Ugh. I had a dental accident today, Tuesday, October 18. I was walking upstairs swinging a little, white, empty, hard, plastic laundry basket and suddenly I tripped on one of the stairs. I fell forward and the laundry basket flew upward forcefully (Issac Newton’s third law of motion? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? That basket hit me hard.) and it hit me square in the front tooth. Maybe I was huffing and puffing from the steep stairs, making me breathe with my mouth open. Anyway, the laundry basket hit my mouth at just the right angle and it broke my tooth. A whole corner of my front tooth just cracked right off. I couldn’t see it but my tongue could feel it. It felt jagged, sharp and bad. John came running up to see what happened to me. He looked at my mouth and said, oh I’m so sorry Amy! That sounded as bad as it felt! I’ve been instantly transformed into a stereotypical Japanese native with funky teeth.
Now to find a dentist in Japan that speaks English. Everyday is a new challenge as well as a new adventure. It didn’t hurt but it did feel uncomfortable and I didn’t want to wait until something painful happened. We called the community center to see if they had any ideas. They said I could go to the Minoh Municipal Hospital because they have English services and also there is a dental facility there, though it’s by appointment only. I contacted the headmaster at our school by e-mail but didn’t hear back right away. In the meantime, John found a dentist on the internet that speaks English, has good reviews and is in downtown Osaka.
I called and made an appointment for the same afternoon. The dentist’s website has very detailed instructions on how to get to his office. It shows photos of the exact path from the train station exit to his office building. There are arrows superimposed onto the photos. The arrows bend left and right and the explanations plus photos plus arrows mean that I can’t possibly get lost.
When I arrived at the office I presented my Japanese National Health Insurance card. Wow, the first time I’ve had a reason to use it. Before stepping from the waiting room to the examination area I had to take off my shoes and put on slippers! Even in the dentist’s office.
So I’m here to figure out what to do about my broken tooth. The dentist explained that national health insurance only covers a flimsy plastic and metal cap. The plastic material is a stained color from the very start and the metal is very metallic looking. You would not want to be lying on the beach when a treasure hunter comes by with their metal detector. The tooth could set off major alarms. I might never be able to get past the TSA at the airport again. Furthermore (sensing my American dollars or my American image obsession), the dentist stressed how weak and awful the national health insurance tooth was.
The gleaming, strong, ceramic tooth cap can be matched to my existing tooth color exactly and is durable and long-lasting. Of course it is not covered by national health insurance whatsoever. Not a yen. He says he’ll give me a cash discount for the ceramic tooth. 100000 (Juu-Man-en) yen plus tax. Tax is 8% in Japan by the way. Since this is the same as in California it’s not shocking at all. At today’s rate, juu-man-en is around $960. John had a crown made in the US a while back and from what I remember this is a very comparable rate to the US. So I said yes, give me the ceramic tooth so that I will not be a Roppongi Hills hillbilly in Japan. It’s depressing though. I have a lot of better ways to spend juu-man-en.
He wanted to take x-rays of some of my teeth. What I found very interesting is that his x-ray device was adjacent to the dentist chair that I was sitting in. He just swung that x-ray arm on over my mouth, he held the x-ray film over my teeth (I barely had to bite down) and his assistant pushed the button to take the x-ray. I wanted to ask where is my heavy lead apron and why are you putting your fingers in the line of laser fire? He didn’t even ask if I was pregnant! But he seemed to know what he was doing.
I snuck in a photo of his x-ray machine while sitting in my recliner chair. See left.
After that he went to work on my mouth. I was there for about an hour and a half from start to finish and the entire time he was using his tools he kept saying, “gomen nasai” and “I’m sorry” over and over. Gomen nasai means I’m sorry, so he was saying it in both Japanese and English to me. His English was very good even though he said it was not. He said he’d been to the US about 5 or 6 times, the first time for a Boy Scout Jamboree when he was 15 years old. He also has a cousin in Torrance that he has visited twice. It’s about time someone has a connection to Torrance instead of Irvine every time!
He took several impressions, for my permanent crown and for the temporary crown that he put in. The impression process was rather yucky and again, he repeatedly told me gomen nasai, I’m sorry. Such a polite dentist! He sent me on my way after setting in a temporary tooth. I’ll be back again in about 8 days. He even said that if I don’t like his color matching, he takes the tooth back for another 5 days and re-matches the tooth color. John says the precision color is why I’m paying juu-man-en.
I had meant to make yakisoba (a fried noodle dish with vegetables) for dinner tonight but because of the tooth fiasco I’m headed home on the bus/train combo at 6:00 (18:00) at night. We decided that I would meet John and the kids at an Italian restaurant that’s on my way home. I don’t think I’ll be eating though. My mouth is too numb and puffy.