Things have changed when it comes to dentists. Now there seems to be no National Health dental care available – maybe it’s just around here, maybe it’s across the country.

I saw reports during the grim months of lockdown that people were extracting their own teeth because they couldn’t get proper attention, and I thought to myself how lucky we were that we could still receive regular check ups and attention. OK we had to pay towards it, but we were fortunate that we could afford the small-ish charge. I was due for an appointment, my regular check up and it was cancelled. The previous appointment I’d mentioned I had a problem with a tooth, and the dentist had made some non-committal comment which I naively took to be an indication that she would attend to it next time. My next appointment was cancelled, and the next after that, by which time I knew I definitely had a problem, luckily not painful.

At the end of last year, I finally saw a dentist, one I hadn’t met before, and for the first time ever in all my life of seeing different dentists this one was abrupt, cursory, and spoke quickly with  their face turned away so I had to keep asking for comments to be repeated. I know the double mask didn’t help, but it was a struggle to catch what was said. Did I want the tooth filled – well, yes, obviously. Did I want it done here at the clinic? Well, yes unless somewhere else was better for some reason… I was a bit taken aback to be honest. Usually, in the past, the dentist would have just suggested I made another appointment and they’d do the necessary. I felt rushed and somehow thought there must be some need for me to somewhere else – I asked which was best. There were three options, the cheapest was £42 and the others were obviously more. To go to a clinic in Bath was the best option.

I left their room in somewhat of a confusion – going to Bath? Bath is an hour away, at least an hour, unless I went by train, I paid for my brief visit and repeated to the receptionist what the dentist had said – my mind was somewhat boggled at the the thought of the cost, the travel to Bath, and I said I would check my calendar and make an appointment. I got home, and rang the clinic in Bath; a first appointment – not to see to my tooth, but just to do a dental check would be over £90 – I felt very unworldly and stupid, I really had not caught up with the reality of what our precious National Health Service is like now. I politely thanked the receptionist.

A friend recommended her dentist, but when I enquired there was a waiting list of at least six months. I returned to my own practice and made an appointment – with a different dentist, not the abrupt unfriendly one, It won’t be an appointment to have my tooth seen too, it will be another check up, ker-ching, and a further appointment ker-ching for it to be attended to (and also another tooth which is now in need of attention after all those years of chomping) and it won’t be until May, yes May – but at least it will be May 2023.

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