Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the perils beneath,
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food,
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.
Read the rest of this poem filled with wisdom here…
Toothache away from home is one of my worst nightmares, having suffered badly with my wisdom teeth as a student in France, and I have conscientiously held on to my NHS dentist back home, going for regular check ups every time I am back. I am overdue a check up by a couple of months and was going to book one when at home for Christmas, but then had toothache. It was so painful there was no way I could wait until Christmas to get it fixed, so I had to book an appointment.
I wanted to register as a new patient with a dentist, and called one I had been recommended, which told me the cost for the check-up would be $430. Gulp! OK, so I will get this back on my insurance… or some of it… nobody can quite tell you how much – 100%, 80%, 50%? Or those percentages of what the insurance company’s quoted fees rather than what you are actually charged. Like a complex riddle, my clues coming from all directions…
When I got to the dentist, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of drilling sounds and horrible smells, it smelt more like a spa. I should think they can afford a couple of nice smelling candles at those prices. I told them about my toothache and they investigated that and only that to get me out of pain, so that was good. They understood I had a dentist back home and didn’t do the full checkup, just the X-ray on the side that was hurting. So far so good, they didn’t seem to want to rip me off completely!
However I needed a root canal… just the words are enough to make you scared, but the nice lady made me feel ok about it and they booked me in for an appointment that day to get me out of the pain. I felt pretty brave and then remembered to ask how much it would cost…. an estimated $1,800 (no amount of exclamation marks could illustrate my shock, and no, this doesn’t include the crown) which I had to pay up front and they would claim the insurance for me. They couldn’t tell me how much the insurance would cover so advised me to call the insurance company quoting the five digit code for a root canal on the estimate. I came out of the dentist, cried a bit, then called my insurance company – BF&M.
After being put through to three separate people, I was put through to an answering machine. I called back and another three people later, I was shouted at by a lady saying she couldn’t quote for it until she had seen the X-Ray and that it would take a couple of weeks to get a quote. Thanks for your help, you mean insurance people! I got home and looked on the website and think I might have found a document which detailed what the insurance would cover – Dental Fee Schedule. From what I can make out, the maximum they would cover for a single root canal would be $410. A pretty far cry from what ended up costing me $1,500.
I have vowed to never, ever, ever complain about the NHS ever again. Yes, we pay more taxes for the privilege. Yes, I chose the most expensive dentist in Bermuda. Yes, my NHS dentist almost extracted the wrong wisdom tooth because he was looking at my X-Ray upside down. But I will never complain about this wonderful, if flawed institution again.
Poor health is bad enough (and let’s face it, a root canal is hardly the end of the world, imagine if it had been worse) but getting stuck with a huge bill at the end of it is the icing on the cake.