Guide to Going to the Dentist in Japan

Going to the dentist may be a stressful experience, especially in a foreign country. You may have concerns about the language barrier, finding the right dentist and getting the most affordable treatment. In this guide, we will cover all the information you will need to know about going to the dentist in Japan, as well as key vocabulary words and expressions that are commonly used in such situations.

Jump to:

Before Going to a Dentist in Japan

Search “歯科クリニック” (shika kurinikku) or dental clinic to find the closest one to you. If you need a more specialized procedure, you can search for “歯列矯正” (Shiretsu kyousei) or orthodontist. You can also try searching “dentist” in English. Make sure to do some research on dental clinics so you can find a reputable clinic. There are over 65,000 dental clinics in Japan so chances are you will find one near you, even if you aren’t in the center of Tokyo. Dentists are usually small practices with a couple of main dentists and a few hygienists to assist and or do oral cleaning, which usually takes half an hour. 

You can also ask Japanese friends, colleagues or neighbors for recommendations. Also, you can check your municipality’s website and they may have a list of English-speaking dentists in the area. You can also call your local international center to ask for recommendations. 

Recently most dental offices offer online booking services. Once you have made an online reservation, you’ll get an email to confirm your booking. A day or so before your appointment you should get a text or confirmation email to remind you of your visit. You can also call to book an appointment. 

Make sure to bring your insurance card, or 保険証 (hokensho) and cash, although some dentists accept credit cards. The dentist will usually take an X-ray during your first visit, even if it’s just a regular check-up, so if you bring cash, bring at least ¥5,000. 

Arriving at a Japanese Dentist

On the day of your appointment try to arrive at the clinic a few minutes ahead of your appointment time. Your appointment may be canceled if you are more than a few minutes late, particularly in urban areas or during busy periods, so try to arrive early.

Find the 受付 or uketsuke (reception) and tell the receptionist that you’re there for a checkup. 

健診をお願いします。
Kenshin o onegaishimasu.
I’m here for a checkup.

They will ask you if you made an appointment and if it’s your first time there. 

予約はありますか?
Yoyaku wa arimasuka?
Do you have an appointment?

初めてですか?
Hajimete desu ka?
Is this your first time here?

はい。初めてです。
Hai. Hajimete desu.
Yes, this is my first time.

They will ask for your name and your health insurance card if you are a resident of Japan. Then they will give you a clipboard to fill out in the seating area. English-speaking dentists will often have an English version, too. The form will ask for personal information such as your name, date of birth, address and contact details in addition to more specific questions about your dental health, such as whether you have had any discomfort or pain recently, past procedures, allergies and how you heard about the particular clinic.

The questionnaire will most likely ask you about the following:

名前・生年月日・性別・年齢
Namae, seinengappi, seibetsu, nenrei
Name, birth date, gender, age

現在服用中の薬
Genzai fukuyouchuu no kusuri
Medications you are currently taking

妊娠している・していない
Ninshin shite iru, shite inai
Pregnant or not pregnant

アレルギー
Aruregii
Allergies

Seeing the Dentist in Japan

After filling out the form, return it to the receptionist then wait until the hygienist or dentist is ready to see you. Dentists in Japan have open-plan rooms with three or four dentist chair setups around the room and curtains in between. Dentists and hygienists will move freely around the room between chair setups. 

If you have any concerns, describe your symptoms and conditions to your dentist using the following expressions:

歯が痛いでんす.
Ha ga itain desu.
I have a toothache

虫歯があります.
Mushiba ga arimasu.
I have a cavity.

ここが痛いんです。 .
Koko ga itain desu.
It hurts here.

歯並びが悪いので、矯正をしたいです。
Hanarabi ga warui node kyousei shitai desu.
My teeth are crooked, so I would like them corrected.

矯正器のブラケットが外れました。
Kyouseiki no buraketto ga hazuremashita.
The bracket to my braces came off.

詰め物の1つが取れました.
Tsumemono no hitsu ga toremashita
One of my fillings came out.

歯が欠けています。
Ha ga kakete imasu.
My tooth is chipped.

歯茎が出血をしています。
Haguki ga shukketsu o shite imasu.
My gums are bleeding.

ホワイトニングしたいです。
Howaitoningu shitaidesu.sd
I want my teeth whitened.

dentist japan

Getting Your Teeth Treated in Japan

First, you’ll be asked to rinse your mouth with mouthwash then spit into the cuspidor. Then, the hygienist or dentist will start checking your teeth. Good dentists will also prick your gums to check for inflammation levels, then tell you if you should start flossing more. Before that, dentists will take an X-ray of your teeth if it’s your first visit. After that, they will start cleaning your teeth. Dentists may offer you a lap blanket if there is colder weather and a small lined box to place your glasses or accessories that might get in the way.  

Dentists in Japan also place a small towel over your eyes to keep the light out of your eyes. This means you can relax a bit more without having to make awkward eye contact with the dentist or feel uncomfortable wearing sunglasses, which some dentists offer their patients to wear in other countries. 

One difference between dentists and Japan and your home country may be the reluctance to use more anesthetics than is deemed “necessary” for a dental procedure. It’s more common to use laughing gas or other sedatives during routine dental care. A root canal, wisdom teeth removal or other potentially painful treatments may only warrant the use of localized anesthesia to the tooth being drilled and not the gums surrounding it. Furthermore, you may not receive local anesthesia for subsequent visits, even if there will be more drilling. Since the root has already been removed, they assume you shouldn’t feel any pain. Those with sensitive teeth, however, may experience what’s called “referred pain,” which is the main source of horror stories about dentists in Japan.

Not all dentists operate this way, however, since overseas-educated dentists, those familiar with more Western standards of dental care and those who treat many non-Japanese patients will make sure you’re comfortably anesthetized before a procedure.

Another difference you may find with Japanese dental clinics is that visits are often kept short, usually 20–30 minutes and you may be asked to come in for multiple visits even for a single root canal treatment. Root canals typically require at least two visits, one for the initial drilling and a follow-up to check that the tooth has not become infected. Before any dental procedure, make sure to discuss with your dentist how many visits are expected to be required for your treatment. If you find the number excessive, you may want to get a second opinion elsewhere as long as your tooth pain is not too severe to delay treatment.

Many dentists in Japan will do a little bit at a time, asking you to come back for 3-4 short sessions, but some offer 45-60-minute sessions instead of quick 20-30-minute walk-ins. You can speed up the process by letting them know that you would like everything done as fast as possible. Dentists that require reservations, however, will usually get everything done at once, so you don’t need to worry about making multiple visits for a simple root canal. 

After your visit, you may receive a letter from the dentist in three to six months inviting you to come for another checkup. 

Scared to visit a hospital in Japan? Check out this cheat sheet to learn hospital-related vocabulary and boost your confidence in Japanese! 

Extra Tip for Tooth Care in Japan

As an extra tip to prevent more frequent dentist visits, make sure that your toothpaste has fluoride to protect your enamel, since Japanese toothpaste doesn’t typically contain fluoride, a mineral commonly found in toothpaste in other countries. It’s even added to the public water in many countries. Look out for the phrase フッ素 on the packaging. Of course, you can also ask your friends and relatives from your home country to send your favorite toothpaste over. 

English-speaking Dentists in Japan

If you search “English-speaking dentists” along with the name of your neighborhood, you’ll find plenty of options in urban areas like Tokyo, such as the Tokyo Midtown Dental Clinic in Roppongi, Ryo Dental Clinic in Hatchobori, United Dental Clinic in Roppongi and Trust Dental Clinic in Shibuya. It may be more difficult to find outside of Tokyo. 

How Much Does it Cost to Visit a Dentist in Japan?

National health insurance covers 70% of the dental fee–the same as in other establishments. For your first visit, you can expect to pay around ¥3,500 for an initial check-up or cleaning session. Any necessary follow-up work will cost about half of that amount or less. 

However, national health insurance only covers necessary dental treatments, such as cavities, root canals, cleanings, checkups and any medication. In addition, there are different levels within these procedures. Even if a root canal is medically necessary, for example, insurance may only cover the most basic filling and cap, such as the silver crown. It will be more expensive to get a white, shaded ceramic inlay fitted by a specialist. Braces are always considered an elective treatment, so it’s not covered by national insurance. Braces, including Invisalign, cost at least ¥1,000,000. Other types of elective dental treatment include cosmetic treatment and orthodontics, such as tooth whitening, implants and specialist teeth cleaning. Whitening, depending on whether you want a home kit or in-chair treatment, costs anywhere from ¥5,000 to ¥60,000. Dentures and false teeth/implants also cost a great deal of money. 

Also, not all cavity fillings are covered by health insurance. The most common types of fillings in Japan are amalgam fillings (金属), composite fillings (プラスチック) and ceramic fillings (セラミック). Amalgam fillings are the cheapest and always covered by insurance. Composite fillings are also usually covered by insurance and are usually the preferred option, but are slightly more expensive. Ceramic fillings are not covered by insurance and are extremely expensive.

You can tell them you want the cheapest procedure by saying: 

一番安く治療したいです。
Ichiban yasui chiryou shitai desu.
I want the least expensive treatment.

Or that you want to get the treatment done soon:

なるべく早めに治療を終えたいです。
Narubeku hayame ni chiryou o oetaidesu.
I want to complete my treatment as soon as possible.

While most dentists allow you to use health insurance, some, usually English-speaking dentists, don’t accept it. This means you’ll have to pay for everything from X-rays to numbing injections and more out of pocket. They usually have their prices listed on their website, so make sure to check prices before you visit. 

If you’d like to ask if the procedure is covered by insurance over the phone or at the receptionist’s desk, ask: 

これは私の保険でカバーされますか?
Kore wa watashi no hoken de kabaa saremasuka?
Is this covered under my insurance?

Conclusion

All in all, don’t be afraid to visit the dentist in Japan, since you can take advantage of national health insurance as a resident to receive affordable, high-quality care, depending on the procedure. Japanese dentists also have a reputation for being professional and accessible, so there’s no need to worry about receiving inadequate care if you do your research. 

Is going to the dentist covered by the National Health Insurance in Japan?

National health insurance covers 70% of the dental fee–the same as in other establishments. For your first visit, you can expect to pay around ¥3,500 for an initial check-up or cleaning session. Any necessary follow-up work will cost about half of that amount or less. However, national health insurance only covers necessary dental treatments, such as cavities, root canals, cleanings, checkups and any medication

How do you make a dentist appointment in Japan?

Many dentists, or haisha (歯医者), in Japan are by appointment only. You should call your dentist or make an online reservation before you show up.

Do you need Japanese skill to go to a dentist in Japan?

Generally, yes, but if you live in Tokyo, you will find more English-speaking dentists for foreigners. If not, we recommend you bring a translator or Japanese friend to help you fill out the forms and consult with the dentist.

If you would like to learn Japanese and speak fluently, we recommend taking part-time or intensive Japanese courses at Coto Academy. Our school focuses on practical skills and conversation training, which will help you get by daily activities in Japan confidently. Get a free lesson consultation today.

As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any queries.


Would you like to study Japanese in Japan?


Realize your dream of moving to Japan and becoming fluent in Japanese.

Move to Japan