Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth

Oh, I wish I'd looked after me teeth,
And spotted the perils beneath,
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food,
Oh, I wish I'd looked after me teeth.
Pam Ayres

Steve Martin as the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors
A Trip to the Dentist
In the USA, almost everyone pays for almost everything and most people have a whole array of insurance policies to cover almost everything that one can think of. This includes medicine and dentistry. The UK has the NHS, which, despite its problems, makes me proud to be British. In the UK, we would pay about £13 each for a scale and polish for the adults and, as one would expect, it was always free for the children. The government payed the rest. The bill for our family trip to the dentist, for a similar amount of treament, in the USA was about $1500 plus an extra $500 or so of treatment that would most probably not have been prioritised by a UK dentist. Of this $2000, we had to part with $130 and the dental insurance policy covered the rest. The great thing about the NHS is that medical treatment is completely free and dental treatment is almost free for anyone regardless of socioeconomic status.

Austin Powers -- A Brit with bad teeth
A Brit with Bad Teeth
However, my recent State-side trip to the dentist has highlighted something that one can see in this and in other aspects of American life that is rarer in British life. This is the relationship between service providers and their recipients: that if one is paying for something up-front, one is likely to demand and therefore to receive a better quality of service. This is great for those who can afford it or have an employer who can afford it, but is less great for those who are less fortunate.

The USA seems to run on this principle. At the dentist, our initial "oral evaluation" was far more thorough than anything that I have ever experienced in the UK, with an emphisis on prophylactic treatment. In addition, the dentists/hygenists themselves are more polite and friendly. They realise that one can always take one's custom elsewhere, which is less easy to do in the UK.

While we're on the topic of teeth, what is the going rate for teeth at the moment?

When in England, our tooth fairy always used to give £1 per tooth. On the odd occasion, he'd forget to do his job, so we would have to negotiate compensation for his lateness to the tune of a 100% per tooth markup. Since moving to the US, the rate has been $1 per tooth, with the same penalty for lateness. However, we recently found out that Emily's friend's tooth fairy pays $5 per tooth. In addition, we were recentlyLarry David
Larry David
watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (one of the funniest programmes ever) wherein Susie's daughter, Sammi, has lost her last baby tooth and Susie is trying to put a $5 bill under her pillow (with disastrous consequences resulting from Larry using the upstairs loo very noisily whilst wearing very squeaky shoes). Is our tooth fairy particularly stingy? Should we be negotiating a better deal for our kids while they still have baby teeth to lose?


Anonymous said...

My son is 7 and has lost 4 teeth. He was the first of his friends to lose a tooth so I had no idea what the tooth fairy should leave. For the first tooth he received a Sacajawea golden dollar coin and he loved it. We moved soon after that and the children in the new area received much more than that - up to $5 per tooth. So for the next tooth the tooth fairy left another gold coin and a paper dollar bill in case he wanted to spend it. Well, my clever son came to the conclusion that for every tooth you lose you get 1 more dollar than the previous tooth so for the 3rd tooth he received $3 and the 4th tooth $4. At that point I decided that I was going to be paying a lot of money if it kept going at that rate so I explained to my son that the front four teeth are the special ones and that's probably why he received so much money. I told him that I bet the tooth fairy goes back to leaving 1 gold dollar and 1 regular dollar for the rest of the teeth and he seemed satisfied with that.

Claire Williams said...

We give £1 per tooth here in the UK. Seems to be the standard rate.

Viola said...

Perhaps the US tooth fairy leaves the child $3 for the tooth + tax, plus $2 tip?

Michael said...

Wow! I've got to talk to my parents about the quarter rate they imposed in my childhood.

Viola said...

Michael -- just bear in mind the rate of inflation!

Stephen C. Carlson said...

I checked around here, and the tooth fairy around my home only leaves 50 cents.

Viola said...

Perhaps you should negotiate a better deal.