Saturday, October 30, 2021

Anguish and Serenity

The definition of anguish? Sitting in a car with your lower jaw full of pain, on the way to a hospital for a root canal.

The definition of serenity? Sitting in a car on your way back, root canal over, and realize that not only is the massive pain of the last few days completely gone; so is a low-key discomfort you've had for weeks without even realizing it.


After the successful root canal we felt like celebrating a little. This is Kumari Nepali Dining restaurant in Naha. It's a good place for lunch on a weekend.

I am immensely grateful for the existence of dentistry in general. I'm all for dental care in the abstract. And I know dentists are fine, upstanding people that do a world of good. But actually visiting a dentist is one of my least favorite activities of any kind.

Fortunately, modern dental treatments are far less uncomfortable than in my fevered imagination (or my distant childhood). My molar had gradually cracked under an old filling, infecting the root and finally killing it, at which point the infection spread to the lower jaw. I'd felt something was off for weeks at least (and, really, much longer). The acute pain probably started with the spread of the infection. 


Makeman is the major local DIY chain on Okinawa. The logo and character is famous; enough that Americans apparently refer to it as "the monkey store".


As the tooth was already dead, the dentist could remove the filling and trace the cracks down through the tooth without even a pain killer. I only needed a shot to remove part of one root that was still not completely gone. Modern tools and techniques are really gentle, and his bedside manner was immaculate: he explained each step as he was doing it and paced the work just right. In the end I never experienced any actual pain, and my anxiety melted away within the first ten minutes.

And for all that people complain about facets of living in Japan, I've yet to meet somebody who doesn't appreciate how good and how inexpensive a dentist is here. Dental care is a normal part of the regular health care system. An examination, x-rays, CT-scan, medication, and the actual root canal the next day cost me a total of about 6000 yen. That's about 50 dollars or 460 Swedish crowns. I'm not complaining.


Naha at sunset. It's a picture of an upside-down reflection in a canal, flipped to look like a straight shot. It makes a neat effect.


  1. Glad to hear things went well (in the end). I share the same basic fear of dentists, which has led me to postpone some things beyond the point where the issues could be easily fixed. I think I learned my lesson (at a high cost).

    I also find very interesting what you mentioned - a general unwell feeling. It's strange how dental health is impacting the rest of the body…

  2. I think this has been creeping up on me for quite a long time. The cracks certainly didn't look very recent. I've probably felt vaguely off for many weeks or months without realizing it.

    And yes, I've learned my lesson as well. Nowadays I do go whenever I realize there's a problem.

  3. Must be wonderful to live in a civilized society ;-)
    I don't fear the dentist, I fear the bill.. my last root canal and new tooth cost $5000 out of pocket, actual cost much higher. So I can't afford to visit the dentist any more..
    The extraction was done with a hammer and chisel under local anesthetic. The alternative was another $1500. I figured I could endure a bit of pain for that.

    The dental operation before that was $3000 to fix an abscess that had gone undetected for several years. I had high hopes this might help with the general malaise, but it didn't, pity.

    The other thing happening here in the USA is are many young dentists trying to pay off their college loans, so there's a strong incentive to upsell and find work to do. I have a dentist my age who is paid off, so he's willing to do just the required maintenance. The previous young dentist had a bold treatment plan, sketched out on my last visit, at about $6000 out of pocket. Three years later none of that has been necessary yet.

  4. US is of course famous for its dysfunctional medical system. Unfortunately many countries have decid5that dental care is something different - and less important - than other medical care. In my old country of Sweden I would have paid 10x or more what I paid for this treatment now.

    This doesn't make sense. Dental care is medical care. It's not a luxury; untreated dental issues can harm or kill you.


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