Friday, April 25, 2008


Last week Leiya announced that she had to have her wisdom teeth taken out. AAARRGGHH!!! I knew this was going to happen and I wasn't too thrilled about it. Another brick in the wall emphasizing the differences between Japanese and American culture.

Before Leiya went to America three years ago I took her to the dentist to have her teeth checked. After Takumi went to the States one of the first times he visited the dentist he was told that his teeth weren't in such good shape even though I've always made sure he had dental care. He ended up paying quite a lot of money to have his teeth fixed. This has happened to other friends who send their kids to the States. Whatever the Japanese dentist thinks is adequate care, the American dentist has always been horrified and I've heard numerous stories of paying out a fortune once in the States.

Sooooo... foreseeing all this, not only did we have the Japanese dentist take extra care with Leiya's teeth before she went to the States, I also asked if she could have her wisdom teeth removed. I didn't want to have problems with them while she was in the States. No. The dentist would not do that. He wasn't equipped to perform surgery on teeth that had not yet made an appearance and if I really felt it was necessary he would refer me to the major hospital in the next city. I really felt it was necessary, so we made an appointment and took Leiya in.

"Sorry Mrs. Watanabe. We do not recommend wisdom teeth removal for your daughter." (Hint, hint. What kind of a mother are you that you would want to inflict pain upon your child when she has no teeth problems.)

I explained that I had heard this referred to in America as preventative medicine, side-stepping future problems, preventing her straight teeth from becoming crooked etc. No. It was unnecessary surgery and SURGERY ran risks (damage to facial bones, nerves etc.) and basically they gave me the scare tactic. Yeah, you're right. Why would I want to inflict all of this on my daughter? Since Leiya wasn't too pleased with the prospect anyway, and Tetsu thought it all my American-ism coming out, I had no backers on me so we DID NOT have Leiya's wisdom teeth taken out.

So, now, the American dentist says it's necessary just because.... preventative medicine, I guess. I didn't talk to him. Leiya will be in the States for at least another four years. She is going off to college and at the very least she has been going to a dentist in her city that she and her host family trust. I told her to do what her dentist recommended and thus she had her wisdom teeth out this week.

Any of you in the States know dental costs in America so I won't go into it but at the very least Japanese dental costs are a tenth of the American costs and that's not even including insurance. I went to the dentist myself last week and paid $20 and I thought that was high! Usually I can get a filling for less than $10. I think Tetsu's company insurance pays two thirds of the medical fees and we pay a third out of the pocket but still, that means the dentist probably only got paid about $60 for his services to me last week.

I must admit that though dental care is cheap in Japan, I don't think too highly of it. All the technology is there so that's not the problem, just that good teeth are not as protected and revered as in the States. And this may be a small point, but no privacy! A patient gets ushered into the dental office and is greeted by a line of dental chairs. The patient gets placed in one of the chairs with other victims waiting in their own chairs on either side. My dentist places a washcloth over my eyes so at least I can't SEE him wrestling with other people's mouths but I can HEAR all the drilling, the clanging of instruments, the spitting and occasionally moans of other patients. And usually a dentist will ask you if you want Novocaine. ARE YOU KIDDING???!!! PUT ME TO SLEEP IF YOU HAVE TO!!!! My dentist must think I'm a problem patient because he chuckles when he looks at his dental chart on me and says,

"ahh, yes, you're Mrs. Watanabe who wants pain killers when I'm working on your teeth."

DOESN'T EVERYONE!!!!????? The first time I had my teeth fixed in Japan 30 years ago I'd heard so many horror stories that when I got out of the dentist chair pain free, I went down the street and bought the dear dentist an arrangement of flowers! He was very surprised but I felt like I'd been unexpectedly led away from the gallows!

Oh dear... This is getting long. I guess I could go on forever about my experiences with dentists in Japan. Leave it to say that I think both Leiya and I still have nice smiles and that's thanks to both the American and Japanese dentists.


Lindah said...

Hi Tanya! The dental chair is not my favorite place to be either! When I was younger I never used a pain killer--not until I was about 55. Sometimes I think our dentists (USA) are a little over scrupulous--kinda like an over zealous housekeeper. BUT on the other hand, I still have all of my own teeth! (except the wisdom teeth) For which I am MOST thankful.(big, toothy smile) I hope Leia's dental problems are solved satisfactorily.

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

I didn't realize there was such a difference. prices are soo much lower, but not getting a private room. hmmm. pain is definitely bad and hearing other people in pain isn't pleasant either.

Sew Create It - Jane said...

That picture is funny! Or is it just me? *blush*
You could very well be talking about the UK dental very much alike with the attitude...esp. with wisdom teeth! My DD (age 14) has been having trouble with hers and she has a beautiful smile and a perfect bite...but they won't extract the wisdom teeth because it's too risky...I seem to think there is risk that the wisdom teeth are going to cause havoc and that she's going to need braces in the future! But hey who am I to question...I'm not dentist!

harts4Him said...

I just sent my 17 year old son to the dentist for his 6 month cleaning and an xray.....$145. My younger son goes to a pediatric dentist and their prices are even higher. We can't even get the dental part of our health insurance because it is so high. We pay almost $400 a month for medical and the dental would be another $100 every month. Healthcare in the states is OUT OF CONTROL!

jovaliquilts said...

I'm all for preventive care when it comes to brushing your teeth and flossing, but taking wisdom teeth out is another thing! Not everyone has to have them out. Why not wait to see if they become a problem for her? A dentist wanted to pull mine, but I couldn't see doing it and here it is, 25 years later and I have had no problems from them at all. Maybe Leiya won't have any problems, either. I hope she doesn't!

Katie said...

I shutter when I hear about wisdon teeth. Mine were impacted and they had to pull it down a little and cut it off and then repeat this over and over. I started out asleep but it took so long that I woke up. I even had a fifth wisdom tooth. It was up above one of my top ones and when they pulled in down and out, it ruptured my sinus wall. Of course I could only get one of them out at a time. So many many years ago, but still so vivid to me. My husband kept his wisdom teeth. He actually had a space between his front teeth. The dentist said I had my dad's small mouth and my mother's big teeth. All my kids had to get their wisdom teeth out but it was not as bad as mine. My DD1's did cause her other teeth to go crooked some. Yes, dental work in the US is very expensive. Very good but very expensive. You need to find a dentist you can trust and use your own judgement too. Wishing Leiya the best.

About that blue border in your quilt you last posted, I love it. It looks like a window frame and the stars are off in the sky.

artfilstitch said...

Tanya, I am sorry about Leiya's dental experience. The American Dental Association has a very informative website that has lots of information. Unfortunately, medical needs are very expensive today in the States, be it a physician or a dentist. There are so many factors that have driven up the cost of good medical and dental care such as, fradulent claims, malpractice and insurance policy fees that the health/dental care professionals are hit with. I also think that greed for the almighty dollar is a major factor in the rising cost of everything that just keeps going higher. (today in USA, it is rice) Truly, "The love of money is the root of all evil".
I didn't mean to ramble...just thinking about high cost.
Hope your weekend is wonderful,

The Calico Quilter said...

Ugh, wisdom teeth. Three of my four are gone, and it wasn't pretty. The last one was about fifteen years ago, and I went to a oral surgeon because it came in cock-eyed and a mess. He asked if I wanted to be sedated; NO. I have control issues. As long as I am novocained and not hurting, I want to be awake. Well, maybe I would have been better asleep and not knowing all the shenanigans he had to go through to extract that tooth. And the next day I felt like I had been kicked in the jaw by a mule. My sincere sympathies to Leiya and hope she feels better soon.

Helen said...

Hi Tanya

I laughed out loud when I saw the sign for dentist, so I am with Jane on this one. I guess it is *blush* for me too.