Japanese dentists here help keep countrymen smiling
THERE are 15 dentists and up to 30 doctors practising here who can legitimately turn away all Singaporean patients and treat only Japanese nationals.
In fact, that is all they are allowed to do.
They, too, are Japanese, and are here under a special agreement between the two countries which also allows seven Singaporean doctors and two dentists to work in Japan.
The Singaporeans are under restricted practice and can treat only non-Japanese patients.
Japan is the only country Singapore has such an agreement with. According to its embassy, there are more than 30,000 Japanese living here.
The Raffles Medical Group has three clinics with Japanese doctors.
Aesthete Smilestudio at Clifford Centre has two Japanese dentists and demand for their services is strong, according to their supervisor, Thean Tsin Pao.
All Japanese doctors and dentists here have to work under supervision as their qualifications are not recognised in Singapore.
Dr Thean used to treat some Japanese patients who worked in Shenton Way and had a poor command of English.
He said that, even after they had nodded to indicate their understanding of his explanations, he found that they actually had no idea what he was saying. Such patients are therefore better served by dentists fluent in Japanese.
The two dentists working at Aesthete Smilestudio are both women and have partners working here. Both are paid the same rate as local dentists.
Between them, they look after more than 2,000 Japanese patients. The clinic also employs a Japanese receptionist.
Nijamuddeen Abdul Latiff, who supervises M. Adachi at AOMS Japanese Dental in Wheelock Place, said demand for services is so strong that he has been trying to get a second Japanese dentist for over a year.
But the quota in Singapore has been filled and his application is on a waiting list.
Dr Adachi said demand for dental services from the Japanese community is so strong that he often has to extend his opening hours - from 8.15am to 6.15pm - by another hour or two.
He often skips lunch too. He said: "Many patients recommend me to friends and acquaintances, and I try to accept them all."
Dr Adachi came here a decade ago. He had been studying at Osaka University when a clinic approached the institution seeking a dentist, and he was recommended by his professor.
He has since settled here with his family, but would like to find another Japanese dentist for the clinic so he can take time off for a holiday.
Patrick Tseng, Singapore's chief dental officer, said the Japanese Embassy has not asked for the number of Japanese dentists here to be raised.