It is now more than half a century since Dr. John Besford from Britain opened his dental office in the Masonic Building, Tokyo. When the property was demolished, he moved his practice to the new Mori Building 32 nearby. His facilities were remodeled as the Tokyo Clinic Dental Office.
Dr. Hirokazu Enatsu was not in the Masonic Building or the Mori Building during its first years. He is too young. He was appointed to the Tokyo Clinic Dental Office a dozen years ago. Since then he has earned a good name for his understanding and sympathetic handling of patients and his technical skills.
The last of 10 siblings, he was brought up in bilingual surroundings in Okinawa. From Japanese primary school there, he went on to attend a church high school. Then his thoughts turned to America. “For university, there were few options for us to get to Tokyo,” he said. “We looked to the U.S. or Europe.” He applied to the University of California, Los Angeles, and was accepted.
He studied engineering. He said: “At the same time I had the opportunity to work with the Advanced Research Project Agency computer network, at the initial stage of Internet development. My father instilled in me the realization that I needed to work for my scholarship. Then I worked as facility manager at the international student center at UCLA. That was a case of foreign students helping foreign students financially, with the teaching of English and over cultural differences. It was very interesting, with students from many different cultural backgrounds. I tried my best, as always.” His scholastic best resulted in his graduating with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, summa cum laude.
At that stage, Enatsu needed some dental care. “I went as a patient to a dental school,” he said. “I had many chances to talk to the dentists, and I thought dentistry was something I could do. Admission to dental school was very competitive, and I hesitated to apply. I was living with a host family who said to me, ‘How do you know you won’t be accepted by the UCLA School of Dentistry?’ “
Enatsu found himself launched into a “completely different type of study from engineering, using visualization rather than logic. In my second year I began to feel I was on the same level as everyone else. I liked working with my hands.” In 1980 he became a doctor of dental surgery, and received his California dental license. Qualified in the U.S., he had to get a new license when he returned to Japan. That took another two years.
Enatsu had yet to cope with the difference in practice between the U.S. and Japan. Near his home in Hachioji, he found a medical clinic that allowed him to practice dentistry in the way he was trained, and in the way he wanted. “It was a good experience. I developed my own skill. But then I was very happy when I was asked to work at the Tokyo Clinic Dental Office. I think with my background the international community is best for me.”
Initially Enatsu continued part-time his Hachioji practice. “I had to make a decision, and decided to concentrate,” he said. “My reason was wanting to have some time to continue my education and take extra courses.” Recently he was able to go to Chicago to take an endodontic technique course with the microscope — root canal procedures. He said: “Technique has changed quite dramatically in the last five years. I needed to do a little bit more to keep up to date.” At UCLA again he studied occlusion for aesthetic dentistry. “As people get older, it is the dentist’s job to help them keep their teeth longer in a better shape,” he said. “I study how to keep teeth from deteriorating, and how to make them prettier.”
A group of Japanese dentists has asked Enatsu to lecture them on what he had learned in the States. “I am very happy if I can share,” he said. “They are interested in the practical side, hands-on lectures. I need to have my own thoughts clear, and I use slides and X-rays. If the Japanese dentists benefit, that makes me feel good.”
He hopes the Tokyo Clinic Dental Office will build itself as a unit of specialists able to deal with every dental requirement. For himself, as a member of the American Dental Association he wants to be able “to do a lot more courses, trying to catch up before I get too old,” he said.