Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DDS? Just let me talk to the hardware store clerk

From the UK comes something to keep in mind as the desirability of mandated universal healthcare in the US is bandied about. And no, this is not from The Onion, I promise:
Large numbers of people are going without dental treatment and some even report extracting their own teeth because they cannot find an NHS dentist in their area, a survey reveals today. ...

Just over 10% were not registered with a dentist at all. A third of those (35%) said there were no NHS dentists nearby, 22% said they did not know how to find one, 13% said they were on a waiting list and 30% said there were other reasons.

But 6% of the respondents said they were self-treating, which often included pulling out their own troublesome teeth. "Fourteen teeth have had to be removed by myself using pliers," said one Lancashire respondent. "Have pulled teeth out before, easier than finding a dentist," said one in Hull. ...

Some of the respondents show considerable ingenuity. "Filled own teeth - clove oil and Polyfilla," said one in Essex. Another fixed a crown with Superglue and a third used a screwdriver to scrape off plaque.

At least human ingenuity can still overcome governmental 'solutions' to pressing problems like these!

Market distortions in healthcare create shortages, both in the availability and quality of the care that is provided. Government is not the only 'culprit', though. By restricting the number of people accepted into dental school, an artificial upward pressure on wages is leading to a reduction in the number of people in the US who are making regular dental visits:
Since fewer dentists are getting trained now than in the early 1980s (a decline of over 20%) the number of dentists will actually decrease in coming years as many practicing dentists retire. So if you are thinking about getting dental work done best to get it done sooner. It will probably cost less now than in a few years from now. Another alternative is to get dental work done in another country if you have any plans for travel to countries with lower dental costs.

Certification processes that require some duration in training, rather than simply the merit of passing proficiency exams, create a similar effect across a variety of fields. Most accounting work does not require a CPA. Lots of networking jobs do not require the motley mix of certifications offered by industry giants. Most dental visits do not require complicated surgical work. Dental assistants making $15 an hour can handle most of the patients who come in for routine cleanings. So why not be able to go to a 'teeth cleaning' center that is run by people with dental assistant qualifications at much lower cost?

5 comments:

Rob said...

And the teeth-cleaning center can email my X-rays to a dentist in India to interpret.

I wonder how much immigration contributes to fewer dentists person? Of the ~million Mexican criminals who come here every year, I will bet that a smaller percentage of them are dentists than the native population.

I haven't looked into it, but I think most US schools have failed to produce enough functional graduates (like doctors who can pass the USMLEs) to keep up with the increasing population.

Partly it may be a matter of lag. Expanding a med school takes time. Opening a new one is very hard. As Randall Parker stated, a greater fraction of new dentists are women, who provide less dental care per degree. No one has mentioned how many minorities take slots in dental school, thereby keeping out whites, and then fail out or never pass licensing requirements.

mensarefugee said...

If Sailer's new article is any indication... $15.00 in California is not much at all. (aka even smaller than it sounds)

Audacious Epigone said...

Rob,

I won't take you up on the bet:

The number of Latino dentists acquiring licenses to practice in California has fallen dramatically, by nearly 80 percent, between 1983 and 2000. This decline is not merely an affirmative action issue; it results in an issue of access. Latino dentists are far more likely to speak Spanish and be located in a heavily Latino area than non-Latino dentists. Currently, although the supply of Latino dentists is dwindling, the Latino population is growing rapidly. In California and out-of-state schools, first-year matriculation of Latino USDG must increase.

Mensa,

I'm thankful I don't live in LA, fighting for a middle class existence requiring a salary in the mid $100K range, with lots of undesirable externalities, like pollution, overcrowding, crime, etc.

Rob said...

Damn AP, I was looking to make some easy money.

As the proportion of the population with lower average IQ increases, it becomes more important to use more and more of the brains that we have. Once upon a time, when a greater fraction of the population had IQ's over, say 115, some of them could work in lower-end jobs. But to keep the same level of services with a lower average IQ population, we can waste less and less of the smart fraction.

When the population was 15% minority, affirmative action was far more affordable. Now it is less so, especially as minorities suffer disproportionately from the skill crunch.

A Free Man said...

I hate dentists!

Every time I go to the dentist I go for a specific reason, ie, to have a filing, to repair another filling etc, why the hell do they always insist on drilling new holes?

Well, I actually know, they get more money, the bastards!

So, I would not go as a point of principle, and I definitly do not go to British dentists as they are all Africans and other 'ethnics' who bought their qualifications from some dodgy crook overseas.

Its been 6 years since I had to go due to excrusiating pain in one of my teeth, but now I self medicate rather then go to the butcher shops available!