Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010:
Dental care by the seat of your pants
in Malmö and Helsingborg

What I think:

I've been to the dentist a few times over the past couple of months. Apparently there are spaces between my gums and teeth in which bacteria are starting to form, which could cause me grief a bit later on in life; the grief being that I could be toothless if I'm not ultra-careful about keeping everything spotless in my gaping cake-hole.

I've learned a few tooth/dentist-related Swedish words during my time here, which I'd like to share with you now.
In Swedish (bear with me on this):

- Tooth is tand; a direct translation.

- Dentist is tandläkare, which is a compound word, consisting of tand (tooth) and läkare (doctor). So the direct translation of tandläkare is tooth doctor. So a dentist, in Swedish, is a tooth doctor. Cute, huh?

- Gums is my favourite inside-your-mouth word. In Swedish it's tandkött. Another compound word, this one consists of tand (tooth), as you've already learned, and kött (pronounced kind of like "should", but you replace the last consonant sound ["ld"] with a "t". This means meat or flesh.). So the direct translation of tandkött is tooth meat. So gums, in Swedish, are tooth meat. Isn't that adorable? Bless.

- Tartar may taste nice on fish, but apparently it's nasty on the teeth. In Swedish, it's known as tandsten, which translates to tooth stone, which, unless you're Keith Richard [Hi Keith!], is really not as glamorous as it sounds.

- "Open wide". "Gapa" is what a Swedish dentist (or a sadistic dental hygienist, apparently) says when he (or, more commonly, she) says when they can't quite reach the tooth containing the nerve that will cause you the most agonising (US/CAN: agonizing) misery. Interestingly - and etymologically - the English word "gape" (as in "my gaping cake-hole") comes directly from the Old Norse word "gapa", meaning "to open the mouth".

There you go. You learned something new today. Unless you're Swedish, in which case: Håll käften.

So anyway, my four - no five - visits to the sadistic Swedish dental hygienist cost me around 3,000 kronor (this is, at the time of writing, about £278.50 / US$446.20 / CAN$447.65 / €322.70 / 2,063,673 Zambian Kwacha).

I guess this isn't too bad, considering all the torture you get for your money, but since other healthcare is so greatly subsidised (US/CAN: subsidized) here, one would have thought it would be substantially less. Ah well...

And now for a not-so-smooth segue. I was on my way to one of my band's [CSI: Helsingborg's] notorious Pissed Rehearsals in Helsingborg a couple of weeks ago, umm, after having brushed my teeth.

When I got off the bus and headed for the platform, I noticed that just about all of the bicycles parked near the platform had these bright pink seat covers on them.
You see, over the past year or so (possibly longer; I'm not normally terribly observant), someone came up with the clever advertising (US/CAN: advertising - ha, gotcha) idea of printing up logos and/or messages on pre-made bike seat covers and putting them over as many bicycles as they could find.

This is actually quite ingenious, as many Swedish cyclists normally use plastic carrier bags as covers to keep their seats dry when the weather really sucks (which is usually about 342 days a year) and - regardless of the message of who's selling what - would probably appreciate having this little cycling accessory given to them free of charge.

[Unless, of course, it was provided by the Sverigedemokraterna (The Sweden Democrats), in which case 5.7% would hang it on their walls, about 54.3% would burn it, a few would actually use it, and the rest wouldn't be sure whether they should sit on it or not. Oh yeah, some would sell it on e-Bay.*]

But I'm into advertising, and not politics, so I thought I'd just check out which company was splashing out on this particular benevolent gesture. When I approached the nearest seat, here's what I saw:The Skåne region's "dental health" authority is advertising on these things. What?
(By the way, Skåne is the county or province (whatever) in the southwesternmost part of Sweden.)

The large writing (roughly translated) means "Your smile looked after.". The bit in the black speech balloon means "Healthy dental care - now for everyone!". The bit at the bottom is this website ->

Now, Malmö is not a huge city; certainly not by American, Canadian, British, Australian, French, Spanish, German, Irish, Italian, (... etc... for ages...) Peruvian, Turkish, Brazilian, or even Swedish standards, but there are a lot of cyclists here; that is if you look at bikes per capita, and the number of those who actually use them regularly.

I looked over at (one of) the main cycle park area(s), and just had to go halfway across the bridge to share this with you:That's a lot of dental care encouragement, wouldn't you say?

Then glancing back at the other (main) end of the station:
And there's a bit across the bridge over the canal:Amazing.

So. I caught the train to Helsingborg, and was walking to the Charles Dickens Pub to meet guitarist CSI: Nils for our usual pre-Pissed Rehearsal piss-up, and I realised that the tooth-care-advert fairies had hit Helsingborg as well (Helsingborg is also in Skåne):I hadn't left Helsingborg's train station through the bicycle parking area, but it looked as though a deed had definitely been done there too.

A couple more bits of evidence:

So, apparently, the dental care authority of Skåne had spent loads of money advertising the fact that people in the southwest of Sweden should visit their dentists, as if this was a radically new idea.

Oh, by the way, when I was in Paris last month, I was at this place and went out for a smoke, and there was some guy selling funky-flashy glasses. I had to try them on...I didn't buy any, and the guy selling was a bit annoyed, but this guy did...
... and the funky-flashy glasses sales guy was happy again. That's him to the left of the guy wearing (two pairs! Ha-ha! of ) the funky-flashy glasses.

Oh, how we laughed, etc.

Anyway, as I was saying, I wonder how much money was spent on producing and distributing those glasses - no, seat covers - in Skåne. Most Swedes that I've met are well aware of the existence of dentists, and most actually go through the ritual torture that that awareness entails; it's pretty much a part of being Swedish.

So why spend so much money on this silly campaign? Can't they use the money for the research and development of more efficient and painful torture devices? It's all very futile, it's ridiculous, it's costly, and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

[*Based on figures I made up, for the most part.]

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28 Comments:

Blogger Ken said...

Excellent piece, and pertinent questions. It's like advertising milk. Why? There has to be limited value back from that advertising money.
I think you forgot one Swedish dental word:
lån - meaning loan - and most dentist offices offer them so you can go into debt to pay for something that should be covered under the regular health system.

10:16 pm  
Blogger Miss Kitten said...

This is one thing that perplexes me about the national health plan in Sweden, that as good as it normally is, for some reason it doesn't cover dental. When you ask a typical Swede why dental care isn't covered they don't really answer the question but usually say, "Well, it is free if you're 20 or younger. " Good to know, although that doesn't actually help me because I'm older than that.

I mean, even in the States with its famously flawed and expensive private health insurance system, you can always count on dental being covered on even the crappiest plan.

5:06 pm  
Blogger Mark Base said...

Don't know why, but it's the same in the UK; dental isn't covered by the NHS. Maybe there are powerful lobbyists in the denture industry.

6:18 pm  
Anonymous Greg said...

It bothers me as my sister has just emigrated to Ludvika.
It has to be better than the UK

Greg

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

somewhat late a Swede needs to comment. This is an ad for public dentists in competition with private dentists. So that's why they spet the money. To attract customers from private dentists.

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