Monday, 31 March 2008

Open Wide!

When a new dentist took over at my former NHS dental practice, last year, and I was persuaded to switch to Denplan, I noticed a big improvement in my dental treatment. My new dentist explained that I had a problem with one of my teeth, however, and that she wanted to refer me to a dental hospital. I was outraged to discover that the problem had been detailed in my notes, but I had never been informed and no treatment had ever been suggested. Apparently, I was now in danger of losing the tooth.

I needed to travel into the city to go to the dental hospital, so my husband kindly decided to take the day off and accompany me, for moral support. Appointments were few and far between, meaning that I would need to get up at 6am, on the day of the appointment and we would both be forced to travel during the 'peak' period. We each sold a kidney, on a dodgy website, to pay for the return train fare and, on Thursday of last week, we found ourselves boarding a fairly crowded train, heading for the city.

It appeared, from a distance of a few feet away, that there were 3 single seats available, in the compartment we had chosen. On closer examination, however, it seemed possible that one male commuter might have paid for a double seat, in order to avoid having his own coffee cup, on a pull-down tray, in front of him. It appeared that one lady passenger might have paid for a second seat, out of concern for her coat's comfort. Another male passenger appeared to have splashed out on a double seat, for his empty packet of Hula Hoops, but, on reflection, we didn't feel that any of those scenarios were likely.

I challenged Coffeecupman, who admitted that the seat next to him was available, even though he had attempted to make it appear otherwise. He moved his coffee cup after I flicked him lightly, on both facial cheeks, with my leather gloves. My husband tackled Coatwoman, who obviously felt that my husband should stand, rather than disturb her precious companion. He capitulated and, fortunately, Hulahoopman remembered his manners in the nick of time. He coerced his empty Hula Hoop packet into, reluctantly, surrendering its seat and it stood, somewhat gracelessly, in the aisle, for the remainder of the long journey into the city. Coatwoman smiled at this result and patted her coat indulgently, as it lay, smugly, on the seat beside her.

We crossed the city, after getting off the train, arriving at the hospital in plenty of time for my appointment. We wandered about for a while, in the hospital, before discovering the lift and travelling up to the floor specified in my letter. I approached one of the receptionists, and handed her my letter, explaining that I was a new patient. She returned my polite smile with all the charm of Medusa, spent a couple of minutes entering my details on the computer and then drew a little diagram to show me where I had to go next. Undaunted, I smiled again and thanked her. I imagined the comment she was adding to my patient notes, as I walked away.(Note 1)

We headed back towards the entrance hall, down 5 miles of endless corridors, past someone up a ladder, painting the walls, through some double doors and into another reception area. There were no other patients waiting. Several members of staff stood by, and behind, the reception desk, but only the receptionist knew how to use the computer, apparently, and she became rather tense, as she coped with patients, coming in and out, and the telephones. I slowly came to realise that there was more than one 'Prof' on duty and, the one I was supposed to see, was running late.

When I was eventually led into the consulting room, I gasped at the size of it. There were at least 20 treatment areas, with different staff assigned to each. There were partitions, but they didn't reach the ceiling, so the atmosphere was bustling and noisy. A charming, female, student dentist examined me, in the presence of a dental nurse. She kept smiling, sweeping her palm under my chin and reminding me to relax! I was reminded of numerous, internal examinations, when the focus was on a totally different part of my body. I pictured the doctor at the end of the bed, as he pulled on his latex gloves and gazed determinedly towards his intended destination, demanding that I should relax, in a similar tone to the student dentist. I wanted to shout 'RELAX? ARE YOU JOKING?', but instead, I cried, 'Violation! Remove your probing fingers from my inner recesses!' Fortunately, I didn't say anything out loud.

'Clench your teeth, firmly and move the bottom ones to the left' said the student dentist. I tried, but nothing happened. She repeated the instruction and I tried again, with the same result. She had her fingers clamped firmly in, and around, my mouth. 'Grind your teeth' she said persistently, glancing meaningfully at the nurse, who repeated the instruction. Finally, I managed to move my lower teeth a little to the left. I imagined a further comment being added to my patient notes. (Note 2)

Prof eventually arrived and carried out his own examination. He gazed at me intently and explained that they were going to try and save my tooth, but that they might not succeed. My weakest eye chose that moment to sting and water, due to the bright light shining straight into my face, and a 'tear' ran down my cheek. 'Mrs Mean Mom' said Prof, gently. 'Do you understand? You may still lose the tooth.'

'Yes, yes. I understand' I said quickly, hoping he hadn't noticed my watery eye. He swept out of the cubicle. 'Pass the patient a tissue!' he called over his shoulder to the dental nurse. I imagined another comment being added to my notes.(Note 3)

The nurse accompanied me to x-ray and we picked up my husband on the way. We walked through the double doors, past the painter, along 5 miles of endless corridors, back to the entrance hall, and down a flight of stairs into the gloomy basement. The technician took my x-rays, but we waited 20 minutes for the results. He said that there had been a processing problem. We made our way back, up the flight of stairs, through the entrance hall, down the 5 miles of endless corridors, past the painter, through the double doors and back to clinic reception. It was empty, except for a few members of staff. One of the dental nurses took my x-rays and accompanied me to the consulting room. 'You've been a long time' she remarked. 'There was a processing problem' I explained.

I was the only patient in the consulting room. Some of the staff were already eating their sandwiches and breaking open bottles of mineral water. 'Yay! All the patients have gone!' cried one young dental nurse, her voice tailing off, as she noticed me. I watched as some of the staff wiped down the dental apparatus and I imagined another comment being added to my patient notes.(Note 4)

The student dentist informed me that I would have to return to the hospital on 4 or 5 occasions, for treatment. I gaped in horror. 'Is the travelling a problem?' she asked. 'I don't have any more body parts to sell for my train fare' I explained and it takes hours to get here.' She pointed out that the treatment was free and that I could consider buying a railcard. I finally agreed, feeling that I had no alternative. I imagined yet another comment being added to my patient notes.(Note 5)

The dental nurse walked back with me to reception, where the receptionist was catching up with her work. 'Can we make an appointment?' she asked. 'No' replied the receptionist, not until I have finished this.' We stood rooted to the spot, for a moment, shocked by her abrupt manner. She relented to a certain extent and passed over a folder to the nurse, so that she could enter the appointment herself. I provided my hospital number from my own documents and the receptionist suddenly appeared to see the funny side of things and relaxed. She began laughing and joking, exclaiming that I wouldn't be looking forward to returning to their clinic.

I'd been up since 6am, suffered a long and difficult journey to the hospital, been pushed from pillar to post, my body had been violated, it was well past my lunch time and I'd been waiting in the hospital for hours. I tried to smile, as we headed for the door, but somehow I remained stony faced. I imagined the final comment being added to my patient notes.(Note 6)

We walked in the direction of the hospital entrance hall, through the double doors, walking 5 miles down the wrong corridor, before realising that we had missed the correct corridor, as the painter had gone to lunch. We eventually found our way out of the hospital and headed for the nearest cafe, which was situated just over the road, and named after a vegetable. I was surprised to see that they were selling danish pastries and we decided to treat ourselves to the same, after we had both eaten a sandwich. I had my toothbrush and toothpaste in my handbag, so I didn't feel too guilty.

I bit into the danish pastry, glancing over towards the hospital entrance. I half expected the dental police to come bursting out of the hospital doors and bound down the hospital steps, armed with drills, floss, interdental brushes and bottles of mouthwash, but the building remained surprisingly quiet. We each drank a welcome mug of caffeine, as I shared with my husband, the comments I had imagined the hospital staff adding to my patient notes.

  1. Smiles inanely, for no apparent reason. Obviously one tooth short of a full set.
  2. Dim. Unable to follow simple instructions.
  3. Over-emotional, possibly due to middle-age and menopause.
  4. Loiters in x-ray and hospital corridors to ensure that staff suffer a diminished lunch break after morning clinic.
  5. Ungracious and undeserving of free NHS dental treatment.
  6. Suffers a sense of humour failure if she happens to be the first patient in the clinic and the last one out.

We decided that I should try to make a better impression on my next visit. Can't wait!


aims said...

What on earth is wrong with Blogger today?? It took 2 full minutes to get to the comment page..and now I've forgotten my witty remark...

I must be one tooth short of a full set....grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Mean Mom said...

aims - I'm not sure. Some things have not been responding on my site and I keep having to do things a different way. I'm sure you're not a tooth short, just yet!

Mignon said...

This sound horrible. Is it a tooth that you could see missing? Not that would be any less traumatic. Dental treatment that is free? There is no such thing here unless you have insurance. Then it's rare that it covers Orthodontic work. My Pita just recieved braces. The price was $400o.00=2524 Euro's. I think thats right, according to google. I wish you best treatments and no losses.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Oh Lord, it's hard to remain cheerful with all that going on. Why does everything have to be so darned difficult? How I hate dentists. Sorry!! M :)

Dusty Spider said...

Was it the Royal Free by any chance. Sounds very familiar. Poor you! Great story though. flick x

Sweet Irene said...

I was expecting you to bite into the danish and lose your tooth. I am glad you didn't though.

What a senseless sort of process this is and why can't it all be taken care of all at once? It seems to be a very costly and wasteful way to do things, but I must admit that it made for a very humorous post! You do have the knack to tell a story well.

I am looking forward to the continuation of it.

Mean Mom said...

mignon - I am not sure how noticeable it will be, if I lose the tooth. They will not, currently, discuss any of my 'options', if I do go on to lose it, but I will have some 'options' apparently?! Like what, wearing a paper bag over my head, perhaps?

Dental treatment has become a bit baffling, here. Once upon a time it was all free, but how good was it? I am beginning to wonder. I have my Denplan insurance, but that doesn't cover everything. I wonder if it will cover the cost of the paper bag?

The cost of those braces! Did you have to go without food, to pay for them???

a mother's place - Do dentists have any idea how vulnerable we feel, when we are lying flat in their chairs, with fingers and machinery invading our personal space? How annoying is it when the dental nurse keeps catching your tongue in that 'sucking' apparatus? I can feel another blog coming on!

dusty spider - It wasn't the Royal Free. I'm afraid to say which one it was, in case any of the staff blog. They might take out all of my teeth, if I upset them!!

I have been incredibly upset since I realised that my previous dentist was fairly ineffective. It has helped me a lot to 'make light' of the situation, and I am pleased if I can entertain anyone at all with the story.

sweet irene - Yes, I'm 'off' Mars bars, at the moment!!

As I said, before, dental treatment has become complicated, here. My Denplan insurance doesn't cover me for everything. I had the choice of an expensive, private consultation, locally, or a free consultation in the city. My dentist thought that they would just advise her about treatment, but, in fact, the hopital said that my dentist could not carry out the treatment, so I have to go back there.

I'm glad you like my stories! I like to share your thoughts!

Mignon said...

It is amazing that I am able to stay chubby. But to tell you the truth, the reason Americans are so fat is good healthy food is so expensive and to busy watching TV and video games.

Mean Mom said...

mignon - If your photo is recent, you don't look chubby, to be fair.

I take your point that unhealthy food can be cheaper. It can be the same in this country. Sausages and burgers are often cheap because of their content. It's easy and cheap to fill up with things like biscuits and crisps.

Grit said...

sounds like a day of misery: drink beer.

on the train seat management front, i can recommend having small children with you. seats strangely become available when ours get in.

Mean Mom said...

grit - I kept telling myself it was OK, because I only had to go through it once. Then, they told me I had to go back - several times. What a nightmare!

Seats! Why do people think that you should stand while they 'occupy' a double seat? I wonder if I could hire a child from my local shop Helpful Hirings?

Maggie May said...

I would have been very annoyed about the attitude of people on the train not wanting to give up seats. We find this on the buses & people completely ignore signs saying seats are for pensioners.
The hospital visits sound quite similar to the ones we have had recently.
I do hate dental treatment & hope they can save the tooth. It is a problem having to travel so far.

Mean Mom said...

maggie may - You've picked up on the thing that I was most furious about. After paying £35 for my ticket, I was determined to have a seat. I would have sat on someone's lap, if necessary!

I have mostly managed to avoid hospitals, until now. I have to accept that I am getting to that age, where things can start to go a bit wrong. Not too wrong, I hope!

Mid-lifer said...

Tee hee - want to leave a witty remark and tell a story about my orthodontist but my son is being soooo pesky saying 'I'm soo bored'...'mum....MUM what can I dooo...' I'm going to have to go. xx

Mean Mom said...

mid-lifer - I dimly remember that sort of thing. If my sons are bored, these days, I am the last person they would turn to for amusement! Hope you found something fun to do.

the mother of this lot said...

Love the patient notes!

Award over here for you to get your teeth into!

merry weather said...

Oh dear - the dreaded dentist. There is no good way of reacting to someone with power tools in your mouth I find, especially when they're telling you it's all your own fault - for having children, for eating sweets, for not being interested enough... Poor you, sounds rotten. Good luck with all those trips!

I liked the description of the woman with the charm of Medusa, very appropriate!

Mean Mom said...

the mother of this lot - Oooh thanks! I'll have to vote for you again, now.

Mean Mom said...

merry weather - I have a friend who has panic attacks in the dentist's chair. I can understand why. It is the nearest thing to torture that I have ever experienced, I think!

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

When you go to the dentist, if it is a man, you hold onto his gonads and tell him that "we aren't going to hurt each other now are we?"

I hate them - too many horror stories re dentists to tell!

Mean Mom said...

MOB - I've made a note of that one! Good advice!