Wednesday 27 October 2010

Fillings And Forms

Alex Deane at Big Brother Watch shares an anecdote with us from a recent visit to his dentist.

Dentist: we haven’t got details of your alcohol intake.

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?

Me: Yup.
Good on ya', sunbeam.

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.


Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

I would have loved to have written:

19,256.568 units/week

and bloody well insisted it was written down.

from the middle aged geek that has had no fillings

Simon Cooke said...

Putting zero was the wrong response - should have put a number that is unlikely by just about feasible - like 937 units!

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

And my philosophy is that life is for living, with friends, good food, balance and copious amount of wine.

And I tell you what: I bet, in a better society than we have now, that like the ancient days, they will discover that wine and happiness are the elixir of life.

These fucking, hectoring Righteous wankers are depriving us of our freedom, pleasures and longevity!

Anonymous said...

Not that long ago the definition of an alcoholic was "someone who drunk more than his doctor".
My doctor is also a friend of mine - and I know this to still hold true today.
Being a dentist carries with it the highest risk of suicide of ANY occupation (one in our practice actually did this).

Dick Puddlecote said...

Zero was the first thing I could think of while remaining blithely nonchalant on the outside. Besides, if I'd put a big number, the huge woman (for that she was, with a roll of carpet for a chest) may have sat on me in anger!

Pat Nurse MA said...

ha ha ha - that's me when I visit the dentist. They hate it when you don't tell 'em and they get all sanctimonious about it.

My response now is always :"I do not give details of my lifestyle choices on the grounds that may be discriminated against so I won't say if I smoke, drink, ride horse, play golf, walk, run, swim or climb mountains."

Lost for words is their response.

Everybody should do it and then they'd stop asking!

Anonymous said...

A few days ago it was reported that NHS dentists were proposing to decline treatment to patients who ate sweet things or didn't brush correctly.
This follows suggestions of the NHS refusing treatment to smokers.

Strange then that we never hear of the NHS refusing treatment to male homosexualists who, despite 30 years of warnings, still stick parts of their bodies where they're not designed to go and hence catch serious diseases which require life-long and expensive medication ? One rule for the bum-bandits.....

Dick Puddlecote said...

Great spot, Anon, here's the link.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

I'd have been tempted to ask, 'exactly how much is a unit?'

I bet they'd have to look it up.

Anyway, why should anyone have a regular intake? I drink the odd bottle of wine, quite a few bottles of beer, and spirits on special occasions. I couldn't possibly provide an accurate weekly amount, as it varies all the time. Doesn't everybody's?

Dick Puddlecote said...

JBJ: We're all automatons, didn't you know? ;)

Leg-iron said...

I think my response would have been 'The box was too small'.

Then I'd have written an answer to five decimal places. 20.99652 per week, all between 6 and 6:30 am on a Tuesday. Then, poker-faced and doom-voiced, 'I could never learn to cope with Tuesdays'.

These days, they wouldn't believe the real number. They are the ones who drive me to it.

I never go to dentists. They drill holes in my face, fill the holes with poison and charge me for the privilege. Don't need them. I have pliers and whisky, should the need arise.

Junican said...

The easy answer to the question: 'Do you smoke?' is 'No, I have given up' - and the same to drinking. The problem is that the statistics will reveal what a wonderful job the Gov is doing with its tobacco control initiatives and how successful it is.
Maybe the best way is to exagerate rather than diminish.

Anonymous said...

at my last dental appointment they also questioned (interrogated) me about my smoking habit. I asked how it was relevant, she said they would check more thoroughly for signs of oral cancer if I was a smoker. I thanked her for the offer of preferential treatment but I had to decline as I thought all her patients should be treated equally. She sputtered a bit, snarled that she knew I smoked as a packet was in my shirt pocket and she would put 20 as the daily consumption. There was no requirement for me to sign !!

Snakey said...

I have regularly attended dental appointments for most of my life. However, the last time I visited I was given a form to fill in (which I was told was a requirement every 3 years). I refused to fill it in because of the questions about my smoking and drinking habits. I simply handed the form back and stated that nothing had changed on my record. The receptionist got all huffy with me stating that it had to be filled in or they wouldn't get their funding. (Like I gave a stuff about their funding when they are snooping into my private lifestyle habits.)

I restated that I did not wish to fill the form in. After I had sat down one of the receptionists went off to tell my dentist about my lack of form filling obedience, like the good little drone she was. When she came back she imperiously demanded that I step towards the reception desk. She then told me that my dentist would not treat me unless I filled the form in. I walked out.

I now have no dentist as I still refuse to fill in the form. I don't actually drink but that's beside the point. They have no right to refuse me treatment just because I won't go along with their little game.

Mr Angry said...

Just ask for the form in braille. If they say that you are not blind then say you are blind and for not having the form in braille they are breaking some stupid discrimination law or something!

Dick Puddlecote said...

Anon @ 6:28 & Snakey: Thanks for the anecdotes. It looks like the threat of withholding treatment for non-compliance is widespread, then.

I reckon something should be done about that. I'll put my thinking cap on.

Mr Angry: Interesting angle of attack. :)

JuliaM said...

" It looks like the threat of withholding treatment for non-compliance is widespread, then. "

Do they have a professional body? Would this be considered unethical? If so, report 'em!

Mr A said...

Yep same happened to me re: smoking. I go in for a check up every six months and a polish every four months. The Dentist started on her smoking speil and I just said, "I'm not interested. And it's none of your business." She too seemed flabbergasted but realised I was in no mood for it. That said, a year later I went in and I happened to have an ulcer on my tongue. Now, I'm 39 years old - I've had mouth ulcers before; I know what they're like. But this suddenly became a "lesion" which meant I had to cancel work to go in for another check up a fortnight later when, surprise surprise, being a mouth ulcer, it had gone.

Then again, I suppose their rampant paranoia means I get better service. I remember Leg Iron saying once that if you have a cough and are a smoker, you'll get all the cancer tests straight away. But they're so brainwashed that smoking CAUSES cancer, then if you are a non-smoker and have a cough they won't bother and they may miss something.

Still, I just ignore them and it seems to work okay so far.

Anonymous said...

I've concluded that private dental treatment lowers the risk of oral cancer. My dentist has never mentioned it.

Caratacus said...

Now then chaps (& ladies) it may just be me but I think the very last person you should go upsetting is a bloody dentist. I've seen "Marathon Man" you know, and made a number of mental notes I can tell you.

That said, if someone asks me for information which is none of their business I smile sweetly and say, "Aren't plums cheap?" or something. Then I am six foot, weigh 200lbs and have a face that grown men have been known to recoil from even in broad daylight....

Anonymous said...

I put N/A in those boxes, Not Answering but they assume Not Applicable and means 0. I haven't had to fib or tell them anything and it keeps them happy.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Good point Caratacus {shivers at Marathon Man scene}. So do you think I've buggered myself up with a DH FOI request and messages to two dental associations? ;)

TURTLE said...

I'm sure there must be more diseases to catch from arse licking than there is from having a couple of beers.. Or even half a bottle of gin for that matter..

Caratacus said...


First rule of combat - have a plan. Why combat? you ask, because the buggers can cause you pain!

Anonymous said...

On 28 October 2010 at 17:21 Anonymous said... "I've concluded that private dental treatment lowers the risk of oral cancer. My dentist has never mentioned it.

Alas, my private dentist has. He was using it as part of an excuse to fleece his customers/patients with longer, more frequent, and more expensive appointments. The landlord took possession of the surgery a little while ago! Can't have been paying the rent on time! Obviously sufficient patients got up and walked.