I was amped for lunch today. It's was curry in rice. Not the brown kind, the green kind that reminds me of many ethnic meals of the past. I was going in, and found myself truly enjoying these small plastic snack packets filed with hard dried seaweed. I'm all about texture, and as my mother says, I have a fixation with working for my food (i.e. Alaskan King Crab Legs). I admit, I tend to enjoy foods that require some sort of labor. Today was no different. One of the Japanese teachers was giving away her packet and greedy Evita claimed first dibs...
My second bite into one of the seaweed pieces and half of my back tooth came off in my mouth. Disgusted? No. Sadly, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Surprised? No. I was told this tooth needed a root canal before leaving New York. $1000 I did not have. Plus, it never hurt. It just wasn't in good condition.
Slight panic sets in and I realize I need to (today) find a dentist in my area, that will take walk-ins, and that accepts credit cards, for monetarily I have no cash. One of my teachers begins the hunt, scouring the phone book and calling all the dentists in the area. "Sorry, cash only!" Every turn was cash only. One thing Americans may not know is all that plastic money you think you have in America is good as nothing in Japan. This is a cash country. In seven months this will be the first time I have used mine. I pull some side teaching and company contacts to come across Matsumura Dental Clinic, in Kobari. Though I don't read Kangi, I know exactly where this place is. I find myself lost, writing for hours in the Starbucks inside Apita, right across the street. 5pm and I make it. Let the language barrier begin.
As soon as I walk in I'm greeted, "Evita San. One gaishimas!" Apparently, they knew I was coming, and being the only foreigner in the area, it had to be me. I hand over the gaijin card (equivalent of a green card in America) and take a seat. That's when I notice it... This place is amazing. First, off it's huge. I'm talking ridiculously high ceilings.
So high, it accommodates a TWO floor play area for children, with a spiral staircase. I'm talking about fake life-sized indoor trees, a showcase area of books and DVDs along with tooth brushes along a counter, a bathroom with decked out heated Japanese toilets (including bidet, my fav), personal television screens above everyone's dentist chair with your own attached head phone, and a computer LCD screen attached to your chair that mimics the dentist's computer screen so you can see what he sees. Two leather massage chairs in the lobby, not to mention.....ok I'm being called in.
I sit on my chair while the dentist assistant takes my slippers and hands me a blanket. I am now waiting for my dentist in a chair, with no shoes on, and a blankie. Only in Japan. At this point, I rebuke every dentist I have ever had in the past. New York, step your dentistry game up. He speaks Japanese, I don't. Through broken forms of both our languages, we make it work and laugh the whole way through. Until I show him my tooth.
As soon as I opened my mouth, I got that Asia "ehhhhhhh" that I have written about in the past. I shake my head and say, "I know," reaffirming his horror. Then, laying mouth open, I wonder if he is reacting to that specific tooth or my entire mouth. I'm telling you guys. I take care of my smile, but once you get into the back of my mouth it's a crap shoot.
So the decay has since gone through the dentin, yet there is no nerve damage. This makes sense because I have had no pain. Even with half a tooth gone, I finished my full day at work pain free. Thus, no root canal needed. (By the way I am being told this through an animation book that they have with photos, and translations in English). No root canal needed, and it makes sense. Interesting, considering in February I was told I'd need about $1000 of work done on one tooth. He says they need to clean it, fill it, and make an impression. In a week, I will have my new tooth. I asked again, and he assured no root canal needed, just to fill in the gaps after drilling the decay out. I don't know who to believe, but I'm in Japan now, I like the energy of the place, therefore the Japanese dentist trumps the hood dentist who left a neon blue filling in my mouth for kicks. Asshole.
So, the most anxiety producing question follows. I ask, " I kur a des ka?" How much is it? He swings around my LCD screen and starts tallying up totals on his computer. He comes up with 4,340 yen ($46). In a joyous outburst, I proclaim, "Ok! Let's go!" I am getting a crown for $46. As my kids say, "Oh my God. Evita Sensei, Unbelievable!"
Local anesthesia came in the form of Novicane, but in a new vessel. This was less a needle and more a hand gun that clicked. I felt NOTHING, not even the pinch I braced myself for. I noticed immediately that the numbness was centered. In the States, my least favorite part of the dentist is the effects of numbing. I drool, talk awkwardly, and in some cases my mouth is distorted for hours upon completion. The entire section of my face is on leave. This injection was tooth inclusive and that was it! No lingering side effects. I popped back up to find my bill had jumped from 4.340 to 6,290 yen. He apologizes and says, "I'm sorry, big cavity. Ok?" I respond, "Ok." For about 40 mins I go back and forth between him and his assistant. It ended with his assistant putting the oral equivalent of acrylics they use on fake finger nails, around my tooth. She could double as a manicurist if she wanted to.
There you have it. All for 6,290 yen, or around $65. Why are we debating health insurance in America? Mind you, this price was out of pocket. I haven't even told my Japanese insurance about today yet. Unbelievable. I'm coming home with veneers.
The memoir is going to be great folks...