More than Rotten Teeth in the UK

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I’ve been following the discussion on bad British teeth between Eli and Fran and while it may be that fluoridation in public water offers some protection for teeth, I think it is Britain’s culture-wide belief that “the public good” outweighs individual rights which has caused the rotting of their teeth (among other things).

In fact, recent studies comparing countries with fluoridated water versus countries without, found that the positive effects of fluoride were much less significant than we previously thought.

“In lifetime residents of fluoridated areas 47% had evidence of erosion; in 21% erosion had progressed to the dentine or pulp. The corresponding figures in non-fluoridated areas were 43% and 21% respectively… Levels in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas were similar. “

Additionally, any positive result from drinking fluoridated water is nullified (especially in the USA) by the increasing reliance on bottled water.

I have to agree with Eli, if only on the point that Brits’ rotten teeth spring from a deeper cause than drinking water. However, I disagree that the fundamental problem is their unwillingness to spend money on public services. While it may be true that Brits spend less than other countries on dental hygiene, the real problem is the enslavement of the profession–namely a disregard for individual rights.

In an article last January, Bloomberg reported that, while many in the UK were doing without regular dental care, many were using private care or, alternately, having work done over seas where they waits are shorter and costs minimal.

And though a startlingly 36 percent of respondents to the poll say they’ve gone more than 2 years without seeing a dentist, the problem isn’t lack of money–it’s lack of dentists. 1 in 10 dentists “dropped out” of the NHS system since April ’06 when the government changed the contract with doctors. But there is a bright spot on the horizon; something that makes me hope the stereotype of bad british teeth will not apply for much longer. This wonderful development is the invasion of capitalism into the UK dental market. According to the same Bloomberg article:

The U.K.’s private dental market grew 63 percent to 3 billion pounds ($5.9 billion) from 2002 to 2006, overtaking the 2.4 billion pounds budgeted by the government.

Doctors, fed up with being treated like slaves to the state, are refusing to treat NHS patients. You can make the argument that increases in government spending would convince dentists to treat NHS patients, but the root of the problem I continue treating NHS patients While you may argue that increases in government spending on dental care would entice dentists to continue treating NHS patients, I think the root of the problem is the prevention of letting dentists work for profit. The government in the UK treats doctors as if, by virtue of their profession, they are duty bound to sacrifice their lives for the good of the people and implicitly believes that they ought to should treat patients regardless of personal gain or personal pain. The result is shoddy work, long waits, and eventual existing of the system in favor of something more profitable.

Hopefully, with private care on the rise, the British will have something to smile about in the future.