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10:52am on Thursday, 10th November, 2005:

Free Dental Work


Regular QBlog readers will have been unable to sleep last night in anticipation of news of my upcoming trip to the dentist this morning, where my chipped tooth would be fixed. Here's what happened.

My appointment was at 8:55am. This meant I had to leave the house at 8:00am so as to be able to get through Colchester's rush hour (HA! Call that rushing?) and arrive in time. If I'd been late, the appointment would have been cancelled and I'd have had to pay £15 compensation. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare.

40 minutes later, the dentist arrived. How come I don't get to fine her £15?

Anyway, she sits me in the chair and says it won't take long as it's only a check-up. I tell her that no, it's not a check-up, it's a broken tooth. Nevertheless, she reads off my teeth against the computer records then starts cleaning them. "Shall I put this down as a check-up?" asks the nurse. "Isn't it a check-up?" replies the dentist. "No", I butt in, "it's this tooth I showed you when I walked into your room."

The dentist puts down her cleaning drill and takes a look. "It's just a piece that's come off the crown. The metal is still there, it's good." She starts to pack up.

"Er, can't you patch it up or something? It's catching against my gum."

She frowns, and picks up a drill. For about 2 seconds, she runs it up the sharp edge. "That should stop it catching", she replies.

Well yes, it will, but it won't stop food getting caught in it and it won't stop the rest of the crown cracking and coming off and my swallowing it whole.

The next few minutes are occupied by the dentist telling me they're going private at the end of the month, and I'm going to have to pay at least £11 and possibly £34 monthly to keep on her patient list — and that's if I make it to the list anyway, as she's cutting down on its size. Subsequent questioning of the receptionist revealed that actually the practice is not going private; rather, they will do NHS treatment but only to people who are members of Denplan.

I was told about Denplan some 10 years ago when my previous dentist tried to pass it off on me. Basically, the way it works is that everything is just as it always was, except you pay the dentist for being on their list. There's no advantage to it except that the dentist gets more money. Of course, if the dentist won't take people who aren't on the list, then there is an advantage to it, but only in a blackmail kind of way. Officially, it's a "preventative dental care programme", but actually it's a scam. Still, it does exactly what it claims to do — it prevents dental care — so I suppose I can't complain.

The way it works is that the dentist does an assessment of your teeth and then puts you into one of 5 categories, A to E, with A being the cheapest. I was told I won't be in A, because I have 6 root canal fillings. Great, I used to have 13 but the rest fell out because the guy who put them in was incompetent. Apparently, I do get a slight discount for having fewer teeth, though, so it's not all bad news...

[Interesting aside: the average number of fillings a 12-year-old British child had in 1972, when I was 12, was 6. The average number of fillings a 12-year-old British child has today is 1. This is almost entirely due to the addition of flouride to toothpaste in the early 1970s. I heard it on the radio yesterday.]

What annoyed me most about this wasn't that I wasn't getting my tooth fixed, nor that I was going to have to pay to get the identical NHS treatment I theoretically pay for through my taxes, nor that the dentist was late, nor even that she had a heavy cold which I am almost guaranteed to catch. No, what annoyed me most was this passage in the Denplan brochure:

Please note there is a registration fee debited during the first month of your Contract to cover Denplan's initial costs of administration. This is a one off payment equivalent to your monthly fee.

What? It costs three times as much to register a category E patient than it does a category A patient? How come? Does the letter E have to be pressed on a special keyboard the other side of town or something? I can almost see their faces, laughing as they propose that the initial administrative cost be, by sheet coincidence, exactly the same as the monthly fee.

Oh well, at least the dentist didn't charge me for the 2 seconds of drilling my teeth, so I did actually get free dental treatment for once. The fact that I believe I could have done a better job myself with a needle file is mere churlishness on my part.

Referenced by 60/40.

Referenced by Category D.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).