Sunday, September 2, 2012
Adventures in British Dentistry, Part I
As I mentioned yesterday, my gold dental inlay (essentially a big filling) popped out on Friday night while I was flossing my teeth.
"We are not amused," as Queen Victoria famously, and perhaps apocryphally, said.
I slept through the night Friday and yesterday morning at 9 a.m. set about trying to find a dentist who could put it back in. I called a central "Dental Triage" number for emergency cases established by the National Health Service. I gave my contact information to an operator who said someone would call me right back.
About 10 minutes later I got a call from a nurse, who asked me the particulars: What kind of dental emergency was I experiencing? Was I in pain? Was there swelling? Was I taking painkillers?
I truthfully answered no, I was not in pain and I wasn't swollen, but that I was reluctant to eat because my tooth was exposed. I guess I should have lied, because the nurse said, "I realize this may be an emergency for you, but we really don't see it as an emergency." She then gave me a number to call on Monday morning to simultaneously register with an NHS dentist and make an appointment, told me to go ahead an eat and "continue to practice good oral hygiene." (Which I suppose means, "Brush your teeth.")
I wasn't too upset by this, figuring that after all, I wasn't in pain, and as long as I could eat I could go ahead and limp through the weekend.
This morning, though -- despite chewing gingerly on only the healthy side of my mouth -- I am feeling a little bit of pain. Still no need to take medicine, but I'm debating calling the number back and trying to get in today. I really don't love the idea of sitting around another 24 or 36 hours with half my back molar gone.
I should point out that this delay is partly because I'm trying to get the problem solved through the NHS, which means we wouldn't have to pay. I could call another emergency number and get set up with a dentist to pay privately. No doubt that would be much faster, but I shudder to think how much it might cost.
I'm not even registered with a dentist here in England. Dave needed a root canal a couple of months ago and just walked over to the dentist across the street, thinking he would be covered by the NHS. Then the dentist billed us as private clients, and we had to pay for the root canal out of pocket.
Once again: "We are not amused."
Apparently each dentist only has a given number of NHS slots, and once those are taken, additional patients are treated as privately-paying clients. At least, I think that's how it works.
Anyway, I'm not sure yet which path I will take, the inexpensive or the expedient. Stay tuned!
(Photo: A storefront in New Cross, from my walk Friday. I saw it months ago from the bus window when Dave and I went with Jennifer and Jesse to Kent. I knew I had to go back and photograph it!)