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Fangs for nothing - why I paid $1500 for a crown that nobody is ever going to see

Opinion

It may go unseen despite taking a large bite from your bank balance, but there’s also a cautionary tale to learned from a visit to the dentist, writes Rebecca Levingston.

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Well, it finally happened.

Somebody gave me a crown.

Sadly, it was the dentist.

Open wide. Say aah… in fact that’s what I did say when the minty smelling dentist in a white coat told me I needed a porcelain molar and it would cost $1500. Argh! I felt royally unamused.

I guess I’d rather an expensive crown than a toothache. Even if no one ever sees it.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australians spent $9.5billion on dental services in 2019/2020. That’s about $374 per person. I guess I’m above average this year. Hooray for me.

I’ve never been a fan of the dentist. I never feel like I’ve flossed enough. I’ve also started using charcoal toothpaste just to live on the wild side and I wonder if that’s something that passes the dental pub test. Hope so otherwise I’ll be back soon for another dental tiara.

I do really appreciate dentists and the tricky work they do. But when I pop those 1980s sunnies on with my delicate paper towel bib and lay back in the electric chair, I know I’m in for thirty minutes of sounds and sensations I don’t enjoy.

Teeth will be on the agenda of federal politicians when parliament sits next week for the first time. A new crew. Labor will smile because they’re finally in power. The LNP will grit their teeth. The Greens will argue for dental in Medicare and the rest of the chamber will decide when and how they’ll show their fangs. Let’s hope they’re all willing to drill down to make a pain free contribution to life in Australia.

Politicians’ paypackets got fatter this month so they can probably afford a trip to the dentist. As of the first of July, the base salary for a federal MP jumped to $217,000 while a cabinet minister earns $370,000. Opposition leader Peter Dutton takes home just over $401,000 and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese survives on $564,000.

According to the AIHW report I’ve been chewing through, 4 in 10 people aged 15 years and over avoided or delayed visiting a dentist due to cost. Around one quarter of adults said they’d have difficulty paying a $200 dental bill. Considering everyone is tightening their belts to pay for petrol, lettuce and houses, it’s worrying to think that a tooth ache could become something more serious if it’s not fixed.

You’re born with twenty baby teeth and most adults have 32 teeth (28 if you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed like me). I remember getting them yanked and was prepared for days of discomfort and swelling, but I felt fine. I ate steak for dinner that night.

I also had a short stint with braces when I was around 10 years old. Shout out to the orthodontist who let me choose the colour of my rubber bands. I still remember the day my metal braces came off and I smiled with straight pearly whites.

Last year, I also managed to chip my front tooth licking yoghurt off a bowl, so it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Try explaining that to a masked dental nurse as you lie under blinding lights. Dental interrogation is one of life’s privileges and priorities.

I’m grudgingly grateful for time spent staring at a TV on a sterilised ceiling showing me sound-free nature documentaries. One dentist I visited had teeth facts on their roof. Teeth are not bones. The first toothbrush was a stick. Right handed people chew on the right side and left handers chew on the left. You’ll spend a month of your lifetime brushing your teeth. Every tooth and tongue is unique – life a fingerprint.

So I’ll be back in the dental chair soon for my coronation day. A crown on my maxillary right first molar which I will use to convince my children to brush their teeth. A cautionary tale that’ll be recalled for two minutes every morning and night.

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