...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"That'll be 560 today and 620 the next time"

(I took this picture off the net. For some reason, creators of these subtitled pictures assume that if cats could speak, they would do so in bad English. Cats probably think our meowing sounds pathetic and sissy.)

Man, going to the dentist in Sweden costs big bucks.

When I brushed my teeth about a month and a half ago and found out that I had a little hole in one of my premolars, I got so bothered by the fact that I literally had trouble sleeping.

My first dental cavity. Hadn't I been brushing my teeth as often as I should? Have I been eating too much candy in this land of candy stores? Could it have been prevented had I dared to visit the Swedish dentists for check-ups these past years?

The main thing that turned me off from getting yearly check-ups here had been the notoriously high price of dental care. Google "cost of dental care" in Swedish and you'll find articles telling you that the common Svensson doesn't have enough money to go to the dentist regularly and usually waits out until his teeth get really bad. They write that there are marked inequalities in dental health – it isn't free when you're past 20 – and young people, especially young parents and students, are affected the most. My teeth are (were?) in good shape anyway, so I hoped to wait until a future visit to the Philippines and have all my dental needs taken care of there by equally competent dentists for at least 1/7th (yes, one-seventh) of the Swedish price.

But then I got that cavity. And I couldn't wait to have it fixed.

I called one of the public dentist clinics and reported the cavity (the clinic's name is Druvan, just for the record), but they didn't have any free time until after three weeks. I waited impatiently for those three weeks to get over with. And this morning, when I got there and told them about my cavity for a second time, the dentist and his assistant said that they're likely to see it when they give me a check-up.

After about 10 minutes there, I was starting to feel that the big bucks everybody had been writing about must have been worth it after all: the dentist asked about my wisdom teeth, x-rayed my jaw and even hastily cleaned away some plaque around the cavity. I was already thinking about how price-worthy this dentist's visit was going to be... until they put the chair back up without warning and the assistant told me that that was all for today. What? Weren't they going to fix the hole I told them about? I had already pointed it out before the check-up – in fact, I never even asked for this useless check-up – and had they looked at what I pointed out in the first place, they wouldn't have needed to x-ray me to find my cavity. It's visible to the naked eye, for crying out loud. And there they were looking at my x-rays and asking me if I only suspected having a cavity. Hadn't they been listening to me?

Imagine my surprise and confusion when the dentist also said that I would have to pay 560 kronor (3,600 pesos) for this general check-up, and another 620 kronor at our next appointment when he would actually fill the cavity – actually what I went there for in the first place. I was still in a state of confusion when I got back to the reception, where they told me that my next appointment – which would be in another two weeks' time – would last 20 minutes. If that's how much time it would have taken to fix that blasted cavity, I really wonder why they didn't do it in the first place. What a meaningless appointment it had been, an unnecessary waste of money, and such a big disappointment. I wasn't even in the dentist's office for 15 whole minutes, paid the equivalent of a half months' worth of groceries, and for what? So that they could confirm a cavity I already knew about from the beginning and already made clear that I wanted fixed. For that money, I could get a whole set of dentures made in the Philippines or something.

I wrote a letter to the head of the clinic this afternoon saying how disappointed I am that neither the dentist nor the assistant told me what the check-up all was about, and that they hadn't bothered to even look at the cavity when I told them about it. This is my first time at a Swedish dentist, so who knows if a check-up was really the first thing they needed to do; but in that case, they could at least have told me what they were going to do (i.e. count my teeth) and what they weren't going to do (i.e. fix my problem). But they never during the whole procedure consulted me on what was going to happen. If I could repeat that scenario now, I would have raised hell in the dentist's office. But well, that didn't happen.

The next time I have a cavity – which I hope doesn't come until I'm past 30 – I'll consider dental tourism.


Anonymous JaakkoJ said...

Apropos dental tourism, they say Germany is a good target. You just have to get European Health Insurance Card for this purpose from Försäkringskassan (you can order it online with mere personnummer).

In Germany, they should accept that at a public dentist and you should get the work done with cheaper price. I'm not sure how much cheaper though. But it's strange that the taxes we pay only give reward when you're abroad :D.

6:28 PM

Anonymous Esther said...

I know, it's hugely expensive! My friends in Niger would never imagine that I pay more to go to the dentist then I paid for my prized horse Arwen! This year, I have a filling that needs to be repaired. Two visits and a total cost of 1500kr! Not bad, hey? :-)

11:49 AM

Anonymous ria said...

oh goodness! that reminds me of the time when i got billed for about 5000kr!sama ng loob ko pero ano pa bang magagawa ko...buti na lang pwedeng monthly yung payments.....ouch!


11:07 PM


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