1,500 queue for cheap dental care

Polish dentists treating Swedish patients in English - at half the price of a trip to a Swedish dentist. That's the idea behind City Dental, a new low-price clinic which opened in Stockholm this week.

And so far there are no signs of teething troubles, as over 1,500 people have already booked appointments and founder Mattias Santesson is pushing ahead with plans to open clinics in Gothenburg and Malmö.

“Thousands of people can’t afford to visit the dentist and the government does not seem inclined to reform the dentistry sector,” said Santesson.

Santesson has set his company’s prices at exactly half those of the Public Dental Service, Folktandvården.

“The Public Dental Service is somewhat cheaper than private dentists, but since they’re the only ones who publish an official price list we’re comparing ourselves with them.”

Santesson has staffed the Stockholm clinic with Polish dentists, exploiting the glut of dentistry graduates in Poland, the fact that Poles are now entitled to work in Sweden unrestricted, and their willingness to take a lower salary.

“They earn less than Swedish dentists,” said Santesson, refusing to give any more details other than confirming that they earned more than the average Swedish wage of 23,600 kronor per month.

“They are absolutely not underpaid but the exact wage is my business secret,” he told Dagens Nyheter.

The clinic’s Polish dentists, of which there are four men and six women, say they were attracted by the money as well as the opportunity for experience they could not have gained at home.

“It’s fun to work in a modern clinic in a big city,” said chief dentist Wioleta Waszek.

Unless patients happen to speak Polish, the dentists work in English. And for Swedish patients who find English tricky with a drill in their mouths, Swedish dental nurses are on hand to translate.

But while the patients and the dentists are happy, the trade union organisation LO, which recently supported a blockade of a building site in Vaxholm because it was using cheaper labour from Latvia, expressed concern.

“It creates apartheid in the labour market,” said LO’s wage agreements secretary Erland Olauson to Expressen.

Mattias Santesson responded by pointing out that low-paid LO members are precisely the people who would benefit from the option of low-cost dentistry.

“Our primary goal is not to take customers from the private dentists but to be able to offer dental care to that big group who today cannot afford to care for their teeth,” he said.

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