Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

The English have a reputation for having bad teeth, so you can imagine my concern for visiting an English dentist. So let's explore that...

  • First of all, one of the reasons they may not have good teeth is because dentistry (except emergency care) is not covered by the NHS. And a private dental cleaning costs £110 (approx $170) a pop, so with a family of 4 paying out of pocket, preventative cleanings don't happen twice a year for most people. If at all.
  • Fluoride is not in the water.
  • Without hard numbers, I am guessing smoking is more prevalent here than in the US. Also not good for the pearly whites.
  • Although there are orthodontists, I don't see many teenagers wearing braces (another big out of pocket expense).
  • I've never seen a dental practice cater to children only. And *gasp*, there is no toy box with goodies to lure kids in (unheard of in the US). My guess is children don't form early habits of regular check ups that would continue into adulthood.

You can imagine my husband's quizzical look when he heard 'Good Luck!' several times by co-workers as he mentioned he'd be late to work due to a dental visit. 

Then imagine my surprise when the dentist gushed on and on about my teeth - like I was a rock star! He loves American dentistry, he tells me. Let me say, my teeth are super-duper average.

My cleaning was VERY gentle - I think this is because most patients visit only in emergencies with pain. The dental hygienist didn't use the sucky-hose when she cleaned my teeth. Instead, I was told to 'swish' and spit into the basin. She did floss and use 'the pokey thing' I was accustomed to in the US. And when it was time to polish, she gently placed safety glasses over my eyes (the English are very safety conscious, you know). I walked away empty handed - no goody bag with floss or toothbrush. But at least my gums were in tact - not swollen and bleeding like in the US where they scour my teeth and gums.

In a recent magazine, American teeth were described as too perfect, 'like white piano keys'. Supposedly the rich and famous British will have their smiles enhanced in Paris with teeth adjusted but not perfectly straightened or overly-bleached. They go for a more 'natural' look. Interestingly, the level of bleach used in the US for professional teeth whitening is illegal here. 

In case you are wondering, I continue to visit my American dentist for a real bruising and deep clean. Then 6 months later I visit the UK dentist to hear how fabulous I am my teeth are ;) Complementary yin and yang, my friends

(Postscript: Thank you to my wonderful commenters, who steered me when I went astray. The NHS does provide dental care at a fee but known for inconsistent quality of care.)

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