I last went to the dentist in 2002, when I was eligible for free treatment. Since then I’ve been in what is probably the default state for Brits of working age: I’d go if I could get an NHS dentist.
There’s now one operating just a few minutes walk from home. A year or two ago I tried to register, but was presented with a nightmare of red tape including having to contact a national phone number and get allocated something pseudo-random by the relevant secretariat, so I gave up the idea. But a few weeks ago I bumped into John, who told me he’d just signed up and the process was painless. So I tried again, and this time the process was indeed painless.
Today I went for my checkup. It was a little less than luxurious, with a slightly-cramped waiting area, and running 10 minutes late. But the dentist himself seemed just fine (not that my mouth presents the kind of challenge that would sort the sheep from the goats). Happy to go back to him in future.
One difference to what I’ve experienced in the past: whereas he did scrape some tartar, he made no attempt to polish the general tea-staining from my teeth (I didn’t ask for it, but dentists in the past have done it “by default”). He explained that the NHS makes a clear distinction between medical and cosmetic treatment. Tea stains fall into the latter category, so I’d have to pay separately for that.
At £16.50 for a minimal (standard-fee) checkup, I wonder to what extent the NHS really is cheaper than going private? Sure I’d’ve paid more, but if I’d wanted the basic polishing I expect that’d’ve been included in a single charge rather than an extra thirty-something quid.