SARAH VINE: Trying to see a dentist has become like pulling teeth

Judging by some of the comments beneath the online version of this column, there are those of you who feel reading it is a bit like pulling teeth.

Well, this week I’m afraid it quite literally is. The news that some NHS dental patients may have to wait up to three years to be seen is a disgrace.

Even emergency cases, we are told, can face a six-week delay.

This is not some impoverished developing country. This is Britain in 2021, a nation that has just invented a vaccine that will save millions of lives and help bring an end to the pandemic.

And yet when it comes to the oral health of our citizens, we might as well be living in Victorian times when, in order to spare the cost and pain of toothache, people would have all their teeth, healthy or otherwise, yanked out and replaced by dentures.

I’m not suggesting things have quite reached that stage, though it was reported this week that one man has pulled out 18 of his own teeth in despair at failing to find a surgery that would treat him.

The news that some NHS dental patients may have to wait up to three years to be seen is a disgrace. Stock image

The news that some NHS dental patients may have to wait up to three years to be seen is a disgrace. Stock image

The news that some NHS dental patients may have to wait up to three years to be seen is a disgrace. Stock image

But you have to ask: what are all these people supposed to do if they can’t afford to go private? People like my friend, a mother of two, who was so stressed about forking out £800 for a crown that, in the end, she just had the tooth pulled.

This is not some unemployed person struggling on benefits, mind, but a successful career woman who happens to work in a sector that isn’t terribly well paid.

After everything else in her life, £800 was just prohibitive, as it is for so many people. And of course, being a mother, she was last on her own list of priorities.

For years in my 40s, I neglected my teeth for the simple reason there was always a more pressing bill to pay, somewhere more important to be. The result was that an infected root canal went undetected for too long (I knew there was something not quite right but I just kept putting it off) and by the time I finally saw someone about it, I’d effectively lost three teeth.

The root problem of this crisis is, of course, a lack of NHS dentists. Stock image

The root problem of this crisis is, of course, a lack of NHS dentists. Stock image

The root problem of this crisis is, of course, a lack of NHS dentists. Stock image

It took months of treatment — including incredibly painful bone grafts — to fix. As for the cost, I could have bought myself a decent car with the money.

If both I and my friend, ostensibly organised, well-paid women, can find the cost of dentistry daunting, how much worse must it be for others?

The root problem of this crisis is, of course, a lack of NHS dentists. The numbers have been falling for years, as more and more become demoralised by the sheer workload and diminishing returns, both clinical and financial, and move to private practice. And yet the Government doesn’t seem to have taken any steps to stop the exodus.

A cartoon depicting a dentist performing an exam on a patient. Illustrated by George du Maurier (1834-1896) a Franco-British cartoonist and author

A cartoon depicting a dentist performing an exam on a patient. Illustrated by George du Maurier (1834-1896) a Franco-British cartoonist and author

A cartoon depicting a dentist performing an exam on a patient. Illustrated by George du Maurier (1834-1896) a Franco-British cartoonist and author

It’s almost as though they would prefer to wash their hands of the sector entirely. Rather like they have done, for many years, with social care.

But they are wrong. Like care for the elderly and the disabled, affordable, accessible dentistry is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.

Perhaps even more worryingly, a recent study of more than 500 patients with Covid found those with gum disease were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care, and nine times more likely to die compared with those without gum disease.

Yet for some reason, the NHS treats it as a second-tier discipline. And not just by allowing the number of dentists to dwindle.

We saw this at the height of the pandemic, when dentists were pretty much treated on a par with manicurists, and patients had to resort to pulling their own teeth because practices weren’t allowed to open. Dentistry was considered a non-essential service — which just about says it all.

Equity sharks are my pet hate

The extent to which rapacious private equity firms have been profiting from ordinary people’s misery has been laid bare in the Mail this week.

Pension pots shrunk, jobs lost, healthy businesses stripped to the bone.

You see it all the time, reputable companies and organisations that used to offer top-quality service and a human face, now entirely driven by profit.

A classic case in point is my local vet, which used to provide a wonderfully warm, friendly and trusted service. The staff genuinely loved animals, and would always go that extra mile.

And then, a couple of years ago, it was bought up by a private equity-owned chain, and the whole thing has since gone to pot.

Now the vets act more like sales staff, pushing expensive treatments wherever possible with what seems like little regard for the wellbeing of the animals or their owners, and the prices have gone through the roof. As Money Mail reports today, it can now cost more to insure your pet than to insure yourself!

Last year, I got stung for almost £2,000 for dental treatment for my two dogs — which I’m really not convinced was necessary.

So if there are any family-run veterinary practices still out there in the West London area who actually care about animals, do please get in touch.

Kim Kardashian's Instagram post

Kim Kardashian's Instagram post

Kim Kardashian’s Instagram post

Kim’s toxic millions

Kim Kardashian once again gets caught out apparently airbrushing herself beyond the realms of the credible — this time posing in a typically skimpy orange two-piece.

Some fans have been quick to ask if the snap has been photoshopped. I feel so sorry for impressionable young girls who are taken in by this woman and her tawdry brand of self-promotion.

Thanks to Kim and her ilk, an entire generation has grown up loathing their own bodies.

It’s time to end this toxic culture that makes millions on the back of other people’s insecurities. 

I’ve always felt my extreme inability to tolerate the sound of other people’s mastication, or the strange kind of rage I feel when someone sneezes too loudly, was a poor reflection on my character.

But now I discover it’s actually a medical condition with a proper name — misophonia — and that it marks me out as someone with a ‘super-sensitive’ brain.

There’s a relief.

Although I suspect if you asked my children, they would say I was still a grumpy old cow.

 Charles takes a fence 

This can’t have been an easy few months for the Prince of Wales, what with the death of his father and the bitter attacks on him by Prince Harry.

So it’s good to see him doing something he loves, looking for all the world like Worzel Gummidge while laying traditional hedges in a battered old tweed coat and muddy waterproofs. Despite what Harry says, it seems the Queen has at least managed to pass on a few positive things to her son: her love of thrift and, of course, her passion for the countryside.

Which is more than can be said for her grandson in his manicured multi-million-dollar Montecito mansion.

I’m confused: we’re told that even if we’ve had two jabs we still have to social distance, yet barely a week ago we were being told that hugging was OK, provided someone had been vaccinated.

So can I hug or can’t I? Or should I just stick to blowing air kisses, diva style?

I can’t understand why everyone’s so cross about Britain getting nul points at the Eurovision Song Contest. Surely it’s a badge of honour? 

Maureen Lipman

Maureen Lipman

Maureen Lipman

It’s increasingly hard these days for actors to hold unfashionable political views — so all credit to Dame Maureen Lipman for pushing back against the decision of the Equity union’s president, Maureen Beattie, to urge members to take part in pro-Palestine demonstrations.

Let us not forget that only a few days ago, hardline elements used those marches as an excuse to drive through Jewish neighbourhoods screaming ‘F*** the Jews, rape their daughters’.

Whatever your view on this terrible conflict in the Middle East, the ugly undercurrent of out-and-out anti-Semitism evident at these gatherings is unmistakable, and cannot be tolerated.

As Lipman pointed out: ‘I didn’t join a political union, I joined a union to protect its members.

‘You don’t dictate to artists what they believe in, and don’t incite them to join a mob.’ Quite.

When it comes to the fallout between Boris and his former political Svengali, Dominic Cummings, it strikes me that the latter is being a bit of a Prince Harry about it all. No doubt Dom’s ‘truth bombs’ will create ripples at today’s hearing; but apart from getting a few things off his chest and settling some old scores, it’s hard to see what purpose this psychodrama could possibly serve.



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