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News of the Day ... In Perspective

05/11/2006

Do-it-yourself dentistry in Britain

In Mexico, jagged, protruding, discolored teeth are called “dientes de ingles.” The bad teeth of the British may be the subject of jokes, but they are a painful reality.

Some patients resort to pulling their teeth themselves. Sales of emergency dental supplies for replacing lost fillings or reattaching crowns increased by 40 percent last year. A company called D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) Dentistry said that British pharmacies sold 6,000 jars of filling replacement and 6,000 crown-and-cap replacement in a week.

The National Health Service is supposed to cover dentistry, but no longer even pretends to be able to serve everyone. Discouraged by the assembly-line nature of the job and a new contract that pays them to perform a set number of “units of dental activity per year,” more dentists are leaving the NHS for private practice—some 2,000 in April alone.

Some patients go on a dental vacation to Hungary, where four implants cost the equivalent of $5,900 to $8,200, compared to $14,900 to $18,600 if done by a private dentist in Britain.

For those who have no choice except the public dentist, “You could argue that Britain has not seen lines like this since World War II,” said Mark Pritchard, a member of Parliament (NY Times 5/7/06)

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