Smile! It’s National Smile Month!

I’m trying to get hold of some of these funky toothbrushes for you because they look so fun! And if you have kids, you could even stick one of the smiles onto your bathroom mirror to remind them of how important is it to brush well for sparkly clean teeth!

The campaign’s key messages are to brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks, and visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend. Now I don’t know about you, but the last one doesn’t sound too good to me! Especially after the umpteen traumatic experiences I’ve had in the dentist chair.

I especially remember one time when I was 15 and I was getting some pain in my wisdom teeth. The dentist did an x-ray and checked my teeth and told me I would need to have my wisdom teeth removed. My immediate response was “No way!” I had never had any teeth removed or any fillings before (and still haven’t to this day, touch wood!) and the thought was absolutely terrifying. I decided I would talk to my dad first before making another appointment.

Now my dad is a GP, so he doesn’t know much about dental stuff, but he is the only one I totally trust so if he were to say do it, I would! But this is what he actually said “Unless you are in excruciating pain, don’t have any teeth removed!” And I liked it! So I decided to continue having check-ups with the dentist but I didn’t let them touch my wisdom teeth. Lo and behold, within a few days the pain had disappeared and I am so glad I followed my dad’s advice.

But what has now happened is that I don’t trust dentists anymore and I am very on guard when I visit them, especially now that I don’t qualify for free NHS care*, because I feel like they just want my money. And that unfortunately is one of the downsides of private practice. And in this country it seems like the dental practice is unregulated because prices seem to vary all over the place! In fact, I was just reading a recent article in the Telegraph newspaper which was quoting research done by saying how the cost of a basic check-up is £67 in a Stratford-upon-Avon dental surgery, but only £15 in Bradford, while teeth whitening costs £600 in London, but just £163 in Portsmouth! To me, those are insane differences! It’s like they’re just making up numbers on the spot!**

The one I go to in Milton Keynes is closer to the NHS prices so I plan to stick with them, but if you’re looking for a dentist I would highly recommend shopping around.

But coming back to my traumatic experience, I have also found myself becoming nervous when I do go to the dentist because who knows what procedure they’ll decide I should have next! I care very much about my teeth and take excellent care of them, and because of that I’m not up for doing any old procedure willy nilly! I bet you don’t look forward to the dental chair either, right?

Well, I’m going to share a few things I do when I go that makes the whole experience a little less scary, and perhaps these might help you too.

  1. Pick a dentist with a sense of humor  – my current dentist is amazing because he is so out-going and scatty yet really good at his job! In fact, I remember quite a recent story where I went to another dentist in London out of sheer laziness, who decided I needed a filling. My immediate response was “You’re kidding, right?” I’ve never had a filling and I wasn’t about to start now. But she was very pushy, including offering me a discount to do it there and then, and insisted I needed it, yet she hadn’t even done an x-ray! So I left and said no thanks. I then scheduled an appointment with my regular dentist in Milton Keynes but told him nothing of this ridiculous visit in London. He did an x-ray, checked my teeth, cleaned them and then told me “You’re good to go!” I said “Don’t I need a filling?” He said “Nope.” I KNEW it! So the next point is…
  2. Pick a dentist who is good at their job and recommended by family & friends!
  3. The first appointment will just be a basic check up – no procedures, needles or anything of the sort – so it will be quick and pain free and if they suggest you might need something, don’t let them do it in that first appointment. Book another one and get a second opinion. Yes, I now treat dentists like lawyers!
  4. Take someone with you that makes you happy. I used to always take my mum, but I don’t anymore because my dentist is awesome!
  5. Take some music if you think it might help you relax – you can do this off your phone, I wouldn’t recommend a boom box ;)

* You can get free NHS dental care if you’re on benefits, pregnant or if you’re under 18, and God forbid, all three!

** Thank God, NHS prices are controlled. As of April 2013, the cost of NHS dental treatments were categorised into three bands. Band one is the cheapest, at £18, which covers mouth and teeth examination, diagnosis, and advice. Band two costs £49, and you will get all of the procedures included in band one, plus treatments such as fillings, root canal work and tooth extraction. Band three costs £214, and covers everything listed in the first two bands, as well as crowns, dentures and bridges.