Sunday, October 21, 2007

Like Pulling Teeth

To get a dentist in Britain:

Lisa is just one of 45,000 Britons who have travelled abroad for dental treatment in the past 12 months. She did so because, like 78 per cent of people in Britain, she was unable to find an NHS dentist willing to carry out bridge work and she could not afford to pay for treatment at a private practice. Those she called quoted prices from £18,000 to £48,000.

A survey, last week, of 5,000 patients and 750 dentists revealed that Britain is now so woefully short of state-funded dentists that one in 20 people say they have resorted to some style of DIY dentistry — a handful agonisingly pulling out their own teeth with pliers — because the soaring cost of private treatment is way beyond their means.

The lengths to which some have gone is mind-boggling: desperate patients have plugged crowns with chewing gum, poured Polyfilla into cavities and used Super Glue to replace teeth that have fallen out. One in five people say they now go without treatment, again because they cannot afford private prices.

But the real scandal of the pitiful state of NHS dentistry is the spiralling numbers of those who feel forced to go abroad to receive treatment that they should get here.

While Hungary and the Czech Republic are the most popular, other countries that offer private services to Britons at a fraction of the cost are Thailand, Mexico, India and Poland.

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