Friday, February 17, 2006

Dentists. Another Govt fuck up

Actually, I think I've got something to rant about anyway. Why am I drinking today? Well, y'see, I went to the dentists, for the first time in, oh, about 5 years.

Y'see, I used to have no problems whatsoever with medical types. Then, slowly, in reaction to the Thatcher/Major reforms, most of the local dentists slowly went private. The practice I was a patient of since a kid did so, but promised it would always keep on an NHS dentist. Thing is, of course, if that dentist was any good, they'd, by dint of the crappy funding NHS dentistry gets these days, go private. They're good, they can make a lot more money that way.

So, those of us who either a) can't afford to pay for dentistry or b) believe in the principles of free health provision and that's what we pay our fucking taxes for, are increasingly squeezed to go to crappier and crappier dentists.

As I fall into both categories, I stayed with whatever dentist my practise could hire to do the NHS work. Until 5 years ago. The man was, to put it bluntly, a butcher. I'm honest, I don't look after my teeth that well, so every so often, I need a filling. He gave me a filling. Only I was convinced it hadn't taken well, so on the 6-months-later checkup, I told him this. It bled sometimes, and was sore. No, he says, perfectly fine, not a problem.

I was young, naive. I trusted the fucking professional, even if I already suspected he was crap. Patronising bastard as well; I was a mere shopworker when he became my dentist, therefore I couldn't have a brain, so he talked down to me constantly. Bastard.

About a year after this, the occasional bleeding and light pain in that tooth had become major bleeding and frequent heavy pain. I went back. He took the tooth out. I'm not joking or exaggerating when I say it was the most painful experience of my life, which is saying a bit. He said it wouldn't hurt with the anaesthetic, and there would be light pressure with the extraction. Lying fucking bastard. Light pressure. It hurt like hell. I had to sit in the surgery for about an hour afterwards, then drove carfeully to my parents, just down the road, and sat watching TV for hours getting my confidence back. I don't do vegging in front of the TV. Specifically, these days, I don't even watch TV.

The tooth? I got a look at it before he disposed of it. The filling was there, the outside edges of the tooth were there. The rest of it was hollow. Did I say he was fucking useless? Why yes, yes I did. Of course, back then, I didn't have the courage to follow up and complain properly; a well brought up young man does not do such things according to my mother. Now, it'd be different, but this butcher got away with it.

It did scare me off dentistry for some time though. My parents though, knowing this, signed themselves up with a new NHS dentist which is 20 minutes walk from my flat. They even bullied my sister into booking me an appointment. So, today, I went to see my nice new dentist. And she is nice. Rather pretty assistant too, think I may like going back.

5 years away from a dentist. 7 fillings needed, including one tooth that may be beyond repair.

Simple fucking principle Blair; you either believe in the NHS, and provide us with decent funding for our dentists, or you admit defeat and tell us all to go private. I'm paying my fucking taxes, and the NHS is supposed to provide me with decent dentistry. There are fuck all dentists that aren't private in Torbay, and from what I've heard it's the same across the country.

I believe in the principle of free health care. That's the fucking point. But the overly centralised bureacracy that can't provide a damn thing and doesn't fund denitistry that our teeth are the laughing stock of the West.

Blair? Either fix it, or be honest with us. I can get dental health insurance, but I shouldn't need to when I'm paying as much tax as I am.

I've (now) got a new dentist, she seems competent. I give it a year at most before she also goes private. She'd be daft not to, can't blame her. Blame the dishonest govts that are so out of touch they don't know there's a problem.


Anonymous said...

sounds like the old dentist didn't drill out the rotten bit properly.
Thankfully the dentist I'm still with back in cov does both NHS and private, and he's damn good.
I don't like dentists either. Having orthodontic work done at age eight, including a number of extractions, both adult and milk teeth, one of which involved my old dentist, who was heavily pregnant at the time, almost having to put a knee on my chest to pull one out. Thankfully she'd done the anaesthetic right. But we left that practice when my mother had to have a filling once. They put the anaesthetic in. It didn't take. Mum asked why. They said 'Oh it'll have gone somewhere.' What would have happened if it had 'gone' to her brain, or her heart?. Anyway. We moved dentist. New dentist is very good.

Yeah.. Blair really needs to make his damn mind up. Fucktard.

Anonymous said...

Bollocks - hit the wrong 'comment' link before. Anyway...

If you think having a tooth taken _out_ is painful, you should try having one put back _in_ - without anaesthetic. Believe me, you can't scream with a man's hand in your mouth.

Katy Newton said...

I've had to go private because there is no NHS dentist in my area who I would go anywhere near after a disaster caused by a drill-wielding cowboy a few years ago. Unsurprisingly, I generally only make an appointment if I am actually crying with pain. The dentist usually has a go at me for not coming more often, and I usually point out that he charges over £100 just to clean your teeth and put the special "magic" antibiotic gel inbetween them.

One thing's for sure: I am in the wrong job.

Soupdragon said...

Same thing wi me mate. Hadn't been in 5 years, my wisdom tooth went off on one and I had to have it out ASAP or jump under a bus. I was in Hong Kong, so privately having it out took 2 hours and HK$2,000 (GBP150-ish). Blood, pain, gibbering, wailing, shaking wi fear etc, 4 anesthetics, my wobbling home like I'm pissed as a fart. Took 2 days for my face to un-swell and the bruise took a day to fade. A year of sleepless nights fearing the other would soon explode too later, had that out (also in HK) at a cost of 2 and half hours and HK$2,300.

Luckily, a year later I was studying at HK Uni, so went to their Uni dentist. Guess what? The two upper wisdom teeth were HK$200 each (GBP15-ish) and took about 5 mins each, not counting the time it took the ONE anesthetic that it needed to sink in. (When she cleaned my teeth I was shaking and gibbering again - I'm scarred for life, I tell you. I was never afraid of the dentist before my wisdom teeth fiasco.)

It's safe to say I'm never seeing an English fucking dentist, cos I've been out of the UK for 3 years and have lost all claims to the NHS. Even though the IR still owe me about GBP150 from the tax rebate they keep losing.
Bastards. Makes you glad to be English, doesn't it? Bunch of wankers are spending my tax money so I can't get any of it back by sending me crappy fucking letters about having lost all my forms I've sent in time and time again.

Fuck 'em, I'm leaving this miserable country and not coming back.

p.s.:You must be glad you're not English.

Neil Harding said...

Not ALL good dentists are just motivated by money you know, Matgb.

An NHS dentist has NET earnings of 79,000 a year on average and can earn well in excess of that. Thats in the top 2% of earners in this country, so its not exactly poverty pay is it?

You may pay your taxes, but you argue for better public services AND tax cuts. Have you ever thought that, because we have some of the lowest taxes in the EU, this might be the reason there are not enough NHS dentists?

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Just surprised to find you in the devil's kitchen

Katy Newton said...

It isn't about the dentist's motivation or ability. There are undoubtedly very able dentists on the NHS. The point is that the state doesn't pay them well enough to do the work properly. I've been to NHS dentists and to a private dentist and the way the NHS dentists make their money - they have to - is to cram in more patients than their colleagues in private practice, and work longer hours, and give each patient no more time than the State will pay them for.

By way of example, I did some comparison shopping before I had a root canal treatment done a few years ago. On the NHS, it would have taken a one-hour appointment and cost me about £50. It would also have been likely to fail, because a root canal has to be cleaned out at least twice before it is filled and therefore takes at least three appointments. A private root canal treatment, by contrast, involved 3 1 hour-long appointments, but cost £200. When I go to a private dentist there are rarely more than two other people in the waiting room. Go to the NHS dentist and the waiting room is rammed.

The state also doesn't, generally, pay dentists to do the interesting work: the cosmetic stuff, for example, like teeth whitening, implants, proper bridgework, is not something for which the government generally puts its hand in its pocket. People don't just work for money, they work to stretch themselves professionally. If private work is both more lucrative and more interesting, I for one don't blame dentists who prioritise it over NHS work.

I don't believe that higher taxes would result in more NHS dentists. As far as I can see, all money handed to the NHS might as well be flushed down the loo. I have no idea where it goes but it certainly doesn't go on improving quality or services for patients.

Raw Carrot said...

I trust you also know that the Government have "banned" queues at dentists in order to help prevent the media having "interesting" frontpages?

MatGB said...

Hmm; so who, we wonder, is ho hum? And why are they surprised given I've been ont he contributors list for awhile now?

Neil; I think Katy's explanation adds more, and besides, um, the current mess is an unfixed problem going back to the Tory years, surprised to see you defending the status quo...

Carrot, no, didn't know they'd done that, but doesn't surprise me.

MatGB said...

Oh yeah, Soupdragon? I am English, Torbay is down the bottom of Devon, very very south. Never actually been North of the border. Always meant to, never gotten around to it.

Urizen said...

Two things I don't understand.

Thing 1: if your dentist is crap, why keep going back? Get a new one!
Thing 2: why are there so many crap dentists when they train for years and get paid so much?

MatGB said...

Urizen; did you, um, read what I wrote? Answer to 1) is I stopped, answer to 2) is that the good ones go private.

Larn ta reed, varmint!

Urizen said...

matgb, 1: my point wasn't that you stopped it was that it took you such a long time before you went to a different dentist; over a year. Why? because your mum?
2: NHS dentists and private dentists are trained for the same amount of time and by the same system. Also NHS dentists earn 79 grand a year on average, not toooo bad a wage for someone who is doing a crap job. My point was, for this amount of money and training you'd think dentists, on average, would be better than what you hear and experience.

Learn tae read between the lines matgb!!

Neil Harding said...

"all money handed to the NHS might as well be flushed down the loo"

Doing a quick search I found 25 NHS dentist practises within a mile of me. Of these, 14 were not accepting new NHS patients, but still a pretty good choice in my opinion. Maybe I am just lucky living in this area.

Katy, waiting times are plummeting and over 14 million admissions into NHS hospitals every year and it has satisfaction levels commercial companies can only dream of. But of course none of that matters. As far as you are concerned the Daily Mail headlines are right and we should scrap the lot and have the system they have in the US where 46 million people have no health cover despite spending over TWICE PER HEAD what we do. Ask people about seeing a dentist or a doctor in the States or in places like New Zealand. We don't know how lucky we are in this country. I have friends in New Zealand having to re-mortgage their house to afford medical bills and I even know fairly wealthy middle class people in the States that dream of having our NHS because their health insurance doesn't cover cancer treatments. The UK has some of the lowest taxes in the EU, so of course our healthcare isn't as good as France or Germany. You get what you pay for.

Katy Newton said...

You are ridiculous, Neil. You just make things up. I have never seen such a complete lack of intellectual discipline. It verges on dishonesty. I have never said that I think the NHS should be scrapped and replaced with private health insurance, nor can anything that I have said about the NHS reasonably be read in that way. I believe in free, high-quality healthcare for patients. I also think that the NHS is now a money pit, strangled by red tape, and that any money spent on it disappears without any sign of improvement in services for patients. I would like to see someone do something about it other than throw money at its managers. None of that is inconsistent with a belief in the NHS. To me taxpayers' money is a valuable resource which should be used properly to their benefit or not used at all. How is any of that inconsistent with a belief in free healthcare?

It follows that I do think that the Daily Mail is right about the state of the NHS. I also think that the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror, the... well, dang it all to heck, I can't think of a national daily that HASN'T reported on the NHS crisis, regardless of their political orientation. Why might that be? I'll tell you why. It's because everyone in the entire country apart from you can see that the NHS is in crisis and expects something to be done about it.

Another thing that the national dailies - and NHS blog doc Dr Crippen, to whom DK has linked in the sidebar - have reported on is the government's tendency to massage figures on waiting lists to make it look as if people are waiting for less time than they actually are. So you'll forgive me for ignoring your figures on that.

Anonymous said...


Katy Newton said...


Anonymous said...

ello from plymouth in devon also, and i have to say try finding a decent dentist here on NHS.nightmare ! said...

Seems to be the norm now that people find it hard to find an NHS dentist. The trend to going private doesn't seem to have slowed down since the original post either...

Unknown said...

No luck finding an NHS dentist in North East Scotland either, absolutely nothing available. It's either private (and extortionate prices, recently quoted in the region of £1000 for a root canal!) or rely upon the massively overstretched "emergency" rota system which people have come to rely upon.

What's the point in paying for a service that you can't use? I utterly resent it, I don't mind paying taxes towards NHS medical treatment because I know I can see my doctor and get treatment, the same cannot be said for dentistry.

What's going on? Is this just a way of forcing us all onto private dental care? To get used to paying out the arse (and to not expect a drop in taxes)?. I'm becoming convinced it is... NHS dentistry might not exist for much longer.

Those who contribute the most (the wage earners, the tax payers) get the absolute least. If you're lucky enough to have held on to your NHS dentist you will have no doubt watched the fees for treatment rise exponentially as well if you fall into this category of citizen. All the while junkies and benefit scrounges get it 100% free, your hard earned tax being pissed against the wall as you receive absolutely nothing from it.

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