Life in a day – Japan

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We begin a new series on dentistry around the world commissioned by Eschmann. First we visit Dr Hitomi Hayashi in Tokyo

Dr Hitomi Hayashi, D.D.S., Clinical Director at Hitomi Dental Office in Japan, reviews a typical day at her practice.

I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and studied dentistry at Nippon Dental University where I received my D.D.S. degree. I then undertook further training at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, Michigan and The University of British Columbia Faculty of Dentistry in Vancouver, Canada. Having completed my education, I worked at three dental clinics before eventually opening Hitomi Dental Office in Tokyo in November 2013.

At Hitomi Dental Office we have a staff of four bilingual (English/Japanese) dentists and offer a comprehensive range of dental specialties, including:

• Preventative dentistry

• Orthodontics

• cosmetic procedures

• prosthetics, oral surgery, periodontics

• restorative dentistry

• crown and bridges

• TMJ treatment.

Infection control
In Japan, all dental practices are inspected by the Government at opening, and after one year of practicing, plus all clinicians are required to have an annual medical assessment. As the owner of the practice, I am ultimately responsible for everyone and everything in the clinic, and this includes the infection control procedures.
When it comes to infection control, you may implement the very latest equipment, however if a strict protocol is not adhered to then infection control will not be as effective. We always make sure to stringently adhere to the protocols that have been put in place to guarantee effective disinfection and sterilisation. New products that help with this are always being introduced, and in our practice, we make every effort to utilise the latest innovations to remain as up-to-date and compliant as possible.

All Japanese clinics must comply with the regulations as set forth by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and all devices must be used and stored in line with the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act (PMD Act). At Hitomi Dental Office, a great majority of the equipment we use is disposable, which means that the risk of cross contamination is much lower. Those that aren’t disposable are treated with a very effective high pressure, high temperature sterilization procedure to ensure they are pristine and that the highest standards of clinical hygiene are reached.

Our patients
On a normal day we are open from 10:30 to 19:00, Monday to Saturday and might see between 15 and 30 patients. However, because of the nature of our client base, we usually take patients up until 20:00. This means that our infection control protocols and procedures are essential as we see so many patients throughout each day.
Since we opened, our client portfolio has grown to over 450 patients and although we do treat patients from outside Japan, they are mostly those who used to live here or who are visiting – and the majority of our remaining patients are from the local area.
Many international patients in Japan will have Japanese Health Insurance. Check-ups and x-rays, along with some smaller treatments will be covered by this; however, orthodontics, cosmetics and more complex procedures will not be, so it is necessary to explain such issues to our patients, which can be a challenge. A times it can be difficult to provide high quality care within the Japanese health insurance system, as it does not always offer the flexibility to be able to provide the best preventative care and does not cover more advanced dental materials and procedures.

Public awareness
At Hitomi Dental Office, our patients naturally come to follow a program of good dental care – check-ups, cleaning and treatment – being able to communicate in English, in a stress-free atmosphere, all without pain is a an important factor.

The attitude and public perception towards dentistry in Japan is changing. As more dentists are providing services that improve the dental health and appearance of patients’ teeth, the profession is starting to have a better reputation than before. Of course, no one likes to go to the dentist but that does not mean dentists should not try to make patients feel relaxed and suffer little or no pain. More and more women are becoming dentists as well, which has helped with the profession’s reputation in Japan. The increased scrutiny and focus on infection control, decontamination and sterilization also helps, as patients can see that the profession takes these areas very seriously.