I suppose we should have seen it coming - no simple appointment card for us, but a huge colour glossy brochure which cost over two pounds to post! My wife took my eldest daughter to the orthodontist today, looking at x-rays and discussing future treatment. He proposed a course of treatment, which involved some surgery to correct odd growth of wisdom teeth, and a brace for around eighteen months to give her straight, white teeth in time for adulthood.
Since my daughter is not yet teenage, and we were seeing the orthodontist on the NHS, we assumed of course that any treatment would be on the National Health. How wrong we were!
The orthodontist went on to explain that his "NHS waiting list" was so long that he wouldn't even be able to see her for the best part of a year. However, if we were to pay privately, the same orthodontist could see her next month. In addition he added - pointedly in front of my daughter - the ugly NHS brace could easily be replaced with the new transparent alternative if we paid privately.
This "brave new world" of private dentistry could be ours from just £3000. What? Yes, three thousand pounds. There were easy pay options, and added extras - whitening, straightening, you name it - it was ours for hard cash.
We're now looking around for an NHS orthodontist who doesn't have a year-long waiting list. Let's hope the next one doesn't have any expensive cars, mortgages and hobbies that need paying for.