I always new that the Do-It-Yourself punk rock spirit was alive and well in the UK. In the headlines of BBC News as well as CNN, I learned today that the dental situation is so bad in Britain that people are resorting to “DIY dentistry”: pliers and glue at home instead of a trip to a proper dentist.
Why would anyone in their right mind do something so medieval? Poverty and the lack of a reasonable state-provided alternative. Whilst the NHS offers free health care for the rest of your body, it doesn’t look after your mouth much at all. NHS dentists are hard to find and if you do, you could be waiting for quite a while to receive treatment. There are, of course, plenty of private dental practices where you can pay for any service you want and get immediate care, but that requires money.
I’ll be the first to admit that the NHS is fantastic compared to the complete lack of socialised medicine in the United States. I can see how some may think its poor dental offerings are a minor concern, given that Americans don’t have many unpaid medical options at all. The situation in the US is dire, but it doesn’t exempt the UK from working toward the improvement of its own system. It should be the goal of any nation to be able to provide free health care to all of its citizens, and once it can do that, its goal should be to perfect that system. Just because America hasn’t sorted the first part of that out yet doesn’t mean Britain can disregard the importance of the latter.
I have lived in the UK for a year now and haven’t been to a dentist at all in that time. Normally, I’d have been twice for cleanings, but that’s one luxury I no longer have. My previous job offered full medical and dental benefits, but since my current company offers no private coverage, I choose to save that money and just hope for the best.
My wife has been to the dentist once in London. She went to a private practice because everyone we know told us to not even bother trying to find an NHS dentist. She needed a cavity filled, which set her back about £75, plus another £18 for a required consultation that lasted all of five-minutes. She works full-time, luckily, and so this was at least possible, but even still that was a major chunk of her income for the week. If she needed a more advanced prodecure, would I have had to send her down to the hardware store?