Wednesday, November 12, 2008

maybe i should have been a dentist instead

I have a bone to pick...

...with dentists in Japan.

I feel cheated and erm, violated!

Early this year in January (I know, I have lots of belated news to share!), I had a nagging pain in my lower gums. As usual, I tried to brush very diligently, but carefully so as not to aggravate the pain. Flossed more, gargled with Listerine every night and made sure I didn't chew so much on the left side.

Still the pain didn't go away. My other solution to increase my vitamin C intake didn't help either. In the past, I took it as a sign of deficiency in vitamin C, since that might mean a potential of scurvy.

Still the pain persisted. It was getting annoying. And scary. Nothing seemed to work. I was taking lots of fruits too.

31 Jan 2008
In desperation I went to the nearest dentist I could find in my neighbourhood. Speaking little Japanese that would help in explaining my pain, I brought along my trusty electronic dictionary.

I found out that my gums were exposed (or something like that la). They took my x-ray and pointed to that little space between the gums and the tooth and it looked like the gums were raw. So the dentist gave me some treatment and asked me to return the week after. Even with that half-baked treatment I still managed to go back for IUJ's Ski Day!

7 Feb 2008
When I went back to the dentist, he told me he had to do something. After checking with my dictionary, I found out that he was going to 神経を取る (take out the nerves). Not knowing what the heck it meant, I thought maybe he was just going to do some scaling and clean up my teeth, who knows maybe I didn't manage to brush the hidden corners and nooks and crannies in my little mouth.

Then I suspected something amiss when he injected some anesthesia into my gums. Surely cleaning the teeth didn't require my gums to be numbed!

The next half hour was him doing something. I thought maybe the Japanese were so careful they didn't want to hurt you while cleaning your teeth. Then I heard some drilling, some other scary sound that I can't describe here.

In my mind, I was thinking, what did I just get myself into this time?!

By the time it was over, my left cheek felt puffed up and I felt no senses at all. In fact, it felt as if someone had punched me on the left side of my face. But in reality, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked very normal on the outside.

After the anesthesia had wore off, I was left with a pounding pain, so painful I couldn't even sleep that night. The dentist didn't even give me anything to take away the pain, I had to ask my housemate for his Ibuprofen.

The next few days, as I was wondering what the dentist did to me, I don't know why, but the phrase "root canal" came to mind. So I looked up the internet and just couldn't believe my eyes when I realised what he had actually done was a root canal. It wasn't any procedure that I've gone through before, and it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. And I most certainly did not ask for it!

What the !@#$%^&*()?)(*&^%$#@!

14 Feb 2008
My follow up visit was met with more shocks. I thought that was it. The 3rd visit should be the end of it.

But no, after more treatment, I decided to enquire if it would be the last visit. The nurse told me that I had to return 6 more times to finish up the procedure.

What the !@#$%^&*()?)(*&^%$#@!

So the dentist could make more money out of me??

I had already spent Y10,000 yen for my first visit, and another Y5,000 and Y2,000 subsequently.
6 more visits = Y???

After chatting with friends, I found out that it was normal of Japanese dentists to require patients to make frequent visits for something such as this. A Malaysian here told me he had to go back to the dentist 13 times for his root canal.


What the !@#$%^&*()?)(*&^%$#@!

I was already taking time out of work for this, and my boss was not very happy. I told him it wasn't my fault. The dentist was making me go back so many times, and my private insurance didn't cover the treatment.

So he recommended me to pay a visit to his dentist instead. The most important thing was because he had been trained overseas, Dr Goke spoke English.

21 Feb 2008
Since it was a new dentist, I had to do my x-rays all over again. It was assuring to have a dentist that explained what was wrong, what needed to be done, and what I had to watch out for. He himself was astonished when I told him about my experience with the previous dentist. The most a root canal should take is 3 visits, depending on the complexity, especially with molars.

Damage for the day : Y7,570

26 Feb 2008
I got the shock of my life when Dr Goke removed the temporary filling to reveal an ugly hole in my left molar.

So this was what the previous dentist did - Make a big hole in my molar, dig out everything that was probably healthy in the first place, and then make me pay for it not knowing what it actually was.

To think that I may not even have needed a root canal in the first place, now I had a useless (almost...) tooth with a gaping hole that reached to the bottom which cost me a bomb. Of course, I would have had to pay Dr Goke a similar amount to finish up the job, but at least he spoke in a language I could understand!

So he carefully cleaned up the rest of holes where the nerves were. It was a good thing I had read up about it and talked to friends who've had similar experiences. Imagine having someone do something to your body (nevermind that it's a small organ such as the tooth!), and you not knowing anything about what's going on. That's really scary!

Damage for the day : Y21,000

29 Feb 2008
While getting my temporary filling done, I consulted with Dr Goke about the option of doing the crown back home. I found out that it would cost me Y100-150,000 just to have it done in his clinic. Apparently that was the normal rate in Tokyo.

What the !@#$%^&*()?)(*&^%$#@!

If my guess was right, I think I could get it cheaper in Malaysia, but I had just gone back for Christmas the year before. In fact, the reason why I'm thinking the root canal was not justified was because I had just done my routine check up with my dentist back then and everything seemed to be fine. In fact, I've for the most part had healthy teeth, bar the irregular cavity but then again, regular visits to the dentist always took care of that. Ever since I lost 4 molars to make way for my orthodontic treatment, I've vowed to be really careful not to lose anymore teeth.

To top it off, Japanese toothpaste lack flouride and probably the water is not conducive for promoting healthy teeth. It's no wonder the Japanese have such bad teeth. A lot of them need to go for orthondontic treatment. While I understand it's expensive to do it here in Japan, I just cannot fathom how they can spend so much money on their hair, face, clothes, dresses, accessories, shoes, handbags and whatnot, but not on their teeth!

Mindboggling indeed. @.@

This whole painful experience cost me Y50,820! No insurance to cover it made it even more painful.

Lesson 1 : Stock up on Good Malaysian Flouride-filled Toothpaste.
Lesson 2 : When visiting a doctor or dentist or anyone who would attempt to do anything to any part of the body, go to one that speaks English, or go with a friend who speaks the language.
Lesson 3 : Watch out for money-making Japanese dentists.

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