Visiting a dentist when you travel in Japan
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved
When you visit Japan you may want to experience some slices of real Japanese daily life and not be a tourist for a day. Visiting the dentist for a check and clean maybe just the thing to allow you to see inside real Japan from the customers view.
If you don’t reside in Japan but want to access Japanese dental services, as a foreigner you can often just pay direct without the need for insurance which is a higher price than what residents with insurance pay but may often be substantially cheaper than what you pay in your home country for dental treatment.
Cleaning is called shi seki tori which is pronounced shi-seki-tori and can be written in a number of ways including hiragana しせきとり and Chinese characters (kanji) 歯石取り.
To research a clinic and to book you can ask for assistance at your hotel. Ask to visit a local clinic that is close to where you are staying. Before asking Japanese staff for help make sure you have all your questions clearly worked out and dont forget to reward them for their assistance.
For Example: I would like to visit a dentist for cleaning, could you help me find a local clinic and to book an appointment? Have the days and times you are available written out clearly, for example, Monday 1pm to 5pm, Tuesday 10am to 3pm. If you just want cleaning and no other services, state that you just want cleaning only. Ask if a clinic is close by, how much for cleaning and do they have an appointment available to meet your schedule.
When visiting in person it is best to prepare for your visit by writing out all your questions in English, and then have a friend to translate them into simple Japanese, preferably hiragana because it is easier for multiple people to read you may also include Chinese characters.
Be prepared that staff at the clinic may have limited English and may get nervous and flustered at your visit - this is ok.To help them to feel at ease smile, talk very calmly and wait patiently for their responses. It is a good idea to allow plenty of time for your visit. For example: If you have a 2pm appointment, it would be good to arrive at 1.50pm (so allow plenty of time to get to the clinic) and then allow time for treatment and time afterward for you to return back to the hotel. An estimate of say four hours for the whole process or really a half day.
If you want to be fully prepared it would be useful to take a Japanese English dictionary, a pen and paper. Remember that unless you speak fluent Japanese it is best to speak in English because once you speak in Japanese staff will answer in Japanese and you will miss what they are saying which will confuse you and often slow things down.
A dental visit in Japan is a great way to see the real Japan, real people and how they live their daily life. For example: When you first enter the dentists you often have to remove your shoes and put on slippers and put your shoes in a shoe rack. You also may get to see in action some medical equipment that you don't see at home and best of all you are out of your comfort zone, so your attention level is very high. Be prepared to be the center of attention during your visit, for other patients may be very surprised see a foreigner. A big smile from you will reassure them.
Cleaning usually takes an hour and may start from 10,000 yen. On the day of your appointment it is always good to get to the dentist early to allow time for removing shoes, visiting the toilet and for filling out forms. When you arrive walk up to the reception and give your name and the time of your appointment
Let’s take a look at some Japanese language that may be useful:
Tooth = Ha
Mouth = Ku-chi
Pain = I-tai
No pain = I-ta-ku-nai
Gum = ha-guki
Tongue = shi-ta
Appointment = ninmei
Konnichi wa = welcome
Please sit down = Su-watte kuda-sai
Open your mouth = hi-raite kuda-sai or ake -te kuda-sai
Close your mouth = shi-mete kuda-sai
Rinse your mouth = o-ku-chi susu-ide kuda-sai
Please note even though a number of words and phrases have been given, staff may use other words andf phrases or speak in polite language meaning you that will not be able to pick up any of the above, don’t worry.
Once you are in the chair, if you are tall like me you may find that you will often slide out of the chair which is built for Japanese body sizes and your feet may touch the floor.
As afirst time vistor, it is your first visit, staff may want to take a number of xrays to check the state of your teeth to be able to fully advise you. If you do not wish this to occur just ask for cleaning only
I would just like to have a clean with no x-ray please
Sumimasen, shi-seki-tori dake, x-ray iranai onegaishimasu
A real convenience during the treatment is not only do you get tinted glasses but they also put a towel over your face during treatment which blocks out all light and keeps water spraying on you. It is a bit uncomfortable the first time you experience it but it soon becomes very comfortable and you wonder how you survived all those prior visits.
The steps in a typical cleaning treatment may include:
1. A check with a dental tool which they use and drag across each tool
2. Use of a tool that digs into the gum and blood will be drawn during this procedure and it will be mildly painful
3. The use of a type of sand paper on teeth to file any rough edges
4. Brushing – The assistant brushes your teeth using a special brush and cleans each tooth individually
5. Each tooth will be flossed
6. Plaque will be removed using a tool and you will experience a dragging, scraping sound for extended periods from upper and lower teeth
7 Polishing of each tooth
8. A type of mouth guard with a bubbling liquid will be placed in your mouth and will be left for four minutes or so.
Note that steps 3 through 8 is when you may have the towel placed over your eyes and be prepared to spit and rinse after each step.
The dentist may ask you not to eat or drink for 30 minutes after the treatment so that the treatments have their best effect on your teeth
It is typical in Japan to pay for treatment at the end of your visit at the reception desk. Depending on your dentist you may be given a gift bag which contains a toothbrush, toothpaste and a cleaning tool at no charge to ensure you keep your dental hygiene routine after your visit.
A big smile and domo arigato gozaimashita to the assistants, dentist and reception staff with a half bow from the waist tilting your whole upper body forward thirty percent forward with your arms by your sides and your head looking down at the floor with be a nice way to thank everyone who has helped and supported you on this visit. If you need a receipt for your records just ask for a ryo-shu-sho.
Note: This is a summary of my experiences and may be different to yours, please check carefully before undertaking treatment to ensure correct procedure and cost before starting so that it meets your needs and budget. If unsure do not proceed.
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved
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