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Better living through dentistry - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Better living through dentistry
I'm registered with the only dentist within about 25 miles who claimed to take new NHS patients.

They did a checkup and an xray, and a few days after the xray they phoned to tell me that I needed a filling. (Bummer, thought I, I nearly made it to 30 without needing any fillings.)

So I went in for the filling, and when I was on the chair with my mouth propped open they asked if I wanted the NHS filling (mercury filling, lots of drilling under anaesthetic, painful, unsightly grey lump in the tooth, cost = £45) or the private filling (non-mercury, very little drilling, painless, invisible, cost = £70). I opted for the invisible/painless option, which took about 5 seconds of drilling and 2 seconds of holding some kind of instrument against my tooth (I'd been told to close my eyes so I have no idea what).

After that was done, the dentist showed me the xray and said that there was another 'shadow' visible on the xray and I might need another filling. "It's only a very slight shadow, you probably won't even be able to see it," they told me, pointing at a completely blank bit of xray. They were right. They took another xray from a different angle and said they'd phone me back if anything showed up.

Surprise surprise, they reckon I need to pay them another £70. This feels like a phenomenal ripoff; for all I know, they are inventing these 'fillings' out of thin air. They can't provide any evidence except a blank space on an xray where they claim to be able to see something. Now obviously being able to spot things that mere mortals wouldn't spot on a postage-stamp-sized xray is the sort of thing that one might get from 7+ years of training to be a dentist. But they're certainly not inspiring me with confidence.

The 'drilling' is apparently only a tiny bit (no pun intended) on the surface of the tooth, so the 'filling' must only be the merest cat's whisker of the dental equivalent of polyfilla. I've always taken the view that teeth are worth protecting; but, if I was being completely cynical, I would point out that it is hardly rocket science to work out that people of my age a) were probably brought up to take this view of toothcare, b) probably feel slightly guilty about not brushing seven times a day and not using all the available tooth-cleaning technology, so can probably be persuaded that the fault is theirs, and c) have a reasonable amount of disposable cash.

I don't think there's any way I can get a second opinion without paying outrageous amounts of cash to some other private dentist; there simply are no NHS dentists in the area (and of course you still have to pay for checkups even on the NHS). Of course, they know that, too.

But if I just told them I didn't want to have it done, then a) they'd kick me off their books (they'll only take NHS patients in the first place if their teeth are okay) and b) I'd feel as though my teeth were a ticking time bomb in my mouth. Maybe £140 isn't too much to pay for peace of mind. But it still leaves me feeling as though my mouth is full of snake-oil.
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Comments
From: rgl Date: November 1st, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could be wrong, but I don't think that going to see a dentist privately - as opposed to being an NHS patient - is actually that much more expensive, which might give you a wider choice of dentists. As you've already noticed, many of the things you actually have done during an appointment cost money anyway, so I'm really not sure what the difference is. I'm registered with a dentist privately (because I wanted to go to a dentist near my work rather than near my house), and they seemed to charge me a mixture of NHS and private rates at my only appointment with them to date.
nja From: nja Date: November 1st, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I pay £30 for an amalgam filling at my private dentist. I would prefer to be with an NHS dentist if all other things were equal, but I have an even greater preference for having a dentist who I trust (to be competent and conservative about treatment), so I picked this one on the recommendation of a friend.
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katstevens From: katstevens Date: November 1st, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Does the tooth actually hurt? If not then I'd tell them to bvgger off and put the £70 towards a Bupa plan or something similar.

Saying that I'm lucky in that I have a wonderful sensible dentist who has been dealing with my teeth since I was five, and even when they got bashed in (I swam into a wall) he said "oh, they're not going to fall out or anything, as long as you don't mind if they're a bit wonky". But he does tell me when something *does* need doing, such as "your wisdom teeth are growing sideways, that's why they hurt, let's take them out." He moved his practice to Hounslow when I was about 13, and on my first visit to the new dentist I was told I needed four teeth out & braces & whatnot, all costing £££. My mum and I told the new dude where he could shove his braces and have been going all the way to Hounslow for check-ups ever since. I don't know what I'm going to do when he retires. :(
j4 From: j4 Date: November 1st, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nah, it doesn't hurt at all, I don't even know which tooth it is!

I have never had a sensible dentist. :( I had one who insisted on taking all my milk teeth out to make room for the other teeth (okay slight exaggeration but I have had TWELVE AND A HALF TEETH OUT in my life) and have had several who've been, y'know, meh. Okay but nothing great.

If I had a sensible dentist I would move in with them, I think.
hatmandu From: hatmandu Date: November 1st, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
A couple of years ago (well, er, three now) we went to a dentist in Oxford accepting NHS patients - in St John Street, northern end on the right. A year ago we signed up at the massive tooth farm of a place in Kidlington (er, sorry, no name, but it's next to the post office at the northern end of Oxford Road, on the right) which claims to do only NHS stuff - though have never heard from them and I'm not brave enough to go there yet (though lurking twinges make it inevitable...).

I've long been convinced that dentists often stir (or make) up more trouble than good, though.
rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: November 1st, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is a remarkably cool userpic.
lnr From: lnr Date: November 1st, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Could you ask your practice to take another look in 6 or 12 months time? My dentist has a couple of teeth he's "keeping an eye on" that have a small amount of decay but not enough to warrant a filling.

And though they're private he's not charged that much for either of the two fillings I just had, and they're bigger than yours.

(Mind you check-up, x-ray, temp filling, 2 real fillings, and some serious scaling under anaesthetic, over 5 sessions in total has come to 210 quid - but then I hadn't been in 5 years! The emergency appointment when I had a sudden excruciating pain after the second filling was free, though it mostly went away on its own and he just applied some fluoride goo which apparently makes teeth less sensitive.)

I suddenly wonder if you can get macro lenses for x-ray machines so they can make the picture bigger, but I suspect it doesn't work like that.
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: November 1st, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Macro lenses for X-rays would be quite an advance, indeed. I don't think there's anything that actually deflects X-rays, only stuff that blocks them. So X-ray machines use a point source, like a back-to-front pinhole camera.

Straight line optics. You've got to love it.
simont From: simont Date: November 1st, 2007 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Off-topic for this post: your choice of icon reminds me that I just finally got round to putting up a web page about the various silly polyhedral models of things I've created, with downloadable nets and things. I didn't have my own instance of your badger, and couldn't quite be bothered to either make another one or ask you for a photo, so I ended up doing a CGI rendering of each of the models instead of using pictures of the real ones :-)
oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: November 1st, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll bookmark that, I lurve polyhedra
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 1st, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
How do you know they'd kick you off their books? Did they say so? if they did then (a) that sounds like blackmail to me and (b) i think you could get a second opinion - Westfield over in Temple Cowley are the folks I go to - and the most they would charge you would be 15 quid.

I would also think about calling up the NHS and ask their advice - I expect there is someone you *can* call to ask this sort of thing - and tell them that you feel you're being had, and what about it, then?

caveat: i grew up with exclusively private dentistry so I'm conditioned to expect high charges, and the best advice i ever heard about finding a good dentist was "ask the rabbit who HE goes to"... that said, I like my dentist and do trust him. Dr. Jensen.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 1st, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
How do you know they'd kick you off their books? Did they say so?

Nah but since they're only in it to make money I suspect they'd have no truck with people who won't do what they say (ie pay money). Maybe I am maligning them. They don't give any kind of indication of it being a choice, though.

I will see if anybody will give me a second opinion. Temple Cowley is a bit of a bugger to get to from Botley (which is a shame because personal recommendations are a Good Thing) but I will see if anybody recommends anybody nearer home/work.

I don't object to high charges per se, in principle -- I mean, they're doing a skilled job, using expensive materials -- but if I'm going to shell out 70 quid for something I can't see/feel, then I want quite a lot more confidence that I'm not just buying skyhooks!
gerald_duck From: gerald_duck Date: November 1st, 2007 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
If they did a "filling" in ten seconds flat, it sounds as though it wasn't a real filling, rather a fissure seal. That's a kind of preventative pre-filling: they just drill away a tiny quantity of decay, splat some stuff on, fix it with UV light (which will be the bit they wanted your eyes closed for).

My mother seems to have a fetish for dental work: they're always extracting this, crowning that, filling the other. When I was seventeen I went to her dentist and he said I needed four fillings. The first filling gave me toothache for nine months when I'd previously never had any, so I skipped the other three fillings.

Seven years later I summoned up the courage to see a dentist of my own choosing and find out what the damage was: he gave me a quick scrape and polish and said everything was OK! Things continued OK for another five years until finally my dentist suggested fissure seals and I accepted. That was several years ago.

The moral of the story is that dentists can be wrong, or at the very least wildly overzealous. In my case I've now gone nineteen years without those allegedly-essential fillings. I still have only one filling, and it was almost certainly counterproductive.

Incidentally, I had the fissure seals on the NHS.

It might be worth seeking a second opinion, or even just asking your current dentist what will happen if you leave the tooth for the time being. Once you're on their books, I'm not sure they can delete you at whim: if they're going to try deleting you for rejecting necessary treatment they'd better be very sure the NHS would agree on behalf of the taxpayer that it was necessary.
1ngi From: 1ngi Date: November 1st, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Westfield Dentists in Temple Cowley were still taking in NHS patients in June 2006. I had a lovely dentist there. Really missing them now.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 1st, 2007 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is that the same people vinaigrettegirl is recommending? Unfortunately Temple Cowley is really about as far as you can get from Botley while still being (nearly) in Oxford.... :-/
redbird From: redbird Date: November 1st, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you have to pay private prices anyway, it's certainly worth getting a second opinion and/or going elsewhere. And, as others said, check with the NHS about whether this dentist is playing by the rules.
juggzy From: juggzy Date: November 1st, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
It must be a day for dentists - I've just had to visit one,too.
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