If someone had told me a year ago that I would be living in Japan, I would have thought they were crazy. If that same person had told me that I would not only be living there, but going to the dentist to get operated on, I probably would have slapped that person across the face.
But, here I am. Living in the Japan.....and going to the dentist....
To say I was petrified would be an understatement. The pain in my tooth, however, was not something I could delay any longer. So, basically against my will, I was dragged to the dentist. I would say dragged kicking and screaming, but I think as soon as I hit the age of 10 it became socially unacceptable, unfortunately.
Arriving at the dentist, however, I was in complete shock. It was by far the nicest building I had ever been in for any sort of medical reason. It looked brand new. I immediately had to hide a quick laugh at the assistants uniforms. As in the hospitals too, the nurses and dental assistants wear a similar uniform. Think World War II nurses uniform: apron, double-pointed hat that's bobby-pinned on, all white. I was led back to the room through various sliding doors - sort of scary, actually - and into an even nicer room. Everything was beyond any technology I had ever seen. I felt like I had actually time-traveled to the future. I'm not exaggerating. If I have to go again, I'll try to sneak a picture.
Obviously, the dentist did not speak a single word of English. I have since taught him "OW," "rinse," and a few expletives here and there (whoops). My poor translator had to sit in the room and witness the entire operation, which was pretty painful. She also had to translate for me, which was probably not very pleasant with me hating the dentist with a fiery passion. Before we had even started, the dentist showed me, on a jumbo screen TV, exactly what he was going to be doing. A graphic, cartoon version of all the drilling, ripping out of roots, cleaning, and filling of the tooth. Oh, yeh, forgot to mention...this "toothache" in fact needed a root canal. The dentist did not understand this terminology when I asked him if that was what he was going to be doing. So, in my slow panic and realization of what was about to go down, my translator had to look up how to translate the word. After I got confirmation on the translated word, I basically cried like a 2 year old. A slight temper tantrum may have occurred if I hadn't just come from an all-day practice and was completely exhausted.
Obviously, the worst part is the novacain shot, and things are typically good-to-go from there. I have an extreme fear and hatred for needles. I'm pathetic and I will fully claim & accept that. Every time I have to get a blood test, I almost pass out from working myself up so much. I somehow put myself through getting a tattoo on my foot. Still not quite sure how I did that. Although my friends that were with me still make fun of me to this day for almost passing out and for some reason yelling to get me a Diet Coke. Why I thought a Diet Coke would help, I really have no idea. At least I provided entertainment for the lovely man covered in face tattoos and piercings who did my tattoo.
So, I was bracing myself for this painful stabbing of my mouth, when something magical happened. With my eyes squeezed shut and pinching the skin on my leg (trying to trick my pain receptors. Never works), I suddenly heard a song start playing. And I recognized it immediately. "Someday My Prince Will Come" from Sleeping Beauty was being projected out of the needle and into my eardrums. Disney music....in my worst enemy, the needle. Amazing. I was in such shock and awe, that I completely forgot that I was being stabbed with a small sharp object. I looked at this playing of Disney music as a sign that this was to be my best dentist experience ever. Then when my translator told me about 45 minutes later that I was done, I was positive that I was right. That lasted about . 2 seconds. I was quickly informed that I would have to come back to finish the procedure. Wait....what??
"You mean they don't do it all at once?"
"Uh, no. We have to come back."
"Ok....what are we doing next time?"
"Well, next time they will clean it. Then we have to come back.."
"Makiko! How many times do we have to come back?!"
"Umm, I'm not sure. Probably like 4 or 5"
"I hate Japanese dentists."
7. That's how many visits I ended up having. Some were as good as the first one. Two memorable trips, I left crying and in a lot of pain. These would be the times that I accidentally taught the Japanese dentist a few American cuss words.
For 7 visits, and clearly a huge procedure, I paid under $200. Seriously. That's ridiculous. And, he did a much better job that any dentist I had back home. I'm going to chalk it up to the overall Japanese cultural trend of being precise, very thorough, and overall obsessively clean. He even offered to fix a filling that I already had. He said he could do much better. Okay, cocky bastard, we get it...you're way better at your job that Americans.
Obviously, I'm going back.
Sorry American dentists, but y'all are getting beaten out by the Japanese. Who would've thought?!