Wednesday, November 11, 2009
After two years of living in the UK, I thought I was done with “firsts.” But on Monday I realized that there are still a few experiences I’ve been putting off. One of those is dentistry.
Okay, okay, so I know it’s a stereotype to refuse to see a dentist in the UK just because the country doesn’t have the best reputation for dental hygiene and orthodontics. Maybe I’ve seen Austin Powers a few too many times. Maybe my former landlady—the evil one with the bad teeth—scarred me for life. Or maybe I’m just averse to dental change.
But after visiting my childhood dentist every time I went back to San Francisco for my first two years in London, I finally decided to put UK dentistry to the test. I have to admit that the decision was driven more by the fact that my company provides UK dental insurance than by an actual desire to experience UK dental care firsthand, but either way, I went.
My boyfriend recommended a dentist on Connaught Street and told me that the dentist was US-trained. That was comforting. It was also comforting that there was a Jimmy Choo boutique a few doors down. Where there are high quality shoes, there must be high quality dentists, right?
I heard American accents as I walked into the office, and was hoping that my dentist would be from the States. No such luck. But when he inquired after my accent as he pressed the button to recline the chair, he comforted me with the good news that he had gone to dental school at USC. I relaxed. A little bit.
I’m not sure if it was just his style or if all UK dentists do this, but he spent the next ten minutes or so poking around my mouth and telling me exactly what he was looking for. It was almost as if he didn’t think I had ever seen a dentist before. Maybe there are people in the UK that are over 25 and haven’t, like my evil former landlady. Or maybe he was just one of those people that like to over-explain everything.
He gave my teeth an overall score out of 25 (I got a 2, which is counterintuitively good), then sent me down to the basement to get my teeth cleaned. Oh, but before that he told me that he didn’t need to see me more than once a year. For someone who was raised on the gospel of semi-annual dental checkups, I was a bit disconcerted. I guess it’s a good thing that my teeth are holding up that well, though. I should see it as a positive.
The cleaning stared out just like any American teeth cleaning, but with a few alterations. First, the hygienist didn’t have either a water sprayer or a saliva sucker, so I was stuck swallowing mouth-full after mouth-full of that gritty toothpaste stuff they use to polish your teeth (orange flavored, incidentally).
Second, she made me sit up and rinse my mouth out with fluoride a few times, which seemed a bit strange. Third, instead of scraping the will to live out of my teeth with the scraper thing and then polishing them with the polisher thing, she did a bit of a scrape-and-paste combo. I didn’t really feel one way or the other about it.
The thing I did feel one way about was the bill at the end of the appointment. A whopping 316 pounds was lifted off my credit card, the majority of which my meager insurance policy won’t cover. Apparently my boyfriend hadn’t noticed this when he had seen the dentist because his insurance is much better than mine, and covered the entire cost. Sigh.
I walked back down Connaught Street and past Jimmy Choo, realizing that maybe I should have known that the boutique’s proximity to my dentist’s office was not only a sign of high quality, but also a sign of high prices.
So now it’s back to American dentistry for me, if only because even without any insurance at all my dental bills are lower there than they are here. There is certainly a first time for everything, but that doesn’t mean there has to be a second.