Gritted teeth

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The Independent Online

All is not well with British dentistry. Two years ago, the Prime Minister, a man noted for his own oral arrangements, promised that dental treatment on the NHS would be, by now, just a telephone call away; yesterday, a survey reported that 40 per cent of dentists will not take on new NHS patients.

All is not well with British dentistry. Two years ago, the Prime Minister, a man noted for his own oral arrangements, promised that dental treatment on the NHS would be, by now, just a telephone call away; yesterday, a survey reported that 40 per cent of dentists will not take on new NHS patients.

The temptation to take revenge for that excruciating filling of the upper molar (left), for the cheery humming, or for all those questions posed when your mouth is full of clamps, should be resisted, as it seems a little harsh to blame dentists for the failings of the public system or for choosing to earn more privately for similar work. Besides, it is not a glamorous job: all those mouths, and being regarded as the inferior medical profession to boot. Perhaps our dentists would be more amenable if they were afforded more respect and warmth.

We should start by remembering some famous dentists: Paul Revere was a dentist, and William George Beers, the pioneer of lacrosse in Canada. We would also remind you that Doc Holliday's dental qualifications are in doubt, and that extractions were very much a sideline for Dr Crippen. And, please, next time you come across a dentist: smile.

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