Saturday, January 26, 2008

Down in the Mouth

I must admit I have never fancied being a dentist. When I was a medical student we shared pre-clinical classes with dental students, and I could never understand why it was felt that dentists, who are solely concerned with affairs above the neck, required a training as long as that of a doctor. Most medical students are driven to at least a small degree by a spirit of altruism, but as far as I could see most dental students were motivated by a heart-felt desire to make as much money as possible and retire as early as possible. I may be doing them a disservice here, but somehow I doubt it!

Even though I have always felt that most of the dentists I knew were financially better off than I, I really didn't envy them. Several decades of poking around in mouths afflicted by halitosis does not appeal to me, and I don't think I would find the work very varied. I hadn't, however, thought of the degree to which these guys were exposed to litigation as well.

In the usual way that trends tend to flow across the Atlantic from the USA, litigation has been increasing in medical practice in the UK. So far, general medical practice has not been affected too badly, although my Defence Union subscriptions have increased a fair bit over the years. According to this article, however, legal claims against dentists have increased dramatically in recent years. Much of this seems to relate to increasing amounts of private dental work.

I wonder if the people making these claims care about the fact that their successful litigation will inevitably lead to escalating costs for them and everyone else in the future? I suspect not.