Mixed Nuts and Japanese Healthcare



I paid a visit to a dental clinic in Japan for the first time recently and as someone born in the USA this experience was quite an eye-opener. Two nights ago I was chewing on some mixed nuts and bit into a petrified rock-like corn kernel that knocked a plastic resin filling out of one of my molars (lol).

I found a clinic on Google Maps and drove over. I was surprised at how modern even the lobby looked and was seen within 10 or 15 minutes. The dentist seemed very professional and all of the equipment was very high-tech. Next to the chair was a high-res screen that displayed x-ray images taken by a handheld imaging device that didn’t require the dentist to leave the room or have me wear any led body armor. Noises were made from all of these kind machines that made me feel like I had time traveled into the future.

The dentist pulled up CG videos on the high-res screen attached to the chair that showed from different angles what he needed to do to get me back to eating my petrified corn kernels and made things very easy to understand. Everything was done like clockwork and his assistants functioned like appendages of the same being, clearly understanding everything that was taking place and requiring surprisingly little need for any verbal communication.

There was a time for a little Q&A in a separate consultation room afterwards and I left with confidence. Of course, everything was covered by insurance.

It felt great that I had received prompt and excellent treatment, but I also left feeling/remembering that when it comes to healthcare, the USA is the laughing stock of the world.

I have a reputation with family and friends in the US for hating trips to the dentist, but the hatred for this experience is often misunderstood. I’m fine with pain and don’t mind the eerie experience of getting bone drilled into and hearing/smelling teeth getting ground down inside my face. What I hate is the feeling that I can’t do this myself and have to trust another individual that they are looking out for my best interests. In the USA, with dentistry and any other medical procedure, there is always the questions of A: How much things will cost, B: How necessary the procedure is, and C: How much money is being made off of you. People without insurance don’t ask these questions at all because they aren’t even able to get treatment.

Today was the first time in my life that I didn’t have to feel the fear that a dentist was conducting unnecessary or excessive measures to make a profit off of me. I didn’t feel like my body was being exploited for money or that this could be an opportunity even if the dentist wanted it to be. I had with this complete stranger a level of trust that takes years of seeking to find in the US, because in countries where the medicine is socialized this trust can be taken for granted. I’d shopped around for a few different dentists in VA and NYC, and most of them claimed that the opinions that the other dentist had given me was ridiculous and that *they* were the ones that were right. I mentioned this to the dentist today and he threw me a telling look and said that he’s well aware of the troubles with our system.

I look at our military expansion (nothing against our service members themselves) and other areas that we prioritize over the health of our people and just feel like we have everything ass-backwards. Compared to countries with actual socialized medicine like Japan, Obamacare felt like a scam that just required people to take part in our profit-based system rather than providing a truly socialized system that has the funding it deserves. It’s often used as a strawman for why socialized medicine doesn’t/didn’t work, but it wasn’t socialized to begin with. I hope that within our lifetimes the US will be able to pry itself from the hold of corporate healthcare and the delusion that Americans have it better than the rest of the world, because they most absolutely do not.

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