Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lie back and think of England!

I have a confession to make. Forgive me for I have sinned. It has been a year since my last dental visit. Your reaction to the sin might well be based on where you are reading this. Apparently British teeth are the butt of American humour. They believe Brits have bad teeth. In an episode of The Simpson’s, Lisa Simpson was shown "The Big Book of British Teeth" by her orthodontist, presumably to scare her into flossing! I found whole debates on line on whether this stereotyping of teeth was justified.
I think at the very least there might be some confusion between teeth that are bad and teeth that are simply not American. Big, white and fake! I happen to love big white fake teeth and would happily have some oversized gnashers in my own gob for vanity. I also happen to like the fact that my teeth are my own, relatively straight, relatively white and they do fit and have been declared healthy in my regular 6 monthly check ups that I have observed until I moved to the land of the teeth. 
Maybe I was afraid to go to an American dentist. Teeth here are superhuman after all. My daughter was upset when her ‘yellow’ teeth were pointed out by an American kid. She was 8 at the time with strong, healthy, normal teeth. They are not bleached – I guess that doesn’t make them dazzling white. It was suggested that I take my son to the dentist when he lost his first tooth (by natural means, unlike the American YouTube clips I found where kiddie teeth were pulled by string attached to dogs, doors and rockets!) My 5 year old was taught all about flossing in school. I am a bad mother. I haven’t introduced him to the art of flossing. As I may have said before, he can barely wipe his own arse, let alone floss and I would hate for him to confuse the two. Annoyed by the American attitude my children experienced I was pleased to find that when it comes to Children’s dental health Britain does better than the USA. (America, I confess fares better with 35-44 year olds!)
I was afraid of going to the dentist not least because of the whole complicated insurance stuff but I did finally book an appointment. I had to fill in pages and pages as a new patient. It asked what I liked best about my previous dentist. I said ‘that he only ever did something that was absolutely necessary’. Initial appointments are 1 ½ hours long! Plenty of time to lie back and think of England! I had around 8 dental x-rays. I then had a check and my gum pockets measured. They are deeper than they should be at the back and require deep cleaning. I am reminded of cleaning carpets for some reason! I sat for a good 30 minutes while my health insurance was contacted to see if they covered the clean up. While I waited I was shown a DVD of how to clean your teeth properly. I have a further confession. I use a firm toothbrush. They are bad. The film said so. That must be why I couldn’t find ‘firm’ amongst the vast choice of tooth brushes.
Good news – My insurance covers 80% of my cleaning bill! I had to ask what 20% meant in real $ before I agreed to a deep clean. I was in the chair for 2 hours, watching videos, having x-rays and having an interim clean. I have to go back for deeper cleaning! I have to say as scale and polishes go, the dentist just did the scale (polish on a later visit!) and it was the most thorough scale I have ever had. I shot out of the chair a couple of times when the assistant applied the suction directly on a mouth ulcer I have. Fun!
I was advised I needed 1 filling (which I was told was not as important as the cleaning), and all 4 wisdom teeth removing, as they serve no purpose and one of them, which is filled, would be too hard to refill! I had never been told this before. I have heard too many horror stories about the removal of wisdom teeth, including a jaw splintering with the force of pulling the wisdom tooth! Mine are staying!
On the way out the receptionist asked me if I flossed. She had obviously heard that my teeth needed deep cleaning. I answered honestly, given the circumstances– I don’t take flossing as seriously as Americans seem to. I have another confession, I do not floss quite the way it told me to, with quite the same thoroughness and enthusiasm they recommended in the DVD. She asked me if the UK adhered to World Health Organisation standards of an annual check up. WTF?! I curtly informed her that the UK recommends check-ups every 6 months, just like America, and that dentists in the UK (if you can find one) are as qualified. |I should have added ‘…and we have dishwashers’.
I checked the World Health Organisation’s website and couldn’t find the annual dental recommendation. They seemed far more focused on some of the basics hindering good oral hygiene like poor living conditions; low education; lack of traditions, beliefs and culture in support of oral health…inappropriate exposure to fluorides…poor access to safe water or sanitary facilities’.
I was interested to see one of the biggest challenges to healthy teeth was sited ‘as the consumption of sugary soft drinks which is a major risk factor in dental caries. Also, dental erosion seems to be a growing problem and in some countries an increase in erosion of teeth is associated with an increase in consumption of beverages containing acids.’
My teeth need some ‘deep cleaning’. Is this because:
1.      I missed a 6 month check up?
2.      My dentist in the UK has lower standards ?
3.      I don’t floss as much as I should?
4.      The Americans are nuts?
5.      The absurd amount of Coke-Cola I have consumed since arriving here has rapidly caused the need for a ‘deep clean’?
6.      All of the above?
I do believe, bottom line, that dental care is down to the individual. People all over the world have bad teeth. Americans can have bad teeth although some teeth I have seen here would make Simon Cowell’s teeth look natural. Cosmetically stunning teeth are not the same as healthy teeth. Since arriving here it would seem I have neither – time to go and see my UK dentist for some reassurance! He, after all, only does things that are absolutely necessary. Until now I really believed ‘deep’ cleaning my teeth fell into that category!


  1. What a nightmare. You may have noticed my recent several check ins at M/cr University. I was attending the NHS dental school to have a root canal fixed. I probably made 6 visits in all, had several 3D X-rays, some normal ones, a couple of visits were 2-3 hours and all free on the NHS. My regular dentist is a sado masochistic bitch, but at the dental school, it was almost a pleasure to go there. The dentist at the Uni used me as a kind of guinea pig for his dental qualification coursework, the 3D X ray thing is new technology apparently, but there was no pain, no hassle and everything is now fixed. Plus there were some rather nice female dental assistant trainees to attend to my needs as I was lying there dribbling with all manner of dental contraptions hanging out of my mouth.

  2. OOhhh! Sounds like fun! I kept inanely pressing 'like' on facebook thinking you were there to do some pointless studying like 'history' lol!I guess if you get a bad dentist it can be awful! I have a vision of what the young assistants may have seen - lol!
    My childhod dentist was struck off as an alcoholic but I thought he was fab and have never been afraid to go to the dentist since! I think my UK dentist was fab too. just not as zealous!

  3. Andy Capp was asked if he flossed daily ,he replyed no she can only manage it twice a week now !!