Dental Care in Japan

I found an interesting piece by Kevin Rafferty in The Japan Times Online from June 15, 2011, titled “A dentist need not be a masked demon.” The article is located here http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20110615a1.html

The article gives an inside look into recent developments in dentistry with a particular focus on Japan but the principals and message apply globally.

The main focus on the article centers around a report soon to be published in both English and Japanese titled “Guideline for treating caries following a minimal intervention policy, an evidence and consensus based study.” The report was conducted by Mikako Hayashi of Osaka University Graduate School of Dentistry and her committee in which 18 months was spent conducting research.

Some notabled quotes from the article by Kevin Rafferty include

“Recent advances in dentistry include recognition that teeth, if properly treated, regularly cleaned and cared for with a healthy diet, have self-healing properties, so that drilling and filling of teeth showing signs of decay should be a last, rather than a first, resort.”

Mikako Hayashi adds

“…I tell my students to pretend they are feathers when using drills: Be gentle and avoid deep digging…By the same token, deep drilling of teeth and filling with old fashioned metal inlays and crowns may be the sure way to hasten their loss. Drilling deeply weakens the vital tooth structure and may inflict lasting damage on the prospects of preserving the pulp that is the core of the living tooth. Excavating and filling locks the teeth into a potentially vicious downward spiral when the fillings fail and the dentist drills deeper.”

The article provides insights into dentistry in Japan noting that students graduating from dental school in Japan have limited experience with real patients and practicing minimal intervention.

Yasuko Momoi from Tsurumi University who was the chairperson of the panel for the evidence based report adds

“The dental profession is not a business, but should be based on a conscientious sense of duty. We have a treaty with God, Buddha, Mohammed or Christ to respect people, in accordance with the Hippocratic Oath. In Japan, dentistry is based on the concept of public salvation; in the U.S. of individual salvation.”

I am interested in seeing this report and was very impressed by Kevin’s article. He does have a unique perspective though as he is married to Mikako Hayashi. At the end of the article are many tips laid out to improve Japan’s dental system.

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