I've occasionally wondered why dentists have never shown the same enthusiasm for lifestyle regulation as doctors. You never hear the dental equivalent of the British Medical Association calling for tax rises on sugary drinks and a ban on gobstoppers.
Cynical minds would say this is because dentists usually work in the private sector. While it often seems that doctors view patients as an unnecessary obstacle keeping them from the gold course, dentists could be forgiven for wanting the government to subsidise pork scratchings and boiled sweets.
Whatever the motives, dental patients have learnt not expect to expect the Spanish Inquisition (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, etc.). But then along comes this idiot, and now Alex Deane at Big Brother Watch has told his tale of unit-counting at his dental surgery.
From Big Brother Watch:
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?
As it happens, my own dentist is a good friend of mine so I have been spared all of this. He knows exactly how much I've been drinking most weekends and any lectures from him would, in any case, be laughably hypocritical. He also tells me that in 12 years in practice, he has only ever diagnosed one case of oral cancer. (It is a fairly rare disease, claiming fewer than 2,000 lives in England and Wales last year.)
But Dick Puddlecote confirms that this line of questioning is now not only standard, but compulsory.
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.
Unless you actually like being lectured, what better way to deal with intrusive questions from the state?