Brits Pulling Own Teeth

One in seventeen Brits have resorted to fixing their own teeth because the government health system provides inadequate dental care.

Some English people have resorted to pulling out their own teeth because they cannot find — or cannot afford — a dentist, a major study has revealed.

Six percent of those surveyed in an English study said they had resorted to dental “self-treatment.” Six percent of those questioned in a survey of 5,000 patients admitted they had resorted to self-treatment using pliers and glue, the UK’s Press Association reported.

England has a two-tier dental care system with some dentists offering publicly subsidized treatment through the National Health Service and others performing more expensive private work. But more than three-quarters of those polled said they had been forced to pay for private treatment because they had been unable to find an NHS dentist. Almost a fifth said they had refused dental treatment because of the cost.

One would be tempted to note surprise that the number is so low, given the infamy of British dentistry, were the human tragedy not so high. Then again, the pairing of this news with a story headlined “Pros and cons of DIY dentistry” at BBC has to bring a smile.

The obvious political fallout of this report will be some Aha’s from the opponents of socialized medicine. The problem, though, is that there is no comparative data for the U.S. system, let alone some of the more well-regarded state-run models. Certainly, coverage for dental care is rather mediocre in most American health plans.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    At a minimum, it should be taken as a proof of what should be the obvious point that nationalized health care will not mean a paradise. As such, proponets of nationalized health care need to be able to quantify what advantages would be gained and at what cost (not just monetary, but in availability of access).

  2. Michael says:

    As has been noted repeatedly, the US health care system is not “free market” because of the amount of government involvement. Does any nation have a purely market-based health care system, and if so, how is that working out for them?

  3. bob in fl says:

    The problem, though, is that there is no comparative data for the U.S. system, let alone some of the more well-regarded state-run models. Certainly, coverage for dental care is rather mediocre in most American health plans.

    Correction: Coverage is non existent in most American health plans. Medicaid for adults only covers extractions. Anyone know what Medicare covers? I have never experienced a private general health plan that covers dentistry. I don’t know what percentage of Americans resort to DIY dentistry, but I know I am not alone.

    In the late 70s, I was fortunate enough to have separate dental coverage for about a year. It made it affordable enough to have the fillings done I needed at the time. Then I lost that job, & the coverage. All those filled teeth are now gone or stubs. Two of them & several pieces I pulled out myself when the pain of pulling them became only slightly worse than the pain of leaving them alone.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    Every plan I have been under had a dental option (some included in the base, others had an additional premium) and a vision coverage. Maybe that’s just because I was in the high tech fields that pushed employers to offer premium packages to get employees.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    As has been noted repeatedly, the US health care system is not “free market” because of the amount of government involvement. Does any nation have a purely market-based health care system, and if so, how is that working out for them?

    The answer to the first question is: None (AFAIK).

    Thus the answer to the second question is problematic.

  6. Arcs says:

    I would wager that a properly worded and properly fielded survey in the US could get at least 6%. Maybe twice that.

  7. ken says:

    If there are fourty million Americans without health insurance I would suppose a fair estimate would be that a hundred million or more do not have any dental coverage.

    And if a third of our population does not have dental insurance I would bet that a significant number of Americans do resort to pulling out their own teeth as well. Having had only one toothache in my life where I had to have the tooth pulled I know how the agony of a toothache enventually becomes unbearable. I would have done it myself if I had to, it was that bad.

  8. Michael says:

    The answer to the first question is: None (AFAIK).

    Thus the answer to the second question is problematic.

    Ok, then has any nation ever _tried_ to develop a market-based healthcare system, and if so why didn’t it work? For all of our desire to implement such a thing, do we have any reason to think it would actually work?

  9. anjin-san says:

    And how many Americans suffer because they can’t afford proper dental care?

    Why is the right’s answer to everything to obsess about the problems other countries face while avoiding facing up to our own failings?

  10. Michael says:

    Why is the right’s answer to everything to obsess about the problems other countries face while avoiding facing up to our own failings?

    For the same reason everybody does that, criticism is easy to come up with and fits nicely into news sound-bites. Solutions take work.

  11. bob in fl says:

    Does any nation have a purely market-based health care system, and if so, how is that working out for them?
    Posted by Michael

    I could be mistaken, but I believe we were there prior to Johnson’s Great Society programs of the mid 60s. We had the VA & Military health systems, but no other govt health coverage that I am aware of. Anybody else have any more info about this? Seems to me, if there hadn’t been a need, Johnson would have had a hard time getting us Medicare & Medicaid, doncha think? Granted, he did have a Democratic majority in Congress, but as a nation, we were also more fiscal conservatives.

  12. floyd says:

    ““Pros and cons of DIY dentistry” at BBC has to bring a smile.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    Yes, but is it a kind of Alfred E.Neuman smile, all yellow with teeth missing?
    On a serious note,the advent of dental insurance,a relative “johnny come lately” to the insurance business,seems to have caused a huge increase in the cost of dentistry,and subsequently a larger “cavity” in household budgets around the country.[purely anecdotal]
    However, if you find the cost of dentistry “unpalatable” then you should “brace yourself” at the cost of orthodontia!