It must be eight years since I went to the dentist, yeah, bad I know. The last time was in Uganda, a dentist recommended by other expatriates: he had the prices to go with it too – equivalent of £130 for one cap, and I needed 3 – I did not have them done. I was never a rich expatriate, although certainly earning far more than the average Ugandan income. But those prices were too big a proportion of my variable monthly income to even consider. And I never got round to trying another one.
Soon after that I made a decision to take steps towards returning to UK, so in the back of my mind was free-ish dental care on the NHS. Well I think it was free the last time I had more than a check-up, in 1988 or thereabouts. Then it was Dr Ken Lim in Streatham, South London, who installed the bridge that cracked sometime around 2000 (breaking off altogether later on, in Bangor). That had been occasioned by a double extraction in Nairobi in 1986 by a man who was then an exiled Acholi cultural leader from Uganda. I swear he broke the second one himself as he extracted the one that had been broken by a stone in the rice a few weeks prior, in Uganda.
After settling in Bangor in 2005, I tried a few times over the years to find a dentist for myself and Marjory, my teenage daughter. This is where you get to exclaim what a bad parent I am. She had never (successfully) been to a dentist until May this year. She went with me 8 years ago, and he did not manage to get his hands in her mouth, nuff said. Bangor, Caernarfon, Llandudno, all were full, or I missed the day they were registering. Marjory had been having intermittent pains, and eventually I phoned the emergency dentist number for NHS Wales, and exaggerated slightly. We managed to get an appointment for the same evening, In Llandudno, when they drilled and put a temporary filling. She was then referred to a dentist in Bangor for ongoing treatment and will be able to continue there.
I, however, was advised by the helpline to register in Colwyn Bay, 22 miles away. I am actually eligible for free treatment as I am a single parent receiving Child Tax Credits. Three months later I get my initial appointment. I have to say that the dentist seemed casual. Instead of using technical descriptions for his assistant to write down, he was saying things like “no. 5 comes out”, “no. 3 ok”. No X rays, no asking about what happened to cause a particular tooth to be in its condition. Not that he was unpleasant, but he did not seem to think any explanations were necessary as to why three of my remaining teeth should come out.
The next appointment is next Tuesday and the receptionist informed me that he will “start with the extractions”. I am not looking forward either to the extractions, or to trying to negotiate caps instead for one or two of them and no action for the other.
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