Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Dentist in Tokyo

When was the last time you
had your teeth checked?
Update: (February 25th, 2012) A couple of people in the comments section have been to the clinic mentioned in this article since it was published, and it appears that the place now has new ownership. 

Lots of people are scared half to death of going to the dentist. The language barrier, the alleged tendency to draw treatments out over several visits, old school techniques (metal fillings)--all of these help ramp up the panic quotient when a non-Japanese feels that it's time to have a cleaning or a crown replaced.

But many expats in Japan wait until it's too late and the throbbing pain has spread from the lower hinge of the jaw to the upper. Count me as one of those people. I needed a root canal and quick, and I'm happy to report that I guessed correctly the first time on my choice of surgeon.

Dr. Naoko Freeman runs a dental clinic near Nishieifuku station on the Inokashira line between Meidaimae and Kichijoji stations.

The bit about treatments being drawn out over several treatments appears to be true, at least when Japanese health insurance is involved. But worries about communication (English and Japanese) and prehistoric equipment do not come into play.

The clinic is clean, modern,
simple and comfortable.
Here's how my treatment went:

Visit number one was on short notice. I was x-rayed, had my molar hollowed out and temporarily sealed, and sent on my way within 40 minutes.

The second visit was to check to make sure that the infection was completely gone and to replace the temporary filling with a slightly more robust cap. On my way in less than 30 minutes.

My third visit to see Dr. Freeman was over in about 15 minutes. More x-rays were included in this visit to make sure that the bottom part of the filling wasn't going to cause any problems. An impression was taken so the good folks at the lab could fashion a filling for me.

The fourth visit was when the ceramic filling was put into place and I was given the all-clear to eat hard food on the right side of my mouth again. The ceramic filling, which looks quite natural I must say, was not covered by national health insurance and the fourth visit cost me about ¥30,000. I actually paid for it ahead of time (at the end of my third visit), so I didn't pay anything when I went in for the fourth time.

I also went back a fifth time to have a couple of far smaller problem areas treated, but this was not related to the tooth that brought me there in the first place. This took about 30 minutes and cost less than ¥2,500 with insurance. Some of the visits cost less than ¥1,500.

Overall, I was impressed with the speed and professionalism of the dental services provided by Dr. Freeman and her staff. Communication is not an issue as the secretary can handle emergency calls, appointments and administration quite easily in English. Dr. Freeman herself spent part of her dentistry training in Australia, and is quite fluent in the English language.

Dr. Freeman's clinic can handle all of the regular cleaning, crown and filling procedures as well as root canals and other more invasive treatments. Her clinic also administers teeth-whitening procedures.

My one quibble is with the drawn-out nature of the treatment for my primary dental issue. I'm pretty sure that it would have been completed in fewer than four visits in other parts of the world although I do appreciate Dr. Freeman's desire to make sure that no bacteria from the root-hugging cavity had managed to survive the initial stages of treatment.

And I can't complain too much about the price. I've heard that it's possible to get a lot more dental work done at a clinic if you don't use national health insurance, but you pay heftily for such efficiency. As mentioned earlier, my most recent treatment in which two small areas of concern were drilled and sealed cost less than ¥2,500. Personally, I'm reasonably content to take the slow approach to dental therapy if the cost is going to be so low. I have no idea what such a treatment would cost in the states, but I imagine it's several times what I paid.

For those with easy access to the Inokashira Line in western Tokyo (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Meidaimae and Kichijoji stations are the major transfer stations in that area), Dr. Freeman's Nisheifuku clinic is recommended.

The clinic is the second door on the left after
reaching the second floor of the building.
Call 03-5378-2228 for an appointment.

Website here.

Tips: Nishieifuku is a local train stop. In other words, if you take a train from Kichijoji or transfer at Meidaimae, make sure that you catch a local (kakuekiteisha).

The map (scraped from the clinic's website) mentions a photo shop as a landmark (across the street from Lawson). However, that building has been demolished. Accurate as of November 2010.

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