More positive experiences with Japanese health care

Regular readers know that I have national health insurance here, which, depending on who you talk to, is either rare or common for American and other foreign expats.

This month, I felt it was time for a dental checkup, so I made my way down to a local clinic that had recently opened up a brand new office.

I really just wanted a cleaning, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. But the dentist there actually gave me the full exam, with a full X-ray. I don’t know about back home, but here nowadays these are ultra high tech, and you see the result within minutes.

For the exam, X-ray and cleaning, the total cost was 3,420 yen. So about $37.

My dentist back in New Jersey was very good, but I have to say I am also impressed with dentistry here. The one caveat is finding cavities.

The tendency for dentists here is to find “cavities” that are more likely tooth discoloration. Now, I am fairly certain I have one cavity. But I got told I had five. And what this is going to mean is that I’m going to have to visit another dentist I’ve used in the past (one that went to the University of Pennsylvania dental school) to tell me if it’s really a cavity.

I think, here, dentists drill tooth discoloration. And why I’m personally not comfortable with that is that it’s not really decay. It may become decay someday, and it may not. I’ve had a spot on a molar for 20 years—it hasn’t become a cavity yet.

When the dental work is relatively inexpensive out-of-pocket, I think many people say, “OK, drill”. I’d rather get a second opinion. I’d rather have someone catch something, and then me double check with someone else, than not know. The last time I had that situation, the “cavities” weren’t there—and one of those purported ones from 2007 weren’t included in the 2010 bunch.

My second good experience was once again up at Tokai Daiguku Byouin (Tokai University Hospital). As a follow-up to last month’s visit, I got to have my right foot examined. As Hoofin, I naturally walk a lot, and in recent times it’s been with a bit of irritation.

So, my foot got a thorough examination (cost: 1,200 yen or $13). As it went, it looks like a muscle problem where I have to start doing the towel exercise to train that muscle on the bottom of my foot–I forget the name, plantar something. A localized X-ray showed no significant skeletal problems, but if I understood the doctor correctly, there may be some evidence of an old injury from my law school days that went undiscovered and untreated in our so-called great “free country” medical system because I couldn’t afford the deductible at the time.

People can argue with me until they’re blue in the face about “socialized medicine”, but my view is that the Japanese health care system is great.

[3/5/15:   Five years on, there is another twist to this story.   The foot problem is in the spine.  I wonder, if I had stayed in Japan after 2010, how the story of finding a solution to this ailment would have played out.  The years I wasn’t covered in America (2011, 2012, most of 2013), may turn out to be critical, if this was a problem of long-running spine irritation.]