… in which I describe my challenges in dealing with a socialized health care system when it comes to the art of dentistry.

Prior to traveling to myCountry(*), I had noticed a what I believed to be a cavity on one of my molars. Not desiring to through the “procedure” at my California dentist which usually takes half a day and leaves me $500+ poorer, I decided to take my chances with my old dentist in Denmark, which I hadn’t seen in 10 years.

So I had my parents schedule an appointment—no double booking—and here is how it went.

First there was some issues with my not living in the country and thus whether the social health insurance would cover it. After the clinic assistant checked with some other guy, it turned out they don’t but I could get treated anyway if I paid full price. Fair enough!

I then proceeded to NOT fill out a questionnaire about teeth whitening. I also did NOT fill out a detailed medical history (it’s just the dentist for crying out loud). In particular I did NOT need to sign 4-6 pages of legal waivers about not suing them should they accidentally poke out my eye with a pair of tweezers, like that ever happens, but I guess it could.

I just filled out my address, took 2 minutes.

(*) Denmark for anyone not paying attention 😉

As I was not a regular “customer”, I was expecting a full x-ray, but the dentist told me that Nordic guidelines was not to do an X-ray unless the teeth were covered with plack or otherwise looked bad. I, however, have nice teeth. Also, my papers are in order.

They then took my “tooth inventory” with the dentist going over the teeth tooth-by-tooth calling out letters and numbers which the assistant took down. He noted that my fillings were very nicely done (score one for the US dental system). I also got the standard lecture about flossing and he removed some tartar from my front teeth. Finally, he noted that my supposed cavity was just a discoloration. Too much coffee.

Total time: 15 minutes.

Total cost: $45 (and this is with a cheap dollar).

The general attitude towards dental care is conservative. If the teeth look fine and there is no pain, it is presumed that there are no problems and so no x-rays are taken(*). The technology is adequate for the job in the sense that they can do anything, cavities, crowns, etc. that can be done in the US. However, the dentist does all the work (except suction and taking notes). This means that the assistant is NOT using high tech microscopes to make a movie for the dentist, etc. In other words, it is less capital intensive to run a clinic. There is less focus on technology. There was no TV in the chair.

(*) My first visit to a US dentist resulted in 6 cavities that my Danish dentist had declared dormant/non-developing for more than a decade. In the US, everything is aggressively fixed. Don’t get me started on the straight teeth fetish (also appearing on the continent now — it used to be that nobody got braces unless they had trouble chewing).

Overall, I prefer the Danish dental care system.

Originally posted 2009-10-22 22:37:26.