Before I start this blog post, don’t get me wrong – I love the NHS. I’ve had some brilliant experiences in past and my local GP surgery is quite good.
However, one part of the NHS that people bypass when having the ol’ privatisation debate is Dental Surgeries.
A History of My Teeth
Ever since we were little, we were taught to brush our teeth twice a day. My dad was what you can only describe as obsessive over this. My brother and I went to the same NHS dental practice that my parents did and we all went happily until I was around 16.
It was my Dad that first started having trouble with his teeth and to cut a long story short, he’s had to have teeth removed, bridges put in and a great deal of stress for many years over failings at the aforementioned dentist.
I thought that maybe my Dad’s situation was a one off. So a few years after I signed up to another NHS Dentist. I told them that I felt there was something wrong with my gums and that my wisdom teeth weren’t feeling right either….
This was ignored. This was around 10 years ago.
I then went a few more times after that, to the same dentist. Repeating my issues, but being told it was all okay and nothing to worry about.
After around 2 years of not going to the dentist I swapped again… To another NHS practice.
During this visit to my new NHS Dentist I repeated the same issues. He took an x-ray and asked if I ever ground my teeth. I’ve literally never ground my teeth. He assured me that I did and showed me some ‘shadows’ on the x-ray. He said I should stop grinding my teeth… Which wasn’t hard. Because I categorically don’t do that.
He then told me I needed 1 x filling. I booked in to have that done and the hygienist also gave my teeth a polish. Not a scale and polish. A polish.
Without thinking much of it, I felt I was in good hands. The filling didn’t hurt and it was almost a positive experience.
I explained to the hygienist that I was trying to use those Tee-Pee Tooth Flossing things but having difficulty getting them between my teeth.
Her reply was that my teeth were too close together….
Another problem I have is that a few years ago I slipped with my toothbrush and physically pushed my gum up. This exposed a big bit of tooth which was meant to be under my gum. The NHS dentist told me that nothing could be done about this.
Fast Forward 6 Months….
Two weeks ago I booked in with a private dentist.
I did this because I just knew my gums weren’t right (still) and my wisdom teeth (which have been coming through on and off for ten years) started to hurt a bit more.
After a 45minute dental examination and x-rays I was informed that I needed two x small filling and 1 x big filling…
Bear in mind I’d only visited a dentist 6 months prior to this.
The big filling would have definitely been there during this visit, but was ignored.
My wisdom teeth should have been referred for removal years ago (apparently). Because they hadn’t, one has actually started to decay due to the concave shape trapping food.
She told me she could pop a filling in, but there was little point as they will be taken out as soon as the hospital can fit me in.
Regarding the exposed tooth from the gum/toothbrush incident, I was told that my NHS dentist should have put a fissure/coating on it. As the exposed enamel is soft, it’s more prone to damage and leaving it like this would only result in further damage.
Oh, and after 10 years of telling the dentist I had something wrong with my gums, I’ve been swiftly diagnosed with gum disease.
I never said this blog post would be glamorous did I?
I’ve now been to see the private hygienist who confirmed that my gums were a lot worse than initially realised. I had a tartar build up under my gum line, which left untreated could have resulted in bone deterioration and tooth loss. Turns out that the ‘shadows’ the NHS dentist pointed out, was actual tartar build up.
She gave me a FULL scale a polish after she performed a ‘bleed’ test. A bleed test is where they literally stab your gums all the way around and see how much they read.
On average this should come back at around 10%.
Mine was 65%.
An hour with the hygienist and my teeth have never felt so clean. I can’t stop licking the back of my teeth haha.
And you know how I was told my teeth were too close together? It was bullshit. What is actually was is a build up a tartar behind my teeth. Because guess what? NOW I CAN FIT THE BLOODY TEE-PEE THINGS IN BETWEEN THEM.
How Much Does a Private Dentist Cost?
I know a lot of people think that private dentists will try and charge you for work that you don’t need. But I honestly think that’s just a myth. Everything they recommend is backed up with x-rays and in-depth explanation.
The dentist I have visited charges £19.50 for an initial check up. That’s not too far from the NHS cost really. In fact, Band 1 of an NHS dentist visit is £20.60 – so this initial checkup is actually cheaper.
During the extensive examination you also have x-rays done and a full recommendation of what work you need.
You’re under no obligation at any point to have the work carried out there.
My hygienist visit cost around £65 and my fillings are going to be £67 each.
I’ve also thrown in some tooth whitening for £195, as I’ve probably wasted that much on crappy kits from Boots in the past. But now I’m having it done properly by professionals.
I feel both relieved and disappointed….
I’m so glad that I’ve gone private now, as all my tooth issues can be resolved. Despite being costly, it’s a fair price to pay to keep your teeth for as long as you can! You only get one set after all!
But equally I feel really disappointed that I’d flagged issues to separate dentists for them to ignore it.
I understand that they have time and budget constraints. I really do. But at the end of the day I could have ended up in a situation like my Dad has, which has resulted in tooth loss and years of anxiety, pain and cost.
I’m sorry NHS dentists. I just can’t trust you again.