Dentist: we haven’t got details of your alcohol intake.Good on ya', sunbeam.
Me: no, you haven’t.
Dentist: well, there’s a health form - we’ve got to have it!
Me: no, you don’t.
Dentist: well, what am I supposed to put in this space, then?
Me: you can put that I said it’s none of your business.
Dentist: Alex, you don’t seem to understand – this is to guard against oral cancer.
Nought to cancer in four questions!! Talk about bringing out the big guns. Needless to say, the exchange ended:
Me: I’ll take my chances
Dentist: (total disbelief) So I’ve got to put that you won’t tell me?
I had a similar experience a couple of months ago when moving to a different dental practice and signing in for a check up**. In this case, I was given the form to fill in myself. I completed it but left the question on 'alcohol units per week' blank, assuming that it was optional. Having handed it to the receptionist and reseated myself to continue reading a riveting copy of OK magazine (yes, it was the only *cough* literature available, and yes, I was being sarcy), she called me back to point out that I had not answered all the questions.
"Oh, I didn't think that one was compulsory", said I, politely, to which she countered that she couldn't register me at the practice unless it was filled in. I just took the pen, placed a big fat zero in the box, handed it to her with a smile, and sat down again. The look I received was a mixture of disdain and anger. She knew the answer was untrue but - short of accusing me of being a liar in public - there was nothing she could do about it.
Sorry, but this information is none of a dentist's business. When he sees me every six months, will his treatment change dependent on what figure is declared on that form? Of course not. If he sees signs of oral cancer, he will act upon them, just as he would with a teetotaller. What, with reference to Alex's example, can a dentist possibly do to 'guard against' such an occurrence?
Not a lot, I'd venture. So there are no compelling benefits for the patient in answering that question.
There is, however, much potential for abuse of that data, especially in these times of nannying puritanism. Once your intake is logged, it opens up an avenue for the NHS to badger you if they don't like what they see. If the dentist's system is in any way linked up to the Summary Care Records database (which the Tories promised to scrap ... but didn't) - and I'm sure it probably is - the mailshot scaremongery and nagging will be just around the corner.
And, looking to the future because it has certainly been mumbled a few times by certain health obsessives, how'd you like the idea of being flagged as a drinker and being charged for - or even denied - treatment due to your self-proclaimed unitary intake?
No, the best course of action is to either lie or, if possible, tell them to stick their question where the sun don't shine as Alex has done. Safer by far, doncha think?
** I know you're curious ... one filling, I was a good boy and didn't cry, so took one of the lollipops on the way out. A green one, tasted a bit appley.
UPDATE: Thanks to a commenter who pointed out why dentists should definitely not be trusted with information which could be used to deny treatment.