Filling a Sweet Tooth

The laser guided tool beeped. That can’t be a good thing can it? Beeping means it’s detected something. Nobody wants the dentist to find something worthy of beeping. Not if beeping is only a prelude to a more dreadful whirring, grinding noise.


No drilling.


At what number and above do you need to drill?


Phew indeed.


This time?



I am not, nor have I ever really been in possession of a sweet tooth. A salt and vinegar crisps tooth most certainly.  A beer tooth? Some might argue so. But, a sweet tooth? Never.

This was confirmed to me the other day when one of my favourite café’s changed its usual dining hours and I found myself tucking into decadently produced banana and nut pancakes in lieu of actual dinner. I might have slipped into a sugar induced coma in my seat had it not been for my teacher’s proclivity for caffeine beverages of all varieties. Instead the two joined forces and left me rather jittery instead.

The delivery system of my addiction.  Cheers Mum at

The delivery system of my addiction.
Cheers Mum at

So, as it turned out, this was to be my first actual filling not just in Japan but ever. This was not one of the many experiences I’d been dreaming of in the weeks before I first jetted out to Japan.

Golden Temples. Check.

Sushi. Check.

Dental procedures in a language that its own native speakers need rigorous instruction in?

Um, can I skip this part of the package tour please?

The dental nurse who usually takes care of me nipped off to consult with the dentist who almost immediately popped himself onto to a stool beside my chair. Quick chat, reassurance that it’d just be a little bit of drilling and so it wouldn’t hurt really. Fancy new stuff, no chunk of silvery stuff lodged in my jaw, done in twenty minutes, filling speed dried with some tiny heat lamp, towel over my face so the glare from the light above wouldn’t sting my eyes.

This doesn’t seem right to me; all this frosted glass, fancy technology, efficient service and punctuality. Maybe the fact that my local dentist feels a little bit like the shinkansen of dentistry shouldn’t surprise me as I do after all live in the land of the bullet train.

Yet, I don’t have to look far to find the reason I feel nonplussed by it all.

It used to look me right in the face, wipe snot on its shorts if not licking its nostrils clean and stunningly flash a set of gnashers that might cause one of the waxwork models at the Jorvik Viking centre to reconsider flossing.

Yes, otherwise adorable little munchkins who just occasionally try to ram a sly digit up your backside when you’re not watching them, often giggle and grin to reveal teeth utterly rotten and possibly harvested for use in pirate movies and historical accurate Dickensian drama.


I haven’t the faintest.

Dentists seem to be fairly plentiful. Adults and teenagers alike both make use of braces and eschew them in many cases where teenagers in the UK or US might be desperate for a reconstruction job. Supermarkets sell all manner of dental hygiene stuff and beautiful gleaming smiles assault me from advertising hoardings.

Maybe it’s just not seen to be a necessity by some folks.

Perhaps a perfect set of choppers isn’t an absolute requirement for a well-adjusted life after all.

Whatever the answer, I think I’ll just continue to enjoy the fine service as much as I can and simply do my best not to leap a mile when a four year old smiles at me like an intern at Fagin’s financial services.


6 responses to “Filling a Sweet Tooth

  1. Good one 🙂
    I’m in the process of changing my fillings. As a matter of fact, I have a dentist appointment today. I feel ya, bro 🙂
    It boggles my mind how such an advanced society like Japan can have that kind of lousy grasp on dental hygiene en masse… o.O

  2. Well, I think it’s more along the lines of why a large proportion of some societal groups can’t swim, cook etc. It’s ‘not learning’ passed on from generation to generation.

    Thanks for the comment D, hope you’re well!

  3. My experience of dentists here has been generally pretty good, but, as you say, sometimes when the kids I teach smile at me I wonder what the hell is going on with their teeth – blackened stumps and some that seem to be trying desperately to create a double-row tooth system. seems to be a huge increase in braces now though compared to ten years ago.

    • I’m certainly seeing some braces but considering the size of the place I work it’s statistically quite a low figure. But you’re right, it’s definitely becoming more common.

      I do like the fact that the kids don’t seem to care at all though!

  4. I’ve asked about the little kids with rotting teeth phenomenon at school and the response I got was that many parents see it as a waste of time and money to care for baby-teeth because “they just fall out anyway”. Obviously this leads to gum disease and no ingrained habit of oral hygiene that then has consequences for how those kids care for their adult teeth later on. It’s a good explanation but I do feel that there must be more to it than that.

    • I know what you mean. Just in trying to do the odd bit of research on what I thought would be a very well documented feature of Japanese life I really did hit a dead end quite quickly.

      Though, I think I got a similar response re: children’s teeth, too. Like you said, convincing but… hmmm.

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