Friday, August 03, 2007


I have a new dentist, and I went to see him today. He was recommended by my doctor, who also recommended the breast cancer specialist, and the skin doctor I saw recently (but did not tell you about because I was not in a writing mood that day). A friend also went to this dentist, and liked his work.

My doctor often recommends me to people who are a little odd but are always very, very good at what they do. The breast cancer specialist was not odd, unless being extremely kind and cheerful is odd (perhaps in Japan it is), but the skin doctor was a total otaku (in the sense of being obsessed with his work, I mean). It was obvious that he knew what he was doing, but I could not help noticing that he lacked a bedside manner. He lacked a manner, come to think of it. This was a man who was totally absorbed in his work. He showed us close-up computer pictures of my skin (there was nothing much to worry about, by the way, even though everything looks freakish when it's that magnified), and mumbled to himself in an interested way. I couldn't understand a word he said. I thought it was just me and my awful Japanese, but The Man couldn't understand much of what he said, either. He spoke in mumbled medicalese, and apparently did not know how to speak in normal human language. And he never looked directly at us, although he did examine my skin very carefully. I will go back to him if necessary, because I trust him.

My new dentist . . .

Let me tell you why I have a new dentist, first.

I have a new dentist because my old dentist scares the crap out of me. I last went to him about three years ago, or was it four? and he took three hours, or was it four? to fail to remove a wisdom tooth. After that I went home, relaxed, and after half an hour or so, passed out from delayed shock. The painkillers did not work properly during the operation, and afterwards I felt the way I imagine people feel after being physically attacked. I thought I was all right, because I wasn't in pain any more, but discovered I wasn't all right when I had a sudden encounter with the tatami. He had put things that looked like garden implements into my mouth, and despite my total cooperation (I was gripping with my arms to stop myself from rising out of the chair), failed to remove more than two thirds of my wisdom tooth. The rest is still there, but since that is the part that did NOT have decay, and he stitched it back under the gum, it is probably all right.

But that was another problem - the stitch was supposed to fall out or dissolve or something after a couple of days, and didn't, so I spent the next week, while he was away on holiday, on a liquid diet, because the bloody thing pulled, and hurt, whenever I opened my mouth more than about half a centimetre. It was New Year, and I was surrounded by delicious food. I do not think I have quite forgiven him for that, yet.

So that, and a couple of other unfortunate experiences, was why I hadn't been back to my dentist for about three, or maybe four, years.

The biggest problem with switching dentists is that my old dentist is also The Man's best friend from university days. The Man does not have any dental problems, and never has, which means that he has never personally experienced his friend's treatment, and he kept insisting that his friend was a good dentist. Fat lot he knew.

So when I started to get the odd twinge and remembered that I hadn't seen a dentist for a very long time I was a little nervous. How could I break the news to The Man that I ABSOLUTELY WAS NOT GOING TO GO BACK TO HIS FRIEND?

I approached the matter cautiously.

"I think I have a tooth problem," I said. "I keep getting little twinges in this back tooth, where I have a very old filling, from when I was about ten... I probably should go back and see Ko-chan . . ."

"Really?" said The Man.

"Yes," I said. "But actually I'm scared to."

"Then why don't you try the guy Dr S recommended?" he said, and added that our friend had tried him and liked him.

That was a lot easier than I had expected! I think I understand what happened, though. The Man sat through that marathon session last time, and saw how bad it was, and perhaps, although he wouldn't say so out loud, he also finally decided that his friend wasn't the absolutely best dentist out there. I do not think he enjoyed watching me suffer. After all, he was the one holding my feet so that I did not kick the dentist accidently when he yanked on the tooth. He SAW how bad it was.

So that's how I ended up with a new dentist.

My new dentist is another otaku, and has a reputation for being extremely good and extremely fast. I can believe it. Today he checked my teeth, and cleaned them. I don't think I have ever had a dentist concentrate quite so fiercely on my mouth before. It was amazing. His bedside manner was a bit better than the skin doctor's (but not much), in that he even tried to use English with me. That was nice, but a little confusing. When he took me into the X-ray room he instructed me,

"Put your knee here."

"Pardon?" I asked.

"Put your knee here," he repeated, and I wondered whether I was quite flexible enough to be a cooperative patient. But it was easy really, once I'd mentally substituted 'chin' for 'knee.'

Mostly, though he was just working REALLY, REALLY HARD, and REALLY, REALLY FAST. I am going back on Monday to have the problem tooth fixed, and while I am not exactly looking forward to it, I am happy that whatever happens, at least it will be quick. Another advantage is that, according to our friend, his fillings do not fall out after a couple of months. (She also used to go to The Man's dentist friend.)

Quite aside from anything else, though, it was perfectly obvious the moment I got there that he was the right dentist for me. He has a duck. Yes, you read that right. My new dentist has a duck! How could I resist a dentist with a duck? His clinic has a little garden right outside the large windows, and in the garden there is a small pond and a large white duck. From the waiting room, and from the clinic itself (as long as I was sitting up, which was admittedly not often), I could watch the duck. When I was reclining in the chair I could not see the duck, but I could IMAGINE the duck. It was the duck that made me feel that I was in the right place.

As far as I'm concerned, a dentist with a duck can call my chin anything he wants to.


kenju said...

Aren't you lucky to have found him! Please tell him I think his duck ought to have a partner.

Anonymous said...

In Japan, as in many other places, you can trust dentists as people, I think (in so far as anyone can know a dentist as a person). But generally you can't trust them as dentists!

Down here in Oz, you can't trust them as people or as professionals - even if, as they often are, they are very good dentists.

There was the dentist whose game was to swing you between himself and another clinic several Kms off - no he couldn't do a root job, but this man can - but he can do a bridge, which, oh, now he's finished needs its end tooth fixed with a root job. Like tennis...

Then there's my current dentist. Wonderful dentist, except when cleaning your teeth when he becomes a sadist. Oh and he pulls teeth rather than fix them - he likes building bridges. And then he has his nurse phone at regular intervals to remind you of appointments you haven't made.

I don't know which is worse: incompetence or dishonesty. I think I prefer incompetence... up to the point of BadAunt's wisdom tooth experience (OUCH!!)

Radioactive Jam said...

You are most fortunate to have found such a dentist. Now when you visit him your friends can say, "Good duck at the dentist's office!"

And the thought "BadAunt has a ducky dentist" can echo through their heads.

Badaunt said...

Kenju: Yes, I am lucky. I can't TELL you how relieved I am to have a dentist I can trust!

Anon: I think I managed to get the perfect combination this time: a dentist who is good AND who has a duck. :-) Plus he doesn't seem to want to do unnecessary work, something Japanese dentists excel at.

RaJ: Actually, when I go to the dentist I will not say "I am going to the dentist," something that is likely to put me into shock before I even get there. I will say, "I am going to see the duck. I will have a ducky time. Glock!"

Lippy said...

This makes me very glad I've finally found my wonderful dentist. Even better, there's a bunch of them and they all operate at the same standard. Drugs. And plenty of them! Yes, I insist on mouth-numbing injections as well as gas. Oh how I love the gas. I had two root canals and two extractions and barely noticed a thing. Didn't even care. Gas is good... ;-)