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!)


  1. Well, as you know, here in the good old US of A, getting a dentist to see you on a weekend is like...pulling teeth? and you WILL pay out the wazoo and no way around it. Unless you are one of the very, very lucky few who has dental insurance and even then (maybe especially then) you will have to wait.
    They'll phone in a 'script for antibiotics and maybe painkillers and see you on Monday. Good luck. Don't eat on that side of your mouth.

  2. You'll be fine. :-) I had a crown come off while I was in Korea. Went to a local dentist, but he basically told me the same thing. As long as you're not in pain (pain vs sensitivity when exposing the tooth to heat/cold), just don't do anything to damage the tooth (i.e., chew with it), and it'll all be fine until you can get in to have it fixed.

    Can you tell I have a LOT of experience with this type of thing?

  3. Hey - I found your blog through a bit of site surfing. Nice to meet you!

    I gave up on NHS dentists about a year ago - I had always been with one growing up and it's great that we have the option but there really is no sense of urgency or care.

    I've now made the decision that I'd rather pay through the nose to get better (and more readily available) treatment. I still think NHS dentistry is great but yeah .. not for me.

    Good luck!

  4. It sounds like a simple fix- my husband is a dentist , called in frequently to replace crowns and temps that have dislodged. Lucky that you still have the crown.
    British dentists have notoriously been BAD. Still a sort of barber shop mentality and they do not make enough money to perfect skills as they do here- Norway has good dentistry- take a trip up north, it is very close and could be a happy adventure...You are so close to everywhere else there - such a great advantage.

  5. I'm with Dave here :(

    Teeth can be so tiresome.

  6. What a pain! Hope you don't have any trouble getting in to see someone in the morning!

  7. Dave... haha!
    I have so many crowns and fillings I can't even imagine replacing one huge filling.

    You, know they don't really do gold anymore (hubby has one) and now they are all into filings that can be fixed via laser. None of mine qualify for that!

  8. Dave: Indeed.

    Ms. Moon: Yeah, when the inlay fell out, I thought, "WHY did this have to happen on a Friday night?!"

    Kevin: Unfortunately, pain eventually become a problem. See next entry!

    Wayne: Hi, and thanks for coming by! I see your point, but being from the states, I'm so impressed with the NHS that I really want to use it!

    Linda Sue: If I had to go to Norway to get my tooth fixed I would NOT be amused. I think British dentistry is much better now than it used to be.

    Gary: Tiresome but necessary!

    Bug: A pain indeed!

    Lynne: What's funny is, I got this inlay about four years ago. I said the same thing to my dentist -- why gold? Isn't that old-fashioned? But he said dentists still use gold for certain procedures because it's a very stable, non-toxic metal and creates a strong restoration.