Students

Free check-up with the student dentist

Open up and look for Wally

Is the dentist too expensive for you? To save on cost, you can have your teeth checked for free by dentists in training. You spend less money, and the students dentists have patients to practice on.
By Michelle Gerssen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Check Your smile

You can get a free check-up at Check Your Smile at the CTM until 4 January (extended period). You’ll get a 25 percent discount on any consecutive treatments. If you stay with the CTM for your regular check-ups, you will always be treated by the same intern, even when they move on to the master programme.

Approximately 30 percent of Check Your Smile patients become regular CTM patients. Check Your Smile is a recurring project; they’ll always need patients.

Dozens of dentist chairs are set up in neat rows, each accompanied by lamps, monitors, and frightening tools. Above each chair there’s a picture on the ceiling: Spot the Differences or Where is Wally. The only thing that’s missing is the sound of the dentist’s drill.

Nobody is actually being treated today, says UMCG Centre for Dentistry and Oral Care (CTM) department head Henri Lohr. ‘We’re only doing check-ups for Check Your Smile.’ The ‘dentists’, third-year bachelor students of dentistry, will be doing the check-ups. If any drilling is deemed necessary, this will be done during a next appointment.

Some of the chairs are already occupied. Nina Fieten, a student of marine biology, was unable to book an appointment with her own dentist before the end of the year, but she’d like to know if it’s worth getting dental insurance next year. So she signed up for Check Your Smile, the free check-up at the UMCG’s dental centre.

For anyone over eighteen, dental care is no longer covered in the basic health insurance, which means you’ll have to pay for it. Regular check-ups aren’t that expensive: approximately 20 euros. But if the check-up reveals you need more dental work, you’ll be in a financial pickle. And so it’s best to have dental insurance.

I had toothaches so bad, I couldn’t sleep

Wiljo Hoving, student of psychology, learned this the hard way. He went in for regular check-ups until he was eighteen, but when he moved out, he stopped going. He didn’t go to the dentist for almost two years. ‘I started getting toothaches so bad I couldn’t sleep. So I had to face the music.’

When he finally made an appointment, it was bad news: he had a few small cavities, but he also needed two full root canal treatments. In a root canal, the dentist drills a hole into the tooth, removes the nerve there, and fills the tooth back up. Each treatment is 300 euros. So please take care and get regular check-ups.

In common

If you go to the CTM at the UMCG for your check-up, it’s completely free. Two interns check your teeth to see what treatments you might need. Their teacher, a trained dentist, will check their work. During any follow-up appointments, the interns will explain their treatment plan and what the costs are.

After that, the choice is up to you: you can get treated at the CTM by the students who did the check-up, or you can take the treatment plan to your own dentist. The arrangement works for both parties: the dental students get to work on real patients, and the student patients get to have their teeth checked for free.

But is it a good idea to get treated by dentists in training? ‘The only difference I’ve noticed so far is that the check-up takes a little longer than a normal visit to the dentist, because they’re not as quick’, says Nina. ‘But it’s actually nice that the dentists are students as well; we’ve got more in common that way.’

X-ray

The interns are very precise, following a strict schedule. ‘Have you taken the patient history yet?’ one of the interns asks his colleague. Regular dentists do this during a check-up as well, except they’re so well-trained that they don’t have to ask out loud anymore.

Have you taken the patient history yet?

The student dentists don’t actually do anything during the check-ups; they observe. They will look at the state of your teeth and ask the patients about their general well-being. Occasionally, they’ll take pictures. Usually x-rays, but sometimes they’ll take an illuminated photo (see picture). These are then included in the patient’s file, to be used by the interns and their teacher to discuss the treatment plan.

The bachelor students also perform ‘simple’ actions, like cleaning teeth and doing fillings. If they encounter a larger problem, they’ll refer their patient to the interns in the master programme. They get to perform more complicated treatments, like root canals or fitting a crown.

Additional insurance

Wiljo had the first root canal treatment the same month he’d gone back to the dentist for the first time. He decided to postpone the second treatment and the filling of the cavities until the next year so he could get additional dental insurance. This saved him a few hundred euros.

Wiljo thinks additional dental insurance isn’t cost effective for students with proper teeth. ‘If you have regular check-ups and get your cavities filled on time, it’s perfectly affordable.’ He would advise his fellow students to not skip the check-ups, and he’s trying to stick to it himself. ‘I really have to stay on top of it though.’

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