Wednesday, 2 September 2009

11. Basque dentists

The other day I had to go to the dentist in the village (right - with the Pyrenees showing in the background). It was unexpectedly modern and probably more advanced than any other dental surgery I’ve ever been in – including once when I had to go to a dentist while on business in Baltimore in the US.

Now American dentists have the reputation of being the world’s best but from my experience this one guy in a tiny Basque village would run them pretty close. I must say I was slightly nervous going in as I didn’t know what to expect but he was a very funny & talkative character.. He spoke good English too – in fact, his daughter had just left to go to Cambridge for 3 months to improve her English.

We started talking about rowing too and he told me that his wife is a 3 time World Champion and that she coached at the local club that I’d seen. He said they have a veterans’ section too. He said I should go down there and ask for her.

So in what way was the dentist so modern I hear you ask..? Well, when I sat back in the chair and looked up, there was a computer display screen. And as he asked me my details, they came up on the screen as he typed them in so I could check he’d got everything right. He said that he needed to x-ray the one that was giving me a twinge.. I thought, “Hello, ker-ching!”

He did a quick x-ray and about 2 seconds later, there was the x-ray of my tooth up on the screen. He also had a panoramic picture of a generic mouthful of teeth which he modified as he went along so that they ended up reflecting the actual condition mine were in. As he x-rayed each tooth, he tagged the ones he’d done on the screen so that if he wanted to have another look, all he had to do was to click it on his computer.. He didn’t have an assistant either – he did everything himself.

Now in England, they have assistants but they have to be paid for. And guess who pays for them..? No prizes. The last time I went to the dentists in the UK, I was charged £64 just for the dentist to give my teeth a good clean. I was in there for all of about 15-20 minutes. Here, I had about 5 x-rays and he checked all my teeth including fixing the problem I had with one at the back, and then he gave them all a clean. Madame was in with me and she gave me a wink as if to say, this will be a big bill. When it came, he charged me only £52.. Now, what’s good here is that we paid that on the spot and then we send off the bill to our Mutuelle (our health insurance company) and we get paid back in full. In England the NHS has lost the plot – you pay for your dentist. In theory, the NHS should provide dentistry but try and find one who’ll take you on as a NHS patient; plus if you’re under 60, you pay for your prescriptions and you pay for your eye tests and your specs; etc etc.

Rant over.. (“… now breathe deeply … and relax..”)

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