time. Ling assembles the paperwork.


Ugyen, Choden & Ugyen

All of a sudden our friend Ugyen arrives. We can’t believe the coincidence, and he introduces his niece (also Ugyen) and his wife Choden. Ugyen and I learned about Dr. Young from the same source — a guy named Tenzin, for whom Ugyen used to work at a healthfood shop. Ugyen now runs his own store.


Choden & Ugyen

When Choden and Ugyen take off their coats, they reveal matching hoodies. They bought them from a vendor because they got cold walking. Niece Ugyen, 12 years old, tells us she chaperoned Choden and her uncle on their first date.


X-Ray Machine

I wander through the office. Just beyond Ling’s desk is a standing X-ray machine. The lead blanket brings back visiting dentists as a kid; I remember how heavy those blankets feel.


Exam Room

Down the hall I see a patient’s feet in the doorway.


Exam Room

Inside another room is Dr. Kevin Young himself, at work on somebody else.



Are you Dr. Young’s assistant?

“Yes, I’m Jin. Here’s an X-ray developer.”


Sterilization Machine

Next Jin points out a sterilization machine. I appreciate the hot pink trays.



Today’s tools soak in bubbles.



Claire’s name is called. She comes down the hall and finds me contemplating this arrangement of objects.


Dr. Young

“Have a seat, Claire.”


Tooth Cleaning

Dr. Young inspects Claire’s teeth. He compliments them, and says there are no problems. He starts cleaning. Despite norms — according to which cleanings can cost $200 for uninsured patients — Dr. Young charges $50. “I don’t want to rip people off,” he says.


Tooth Polishing

Dr. Young met his wife Dr. Zhilang Mei during their dental studies. He attended Stony Brook; she attended Columbia. They founded this practice, opened another near Bay Ridge, and live in Queens. When I mention the hot pink trays, Dr. Young credits Dr. Mei: “Zhilang selected them as well as the purple chairs.”



Claire rinses. I move into the chair.


Tooth Cleaning

Dr. Young discovers some plaque behind my lower teeth. The bar I wore as a kid did nothing to correct crowding. He scrapes, and I grip the armrest.


Tooth Polishing

Dr. Young and Dr. Mei have an eight-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. The children don’t fear dentists because their dentists are their parents. Dr. Young remains gentle while being thorough. My teeth are on the verge of new life.



As we walk to the receptionist desk, Claire and I pass Ugyen. He’s wearing the right shirt for Dr. Mei’s chairs. We plan a late-spring picnic.


Hall Sign

I wonder if spitting has been a problem.


Dr. Mei

Along Ling’s desk I notice the photo of Dr. Mei with Mayor Bloomberg. Dr. Young had mentioned it. We pay our bill — $100 even.


Dr. Young

What does the scroll mean?

“It’s hard to translate. ‘Doctor with spirit,’ or ‘doctor who cares.’”

It’s also hard to practice. Thanks Dr. Young.

“My pleasure.”


Seventh Floor

We find the elevator and return outside.


Mott Street Vendors

It’s 6 p.m. All the bok choy and spiky fruits make us hungry.


Malaysia Jerky

The store known as Malaysia Jerky consists of one intense case. We had no idea shrimp could be jerkied.


XO Kitchen

For dinner, Claire and I stop at XO Kitchen. She chooses it because it’s packed. The menu has 169 dishes — steamed noodles, fried rice, BBQ, dim sum. They even offer spaghetti.


Wan, Xi, Michelle & Tian

Any recommendations?

Wan: “The wonton noodles are the best I’ve tasted.”

Xi: “The curry rice is too salty, so I ate ginger pudding.”


Previously: New Year's Eve Plans

Jon Cotner has made other slideshows about the holidays. You can find more information here.

73 Comments / Post A Comment


I loved this! Your dentists sounds like a winner. Also, Dianna-from-the-first-picture sounds like a good mom.


That's awesome@v


Aah I have missed Jon Cotner's slideshows! This one was different than the ones that are all little interviews, but very enjoyable nonetheless. Dr. Young is a treasure!


I love Chinatown(s)! Here's my favorite picture from a Chinatown, it's a trash can just for coconuts!
Cropped to hide my dad and my faces, sorry!


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll now I want to find that garbage can. I think I know which Chinatown it's in (of the several in TO).


The shot-by-shot entrance to the office was quite ominous for someone scared of the dentist, but Dr. Young seems so nice! Also, jerky!!!

fondue with cheddar

@mollpants I'm scared of the dentist too, and I just went for the first time in several years. I went to my dad's dentist who is super nice and gentle, and they have this machine that uses a laser instead of a drill, and you can't feel it at all! I had two cavities that needed filling, and he only needed to use the drill a tiny bit on the deeper one. It was amazing. <3 u laser dentistry! (dentistrie?)

ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ

I hate going to the dentist because I seem to ALWAYS have new cavities. Sometimes, I wonder if they just say I have cavities so they can get more money filling them =(


Different, but I liked it. It made me miss Sydney because there is a Chinatown there too, but not here in the US town where I live now.


This would make an awesome picture book for kids.

Also, thanks for reminding me I need to make a dental appointment!

Heat Signature

@cuminafterall I was thinking the same thing!!

Lily Rowan

This reminds me of Mr. Rogers, in the best possible way.

fondue with cheddar

Random thoughts:
Jacob's bed head!
Primordial toothpaste would make a good username.
Dr. Young is fantastic.

almighty jugs

Anyone else super impressed by Lily's outfit/general put-togetherness? When I was her age I couldn't be bothered to comb my hair, let alone wear non-legging pants and cute oxfords.

Angry Panda

@almighty jugs Yeah, I'm not that put-together now at 30.


Oh and also I need shrimp jerky in my life.


@iceberg and by life i mean mouth, right now.


@iceberg I super want to give it a try, although I have suspicions about its potential for extreme saltiness.


@iceberg In Russia, there's this stuff called kal'mar, which is basically squid jerky. It is very salty and fishy, but really delicious with beer. I am picturing the shrimp jerky as very similar.

Heat Signature

Someone should inform Wan that her sunglasses still have the sticker on them. Although, she seems like the type who probably doesn't give a shit and would tell you so (in other words, my type of lady).


I need a teeth cleaning in NY! Is Dr. Young a good option for me? I don't have dental insurance and I have crazy-sensitive teeth and I hate the dentist.

You made this look like the best day ever.


I've been looking for a new dentist...tell Dr. Young the internet got him a new patient.


Ugh, I know I have to go to the dentist, but I really, really hate it.


Aw, I really like this. My family and I used to take trips to Chinatown in San Francisco when I was a kid, but I haven't been back in a while. We would find stores that had little food and furniture for my dollhouse--at one place I got tiny asparagus and tiny artichokes!


@frigwiggin Also, this reminds me of the LJ community A Day In My Life, where people would take pictures throughout their day (whether it was a normal day going to school/work or a special day at the zoo or something) and post them with comments! I loved seeing the days in different countries, like Finland and Japan.


@frigwiggin I would love that to be a Hairpin thing, from commenters!


@iceberg ME TOO!


@frigwiggin Chinese New Year is pretty fun in SF Chinatown. Plus, I stocked up on those throwdown bang-snap pop things that are like the paper ones but x100, they actually make a legit bang like a black cat just from chucking them at the ground. I'm ready for the 4th of July and I am a teenage boy sometimes.


@iceberg @martinipie Same here! The little details of other people's lives can be so interesting and fun.


@frigwiggin I'll try to do one! Will probably have to obscure children's faces or something but yeah, I live in a pretty town (and it's not NYC).


@iceberg Yay, please do! When I post pictures of unsuspecting family members on my blog, I replace their faces with the faces of TV detectives (Poirot, Jessica Fletcher, Mike Hammer, etc.)--you should do something like that.


@frigwiggin Larry, Moe and Curly -easy done! hahahaa


@whizz_dumb Next time you see those pop things, splurge on the more expensive pack (they're like 1/$1 instead of the 3/$1 like the other ones): they are SUPER LOUD and kind of amazing.


@Jinxie Those are the ones! Pssh, shelling out the extra ones for those cylinders of fun impulsive noise was a no-brainer.


These slideshows always give me the most wonderful, neighborhoody old New York feeling, one that you read about in books and see in movies and everyone reminisces about. It's still there! Just look through the lens of Cotner!

Michelle LeBlanc@twitter

I like that pug the most of all. My dog apparently needs his teeth cleaned and I wish primordial toothpaste was actually an option instead of scary expensive doggie dentistry.


Dianna knows how to party. You can just tell.


This was one of my very favorite Hairpin things. Delightful writing and a soothing experience.


@bonymaroni YOU'RE delightful and soothing!


@JessicaLovejoy (ಥ‿ಥ) oh my goodness <3

Mad Dog

This is a seriously charming piece.

It reminded me of when I was little and taking me to the dentist practically *was* a date for my parents. My dad has a phobia of dentistry and my mom has one of vomiting, and the meds/loss of blood from tooth-pulling often made me sick to my stomach, so they both came along for different parts of the "experience."

To this day, I think that was an excellent example of what a good marriage looks like.


I'm allllmost certain Ugyen runs the healthfood store near me! If so, he is delightful. I have bought him out of elderberry syrup at least two times this winter.


Dude, you probably shouldn't have told everyone about your $50 dental hookup. You might not be able to get an appointment ever again!


@Megasus I know! it would be cheaper for me to take a megabus from toronto to nyc and go here than it is to go to my normal dentist for a cleaning and check up...

also, this totally brought back a memory of when i visited new york city and for some reason my metrocard wouldn't swipe in the turnstile and a very nice but somewhat homeless looking woman hanging out in the station entrance was like, "here sometimes you have to do this!" and sprinted up and pushed me in behind my friend. was not expecting that, but hey, it works.


Argh! Stony Brook! Two words, no e!


I just got my teeth cleaned so I'm good on that front (my new dentist's name is Dr. Love and I was able to get a Saturday afternoon appointment on less than a week's notice. New York: city of great dentists?), but this reminds me I need to go check out some of those Malaysian jerky places. Really, is there any higher form of meat than the jerky?


I love that all of the fire departments in NYC have their own names/logos. I live right down the street from the Red Hook Raiders.


I would never have a dentist "clean" my teeth. Dental hygienists are specifically trained for adult cleanings. Dentists receive minimal hygiene training. He didn't do anything more than assistant does on a child. That's probably why he only charges $50.


@Louise44 Oh hush, Debbie Downer!


I would never have a dentist "clean" my teeth. Dental hygienists are specifically trained for adult cleanings. Dentists receive minimal hygiene training
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