I took the girls to the dentist yesterday. It was an NHS dentist. It was in a nice modern building; clean and shiny. The dentist, the dental nurse and the receptionist were all charming. It is less than three months since we moved here and all three of my children are now officially registered dental patients. And I didn't pay anything.
Which is interesting, because it is a truism that Scottish teeth are among the worst in Europe. Even NHS Scotland says so, so it's got to be pretty bad.
But not for my girls. My girls have a lovely NHS dentist, who gave them splendid ScoobyDoo stickers, and packed us all our way in record time, having confirmed that all is well.
Things are not, however, so white and pearly for B and me. Do you know how long it's going to take for us to get an NHS dentist here? Bear in mind that I have never, despite all the stuff you read about NHS dentists being mythical creatures along the lines of Nessie and the uneven-legged haggis, not had an NHS dentist since I took charge of my own teeth aged about 18. In London there were three, yes, three, NHS dentists, all taking new patients, within a ten minute walk of my front door.
So how long here?
Which is pretty rubbish. But I was kind of expecting it. And I'm lucky. I can afford to take care of my teeth and when I read that a third of Scottish women over 55 have no teeth at all I can make a pretty swift decision to do so.
So, we go private. Decision made.
How long for a space with a private dentist here?
Yup. That's right. There is a three year waiting list to see a private dentist. Now clearly that's not true if, like poor B a couple of weeks ago, you have a dental emergency. They'll see you then. But if, like me, you have healthy teeth and would like to keep them that way with a bi-annual check up and a nice clean with the whizzy toothbrush and the pink gritty toothpaste, you have to wait three years. And then pay for it.
And I don't get it. I can see why there's a waiting list for an NHS dentist. I can't say I've studied the Scottish budget in detail, but I can quite easily believe that they've had to fund free tuition fees somehow and maybe it's the poor old dentists who have taken the cut. And I realise that funding NHS dentists for children has always been prioritised over adults. That's ok. I can deal with that.
But private dentists? That I just don't get. I'm not an economist, but surely the whole basis of a capitalist economy founded on the principle of supply and demand is that where there's a shortage of something there is money to be made, and that we are all, private dentists no less, trying to make money. So where are they? Why aren't there private dentists flocking to the Scottish Borders picking up all those hundreds of people sitting on waiting lists and hoping that their teeth aren't all going to fall out in the meantime?
And even more odd: how can it be that there is a longer waiting list for a service you have to pay for than one that comes for free?
And if, when you've finished working all that out, you could find me a dentist slightly nearer than the one I'm hanging on to in London that'd be great too...
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