In the 1990s I never visited a Japanese dentist. I had all my dental cleaning and other work done in Canada during my annual trips home. I’m very squeamish about my teeth. They’re one of my biggest fears, so I didn’t want to risk misadventure with a foreign-language dentist. But a dental emergency on December 25, 2000, Christmas Day, changed all that. I broke a tooth while sitting at home eating popcorn and watching a movie - broke it big time. It didn’t particularly hurt, it only felt strange. But when my wife returned from work and I told her my tooth felt funny she escorted me immediately to her dentist in the neighbourhood, the Okada clinic - a husband-wife team of dentists. Lady Dr. Okada looked in my mouth with her naked eyes, asked me in English if I was in pain. “No.” ‘You should be,” she answered back in English. A third of one of my molars was missing. She quickly gave me a temporary cap to get me through the holidays, and an appointment for further work in January. From that moment on the Okadas became my dentists in Japan. Dentistry here is covered by the National Health Insurance, so I stopped visiting my Canadian dentists during my trips home. The Okadas and I communicated in a combination of Japanese and English. I was happy with them, until December 2014. I had an argument with the Okadas’ receptionist about an appointment miscommunication. I changed dentists, to Dr. Koichi Suzuki, also in the neighbourhood. I would not have stopped going to the Okada clinic if the receptionist hadn’t laughed at me mockingly, blaming me for the scheduling mistake. I can accept if I was wrong (I wasn’t), but I did not want to accept being laughed at, so I tore apart my clinic membership card right in front of her and threw it in her face. Pretty definitive, I thought.
I recently stopped using Dr. Suzuki as well, and changed dental clinics once again for reasons that I will explain. I was never satisfied with him. I visited him several times in 2015, always asking for cleaning, “kenshin.” I needed plaque removal. Dr. Suzuki would look in my mouth for about three minutes with a mirror, pronounce the work “done” and charge me $20. I knew from experience that cleaning is very uncomfortable and should take something like 45-minutes. Something wasn’t right, but like a passive patient in the face of clinical authority I decided to trust him. This went on repeatedly for several appointments until finally, in December 2015 I had had enough and decided to look for a new dentist once more. That’s what took me to the Shin-nakano Dental Clinic on Christmas Day 2015 - a little further away from home, but still easily within walking distance. What is it with me and Japanese dentists and Christmas Day?
I think “cleaning” means doing something - doing something more than just visually checking. Dr. Suzuki’s visual check ought to have shown that I needed plaque removal - and also a cavity which he never noticed or mentioned, which the Shin-nakano clinic hygienist spotted in about 45-seconds.
I got finally got everything I wanted, everything I’ve wanted for the last year. My teeth feel so smooth and clean now.an be ready for the 2019 Rugby World Cup scheduled for Tokyo, which was supposed to be an Olympic dry run for the facility and the city.