Brisbane city, February 2009
I love returning to Brisbane's central business district, where I worked for eight years. The city is a juxtaposition of old buildings with fancy new skyscrapers. In the very centre, it's easy to find your way around if you remember that the king streets (William, George, Albert, Edward) run one way and the queen streets (Alice, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth, Queen, Adelaide, Ann) run perpendicular.

I left the kids at home and headed into the city today in pursuit of the oxymoronic — cheap dental work.

The last time I had my teeth looked at, it was before we had even started trying to have kids — so, that makes it early 2004. I know it’s time for another check-up, and I’ve been dreading it. Not because I hate dentists, but I just hate being ripped off by a profession that knows they can charge exorbitant fees because there’s little competition!

So I was pleased to discover that the University of Queensland’s School of Dentistry accepts public patients. I called a couple weeks ago and put my name on their register.

Applicants are then called in for a free assessment, which may — or may not — lead to further work being done. It depends if the school needs your type of mouthwork with which to teach their students. After the free assessment, you pay for the dental work, but at greatly reduced rates. (As I was waiting, I spoke to another client who said her work cost about half the price she’d pay at a private practice, and she’d been coming to the school for her dental work for sixteen years!)

Once at the clinic, I found the staff almost excruciatingly cheerful. Everyone introduced themselves to me by name, shook my hand and smiled broadly. Eek— I don’t feel that friendly — maybe it’s a concerted attempt to soothe those dental phobias. I filled out forms, waited for an x-ray, filled out more forms and then took my turn in the chair with a trainee dentist and trainee assistant.

The examination was very slow, and I could hear the girl counting under my breath as she tried identified each tooth in my mouth. She and the assistant discussed some medical terms before I was done. I was left to doze in the chair when they disappeared for a while before they presented my case to a certified dentist who came and examined me himself, reassuring me of their high level of service.

It turns out that I really only need a scrape and clean — painless! The friendly receptionist (Belinda was her name) will call me with an appointment when it suits the students.

The verdict? Yes, try out your local dentistry school. Plan on taking your time and book out several hours for even an assessment.

School of dentistry, February 2009
In Brisbane? Need cheap dental? Phone the School of Dentistry to get on the waiting list for a free assessment.