schematic of a toothWhat is wrong with Japanese dentists? I have been living here for five years, and I’m already on my third dentist. and now it seems I need a fourth! I am not complaining about the work they are doing, it’s not as if I could judge that anyway. My teeth are functional, and they do not hurt, so I guess they are fine from a technical professional point of view.

The problem is that they appear to have serious troubles with ethical behaviour towards their patients. Let’s examine the evidence provided by my three dentists:

The first one I went to went with me into the tiny X-ray room, and while putting the lead apron on me said: “You are a beautiful woman”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those #metoo crazed women who scream sexual harassment at every corner and would now need 15 years of therapy to get over this incident. I like men, and I like receiving compliments. However, I don’t like getting them in an inappropriate situation like this, where I am not free to respond in any way I might wish to. I let dentist #1 fix the broken tooth and did not return.

The second one I went to – an expensive private doctor – loved his “treatment plans”. You would go there with a problem, and after having a close look at it he would come up with a written, English (!) treatment plan that you had to sign before he would start the procedure. Nothing wrong with that – if you have the possibility to decline. Which there wasn’t. Because once he had handed you your personalised treatment plan with your name on it plus a pen, the doctor would leave you in charge of his assistant, who barely spoke English and couldn’t really answer any follow-up questions. I signed one treatment plan, but did not let me bully into agreeing to another one.

When I found the third one, he seemed to be quite alright, and I have gone there for several procedures. The only annoying thing was that everything took at least three visits, but that’s a minor thing. The last time I went, I had another broken tooth requiring an inlay. I also told him that I had lost a filling a while ago and that I wanted this one fixed too. he looked at it and said it was an easy “drill & fill” job. First of all, I had to more or less force him to it on y third visit instead of having to come again. And what I got was this: A new filling replacing the lost one. Plus a replacement for the filling of a neighboring tooth that had nothing wrong with it other than being made of a type of metal he does not approve of. I did not ask for that. I was not asked about it, either.

So: What is wrong with Japanese dentists?

I believe these three instances are serious ethical issues: sexual harassment, bullying, unwanted procedures. Has “informed consent” not trickled through to Japan just yet? I cannot go to a dentist – or any other doctor for that matter – whom I cannot trust to put MY interests first, after all, this is MY body. How come these people can keep working in the long run? Am I the only patient with these experiences? Am I the only one to complain?