Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Visit to a British Dentist

One of the things that the UK is infamous for is the state of people's teeth. One gets the general impression that something is wrong with the water or with dentistry in Britain. I had more than a little trepidation when I made an appointment with a local dentist to have our teeth checked.

No ADA here, only NHS
The first problem was choosing a dentist. The National Health Service covers many but not all dentists here. Looking through the list on their web site, every dentist within a 20 mile radius of our postal code was listed as not receiving new patients--a little disappointing. I called up one dentist that uses NHS for children but not adults and made an appointment. They had an opening about three weeks out. Then, for a lark (and because you can't trust the internet or the government, so a government web page is doubly untrustworthy) I called one of the NHS dentists who was listed as not taking new patients. They said they were taking new patients and scheduled us for the next Wednesday, a mere ten days from when I cold called for an appointment! I was pretty happy about that, but didn't call the other dentist back to cancel, just in case this NHS dentist didn't make the grade. The lady took my information and said the initial exam for all four of use would take about 40 minutes. That's what made me a little skeptical.

Wednesday came and we headed off to the dentist. The children were excited because that meant a late start for school. Lucy was a little afraid but Jacob was okay. While we sat in the waiting room, Lucy said she had 3000 teeth. Maybe the appointment might take longer than they thought!

"Elevate!" said Dalek Dentist
We were called back as a group to the room. Jacob volunteered to go first. He sat in the big grey chair and the doctor raised him up. Jacob said, "Woo-hoo!" as he elevated to a convenient height for the dentist. The dentist asked Jacob to open his mouth wide, which he did. Lucy opened her mouth wide too, even though she was just standing there. The dentist told Jacob he would count Jacob's teeth. He went through testing with his probe and counted to twenty. Everything looked good. The dentist asked if it was okay to give a fluoride treatment since there is none in English water. We agreed. He put a slight layer of paste on Jacob's teeth and asked him not to eat it. It wouldn't really be harmful but it would work best if it stayed on the teeth for a bit. Jacob had a hard time resisting.

Then it was Lucy's turn. After seeing Jacob have a good time, Lucy was excited to try out the automatic chair. Jacob said the chair was a robot. And the bright light too! I agreed it had a robotic arm so the dentist could position it properly. The dentist went through the same procedure with Lucy. His tooth count was substantially lower than Lucy's. He only made it to twenty. He did say she has some overbite, but that may go away or she might need braces at twelve or fourteen. She had a much harder time resisting licking up all the yummy fluoride paste. She was done by the time we got back to the waiting room.

The kids were banished during mommy and daddy's turns. We were okay too. In addition to counting our teeth, he took x-rays. I was surprised there was no heavy lead apron like American doctors use to protect patients from the radiation. Other than that, everything was the same. Neither of us had new cavities. I got the usual lecture about flossing, which I do once per dentist visit. This time, he told me about how it was important as we get older because the food that gets stuck between your teeth won't come out any other way and that is a common way to lose teeth. This was the first looming-old-age lecture from a doctor for me.

I was surprised to discover we had only taken 40 minutes for our visit, just like the receptionist predicted. We sorted all our paperwork with the front desk. The lady said they would mail us when the next appointment was due and we could arrange it then. The visit was very satisfactory. I don't understand why dentistry has a bad rap here in England. Maybe it is just a bad history that has ended but is not forgotten. We will definitely be back, if only to ride in a cool chair.

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