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Thinking of moving from an NHS to a private dentist - what should I bear in mind?

M

Menopausal Magpie

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Dec 10, 2009
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OK. So. Some of you have read bits of my recent experience elsewhere. Basically, age 51, only really started caring for my teeth and gums properly a decade or so ago. Recently, no issues on checkups (last of which was last October), NHS dentist said I was doing a great job getting rid of plaque. Last week: gum very red and leaking pus (but no pain, just a bit 'clicky' and uncomfortable round upper left #2). Got to dentist yesterday, and after exam and X-ray, she gave me antibiotics for the abscess, and warned that that tooth had severe bone loss round it and would probably come out on its own at some stage, although she thought it would be best to have an extraction and denture. Anyway, she wanted me to come back for a more thorough checkup when I've finished the antibiotics, and I'm now a bit worried about what else she might find.

I've thought before about going private - not cheap, true, but I suspect they might offer me a wider range of treatments than I can get on the NHS. The practice my NHS dentist is at DOES offer private treatments as well (it's a Bupa one), but I went with that one in an emergency a few years ago (and it's actually been through THREE different private hands since), and I've started to wonder whether a different private clinic might be worth trying. I've had a look at the 'Find a Dentist' recommendations, and there are a few worth checking out in East Anglia, where I am.

I just wondered, have any other British folks here had NHS dentistry in the past, but switched to private? How was it for you, what were the differences, and what should I bear in mind?
 
T

tazey

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Feb 2, 2018
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Hampshire U.k
I honestly wish I could go private (yes I know there's good+bad in either) but just feel I'd get treated a lot better tbh,so if you can stretch to it I'd say do it.
 
Judythecat

Judythecat

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Mar 7, 2018
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My surgery does both NHS and private treatment - the majority of patients are actually private. I am an NHS patient, but I can choose to upgrade and pay extra for private if I wish, while still seeing my usual dentist who I like very much and trust completely. (eg, instead of a normal scale and polish I usually get the airflow polish done.) If you trust your dentist, might that be an option?

I did get referred out to a private endodontist for root canal a couple of years ago, and he was in a Bupa surgery. The building was really fancy, and he was a very nice guy who was obviously highly skilled in carrying out specialist work. The biggest difference I could see was that that surgery had much more convenient opening times for people who work (I teach, so it can be awkward to get an appointment during the day).

I might be wrong, but my feeling is that there are brilliant dentists who are working in the NHS (like mine), brilliant dentists who are working privately, and equally dentists working in both who are less brilliant. My main criteria would be whether I felt a good connection with the person, and trusted them - because if you don't, no fancy surgery or expensive treatment is going to make a difference.
 
S

Scared all the time

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Jan 21, 2019
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NJ
“I might be wrong, but my feeling is that there are brilliant dentists who are working in the NHS (like mine), brilliant dentists who are working privately, and equally dentists working in both who are less brilliant. My main criteria would be whether I felt a good connection with the person, and trusted them - because if you don't, no fancy surgery or expensive treatment is going to make a difference.”

Well said!! I agree 100%with Judythecat ... trust and good positive connection are extremely important
 
M

Menopausal Magpie

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Messages
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See, my current dentist at the NHS/Bupa place...I'd say she's 'OK', but maybe not 'brilliant'. She's been good (in the past) at making sure I'm numbed enough, and that I can signal to her to stop whenever I need a break. But, I sometimes would prefer her to explain stuff in more detail, and while I wouldn't call her brusque (I've had dentists before who were, and it scares me spitless!), she's maybe more...taciturn, is the word? Am I just fussy?

There's also the fact that my last couple of checkups have been, on reflection, very quick - possibly this is just because it's NHS and she's pushed for time, but I can't help wondering that if the bone loss was that serious, should I have had something done about it sooner? Or could it have been assumed that because I didn't have any gum pockets deeper than a 1 last year, the bone underneath was OK?

Oh...I'm still a little bit in shock, really, I suppose, and wondering what the heck to do. And I'm looking at private prices and wincing, BUT if I NEED treatment the NHS might not be able to provide, I'd be willing to fork out for it.

(Also, there's opening times. I live out in the sticks - rural Norfolk - I work in another part of the sticks, and the surgery I go to now is really just the one I can get to easiest by leaving work early. I'd much rather be able to get this stuff done at weekends, like I do the optician's - which I also get super nervous about! - but there are precious few private practices, and no NHS ones I know of, that offer that...)
 
S

Scared all the time

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Joined
Jan 21, 2019
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See, my current dentist at the NHS/Bupa place...I'd say she's 'OK', but maybe not 'brilliant'. She's been good (in the past) at making sure I'm numbed enough, and that I can signal to her to stop whenever I need a break. But, I sometimes would prefer her to explain stuff in more detail, and while I wouldn't call her brusque (I've had dentists before who were, and it scares me spitless!), she's maybe more...taciturn, is the word? Am I just fussy?

There's also the fact that my last couple of checkups have been, on reflection, very quick - possibly this is just because it's NHS and she's pushed for time, but I can't help wondering that if the bone loss was that serious, should I have had something done about it sooner? Or could it have been assumed that because I didn't have any gum pockets deeper than a 1 last year, the bone underneath was OK?

Oh...I'm still a little bit in shock, really, I suppose, and wondering what the heck to do. And I'm looking at private prices and wincing, BUT if I NEED treatment the NHS might not be able to provide, I'd be willing to fork out for it.

(Also, there's opening times. I live out in the sticks - rural Norfolk - I work in another part of the sticks, and the surgery I go to now is really just the one I can get to easiest by leaving work early. I'd much rather be able to get this stuff done at weekends, like I do the optician's - which I also get super nervous about! - but there are precious few private practices, and no NHS ones I know of, that offer that...)
You could always get another opinion. I wished I did if nothing else but piece of mind
 
M

Menopausal Magpie

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Dec 10, 2009
Messages
44
OK. So, I think I now have something approaching a plan of action.

First, finish the course of antibiotics. It's already looking much better in there - no longer draining, gums are much more of a normal colour in that area - but I know how important it is to FINISH YOUR ANTIBIOTICS.

Then, as advised, go back and see my NHS dentist, have her take a more thorough look and see what she says. (Planned, this time, for a day when I have the time to go to the library afterwards. The local library is literally just across the car park from the dentist's, and part of my reward for being a brave girl is going for a good browse. Yay books!)

THEN...There's a private surgery I had recommended by a friend of mine, whose family has been going there for some years. They do Saturday mornings. What I'd ideally like to do is, not even go for an initial checkup at first - just have a chat with one of their dentists, see what they say and whether or not I feel comfortable with them. THEN, if I do feel OK with it, go ahead with the initial exam.

I actually feel a lot easier now I've decided what to do. Feel like I can get on with other stuff in my life a bit more...
 
M

Menopausal Magpie

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Dec 10, 2009
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I've contacted them anyway. I figure if they can let me know when they can see me, I can talk to them ASAP and not go back to the NHS surgery (assuming they find the infection is clear).

What's the etiquette around this? If I decide to switch to them, do I just call the old surgery and say 'please take me off your list, I'm going private'?
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

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Yes, if you do decide to leave them, it would be good manners to let them know (and to open up a place for other NHS patients, especially in areas where there's a shortage).

just have a chat with one of their dentists, see what they say and whether or not I feel comfortable with them. THEN, if I do feel OK with it, go ahead with the initial exam.
Your plan sounds great!

I think @Judythecat is in Scotland where the NHS system isn't quite as bad as in England in terms of what dentists can provide... so you should see a difference. Of course, there are good and bad (and lots of in-between) private and NHS dentists alike. Non-salaried NHS dentists will have a much harder time trying to provide the service they'd like to provide, though.

Personal recommendations from friends and family are always good :thumbsup!: ! In terms of more objective markers of quality, I'd say one of the things to look out for is whether the dentist uses loupes (magnifying glasses which look like miniature binoculars, with a little torchlight on top). It is a lot easier to do precision work using loupes :).
 
M

Menopausal Magpie

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Dec 10, 2009
Messages
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So, I've contacted the surgery and the Patient Co-Ordinator got back to me. She recommends I should book a New Patient exam - which includes full examination, X-rays and discussion of treatment plan - on a Saturday with a particular dentist whom she says is very good at putting nervous patients at their ease. She says she'd be happy to show me round the practice one day if I wanted to come and do that before the exam, but she's only there to do that Tuesdays to Fridays, which is going to be difficult for me to get to. So, I think I might as well go straight for the exam.

They do Denplan at the new place (my friend has it), but you have to be 'dentally fit' before you can start on that. Obviously I'd pay full price for the NP exam, and for anything else that needs doing to GET me 'dentally fit', but I won't know that until after the exam.

Am I OK to not say anything to the NHS surgery for the time being, until I'm sure if I want to go with this (or any) private surgery? I feel a bit naughty, like searching for a new job on company time or something...
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

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Am I OK to not say anything to the NHS surgery for the time being, until I'm sure if I want to go with this (or any) private surgery? I feel a bit naughty, like searching for a new job on company time or something...
Of course you don't need to say anything until you've made a decision - best to keep your options open at this stage :).
 
Judythecat

Judythecat

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Yes, if you do decide to leave them, it would be good manners to let them know (and to open up a place for other NHS patients, especially in areas where there's a shortage).



Your plan sounds great!

I think @Judythecat is in Scotland where the NHS system isn't quite as bad as in England in terms of what dentists can provide... so you should see a difference. Of course, there are good and bad (and lots of in-between) private and NHS dentists alike. Non-salaried NHS dentists will have a much harder time trying to provide the service they'd like to provide, though.

Personal recommendations from friends and family are always good :thumbsup!: ! In terms of more objective markers of quality, I'd say one of the things to look out for is whether the dentist uses loupes (magnifying glasses which look like miniature binoculars, with a little torchlight on top). It is a lot easier to do precision work using loupes :).
Yes, sorry, I should have said that. I am in Scotland, and I also realise I am very lucky to have such a great NHS dentist, plus access to private care with her if I choose it.
 
M

Menopausal Magpie

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Dec 10, 2009
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Thanks Judy. Scotland does seem to have more luck with public services funding generally. (I've told my sister-in-law, who lives in Linlithgow, that if Brexit starts going really nasty and if Scotland votes for independence, we're going to come up and live with her. We were only half joking...)

I emailed the (new) surgery back and asked them if they can fit me in for the New Patient exam on the 29th. Fingers crossed...
 
M

Menopausal Magpie

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Dec 10, 2009
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Booked in for 10.30. (And they're going to send my friend a John Lewis voucher for recommending the place to me, which is nice of them.)

Now just trying not to get paranoid about what ELSE might be wrong in my mouth. Got a little spot where it's sort of achey on and off under the line of my jaw at the back on the left now. Hoping it's just where I've been tensing my jaw because I've been so anxious. Also the antibiotics are, as expected, making me feel a bit queasy - or maybe THAT'S the anxiety, too. Ah, chronic anxiety. the gift that keeps on giving...
 
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