More help needed with dental care

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From Suzette Hase, Consumer Council officer.

THE Consumer Council has noted that there have been a couple of letters in response to your article (JEP, 25 February) on dental fees which included a table compiled by us to help reiterate a point made by Scrutiny.

Unfortunately, the table was taken out of context, and it looks as if we were comparing Jersey’s average dental fees with the NHS dental fees in the UK. In fact, if the whole of the article had been published from our August 2008 newsletter, it would be clear that we were questioning the lack of support people get in Jersey with dental fees in comparison to the UK.

I am quite sure that Dental Excellence are very happy with their ‘reasonable’ fee structure (letter from A Davis and J Utting, JEP, 4 March) but that doesn’t get away from the fact that for many in Jersey these ‘reasonable’ dental fee structures are still not affordable.

The Consumer Council believes that more needs to be done to help people with dental fees, especially as dental health is fundamental to our general health.

The article in our newsletter of August 2008 was as follows:

A good set of teeth

IN Jersey, expensive dental bills have been the norm. You even hear of people purposefully going to places like Thailand to get their teeth sorted at easily half the price and throw in a holiday as well.

Why, when there has been so much research done in this area that all says that regular check-ups and subsequent treatments are essential to our overall health, do we not get a helping hand with the bills? So much money is ploughed into stopping things like smoking, binge-drinking, drugs, eating five a day,

etc, which is all very useful, but oral health seems to be left up to us and with little support.

In the UK you can get free NHS dental treatment if you are:

– Under 18.

– 16-18 and in full-time education.

– Pregnant, or have had a baby in the 12 months before treatment starts.

– An NHS in-patient and the treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist.

– An NHS Hospital Dental Service outpatient.

You are entitled to help if you or your partner receive either Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Guarantee Pension Credit; or if you are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate; or if you are named on a valid HC2 certificate.

What they pay on NHS:

– Examination, diagnosis, scale and polish, £15.90.

– The above plus fillings, root canal work, extractions, £43.60.

– The above plus crowns, dentures/bridges, £194.

What we pay:

Because our dentists have different price structures and various methods of payment it is difficult to create a precise price comparison list for dental treatments, but as a rough estimate you will be paying:

– £48 for a scale and polish.

– £65 for a filling.

– £95 for an extraction.

– £490 for a crown.

(For prices from your own dentist it is probably best to ask before treatment.)

Unfortunately these high costs associated with dentistry in Jersey can put many people off getting a regular check-up, which is absolutely fundamental to our general health. A bad set of ‘gnashers’ can lead to severe gingivitis, abscesses, ulcers and even oral cancer.

Yes, there are dental plans, and yes, there is a secondary school dental scheme, and yes, many dentists offer various payment methods – but it doesn’t go far enough in helping us to look after our teeth. We need to come in line with UK prices and, rather like our medical bills, our dental bills should also be subsidised for more of us who are feeling the pinch.

16 Royal Square,

St Helier.

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