Dec 21, 2017

Getting started at a dentist in Japan

Trips to the dentist send a little fear into most of us, I think - and going to a dentist in a foreign country ups the ante with my nervousness, too. For the most part though, it was what I'd expect...but with a few interesting differences that might be worth noting to others attending a Japanese dentist for the first time.

You might be lucky enough (like me) that you live in an area where your new patient record form is going to be in English as well as Japanese. Thank goodness! The questions take the standard form of what I've experienced in Australia and the States before - your basic information (Name, Date of Birth, address) and then why you're attending the clinic (check up? tooth pain?) and what your health situation is like now (are you taking any medications, are you being treated for any other illnesses, for the ladies are you pregnant - all pretty standard questions). From there they checked my residence card and National Health Insurance Card and it was just a matter of waiting for the dentist.

Getting started at a dentist in Japan photo

A few things though were different than what I'm used to.

- You wear slippers inside (like most Japanese places)

Don't make the mistake I did, and try and get on the dentist's chair whilst wearing those slippers. That was a faux pas on my part. I figured that since I'd only been wearing the allocated slippers inside and my other shoes were by their front entrance, then I was fine to wear the slippers anywhere inside -- including the chair. Wrong! Slippers were required to be taken off before you lie down.

- The dentist's office was open plan, rather than individual rooms

I was still separated by a partition so that I wasn't directly side by side with someone else getting checked out, but this was still uncommon to me. Not every dentist practice may be set up this way, but just be aware that it's a possibility. They did have a room that seemed to be for higher level dentistry, so it might be that they simply do check ups in the open plan area. 

- Want everything done in the one session? Good luck!

I went for a checkup. I told them about a sensitive tooth that I had, after a previous cavity repair. They cleaned ONE QUARTER of my mouth, did the checkup, and put some sensitivity medication on my tooth. They said I would have to make a subsequent appointment to get the rest of my mouth cleaned, to get x-rays, and then to get a couple of cavities repaired (I'm one of those lucky people that seems to get cavities no matter what I do). Back in Australia or the States, a checkup, full cleaning and x-rays would all be done in one session, and oftentimes if their schedule was open enough and you had any cavities, they'd try to repair them then and there if you had the time for it as well. 

So that's that! I have an appointment in a week's time to sort out the rest of it, but thankfully the dentist is close to home. Ultimately if you need dental care while you're here you might experience some differences, but as long as you remember to take those slippers off when instructed to, I'm sure you'll be fine!



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!