Dentists in Japan are looking down in the mouth these days because of the vast number of complaints they are receiving from their patients that they are charging too much for their services.
Dentists in Japan are looking down in the mouth these days because of the vast number of complaints they are receiving from their patients that they are charging too much for their services. The basic problem is that the insurance companies have set the premiums covering dental treatment too low. With inflation forcing costs up and up, dentists are finding that they cannot carry out treatment within those limits.
Consumer groups have complained that many dentists are taking advantage of the situation and charging exorbitant fees for treatment. In Japan's capital city Tokyo, some dentists are charging a great deal more than the insurance companies are willing to cover under policies.
A housewives consumer group has opened an office to monitor complaints about dental treatment. The telephone never stopped ringing, and they received 842 letters in a week. Among the complaints was one from a housewife who had been asked to pay GBP2,000 (about 4,800 dollars) for a set of artificial teeth.
In addition the problems of patients are aggravated by the fact that Japan is short of dentists. Some patients have to wait a year before receiving treatment. The Japanese Dental Association estimates that one million six hundred thousand people wanting treatment ring dentists every day.
However, one enterprising travel agency has thought up one way of helping to solve the problems of frustrated patients. The firm has been organizing week-long tours of Taiwan which includes a visit to the dentist. The scheme has proved an instant success, and the trips are booked up immediately they are announced.
Most of the Taiwanese dentists who treat the "toothache tourists" graduated from the Medical School at Tokyo University. They sign a special contract with the travel firm to treat all the patients' requirements within the five days they are on the island.
The costs of dental treatment in Taipei are about a tenth of those in Japan. An old aged pensioner for example, can have a full set of artificial teeth made in Taiwan for only GBP130 (about 310 dollars), compared to GBP2,000 (about 4,800 dollars) in Tokyo. Yet under the travel firm's scheme, all this is thrown in for the price of a GBP200 (about 480 dollars) ticket.