Moscow Medicine – an Appreciation: Dentistry

Ross Hunter, (serial) Moscow School headmaster

This is the third article in a mini-series of medical care in Moscow.  Earlier I looked at personal experience & thanks; then General diagnosis. Today, I turn my head with some of its teeth still intact towards  dentistry.

Earlier articles focused on medical and hospital care in Moscow, and started a comparison of the problems and responses to the deepening problems of financing good care in wealthy countries.  Dentistry has always stood slightly apart from general medicine, so deserves its own focus. In the UK, nearly all medicine, and nowadays also social care, are under the same NHS umbrella. This is sensible but it does make the National Health Service very large and unwieldy – it is the largest single employer in western Europe. One of the key goals of the NHS’ founders was that care would be ‘free at the point of use’ – whether for a GP’s routine check up or intensive surgery, and with the (still subsidised) exception of prescription charges, still largely honoured. For now, at least – dark forces are plotting to destroy this. Private medical care is a tiny percentage of the total, whether by NHS doctors working in both sectors, or by profit-seeking corporations.  

Dentistry has only ever been half under the NHS umbrella. Appointments cost money, so does each costed procedure, although again subsidised by state tax funding. As with general health, needs are swamping provision. A shortage of home trained dentists, and restricted immigration, is facing ever worse demands, caused by poor education and the explosion of sugary foods and sweets. These are all largely universal problems. 

Moscow fares better than most. The Soviet system trained far too many doctors and dentists, among others, so there is a good supply of practitioners. Finding a dentist and getting space in The Chair is much, much easier than in western Europe.  So much so, that ‘dental tourism’ is a growing sector: dentists in, say, Hungary, Czechia and even Russia are advertising in the west. Despite the air fares and hotel bills, it can still be well worth it.  The problem then is not quantity but quality. 

A few years ago, I had need of a good dentist, with ambition, and able to work with a limited budget. Lots of random searches by my wonderful PA yielded little. We returned to the trusted Moscow method of not buying ‘off the street’, but relying on personal recommendation. It has worked extremely well, then and now. However, it does mean a very long journey by Metro, then bus, then a walk; and as Dr. Svetlana’s English is not much better than my Russian, I have to have an interpreter, or a telephone hotline during all work. No, I will not reveal details – I don’t want to have to queue like I would in UK. Excellent treatment, at very good prices, with a fair bit on inconvenience. The search and travel time may not suit many busy people, local or expat. 

There are other options. The large international medical organisations offer a wide range of services, including all aspects of dentistry. However, the cost will make your eyes water more than ‘zub-bolit’, unless you have unlimited insurance cover. I don’t. 

I mentioned earlier that education is absolutely vital in preventing dental problems, and needs to start in schools. As a (serial) Moscow School headmaster, it is key to take the fight to the children, and their parents.  Enter US Dental Care offer a really engaging workshop and training session for school children, and parents, in English or Russian, and delivered, in part by a really attractive, toothsome even, dinosaur with gleaming gnashers. Free, too.  It is a winner, and much appreciated.  

Alla Anastos

Researching this took me to Prospect Mira, just round from the Olympic Stadium, and several visits to US Dental Care’s practice.  Founded a decade and a half ago, the practice today very much bears the personal imprint and ethos of its leader Alla Anastos, while the medical staff has expended to a dozen. The principles are simple: the best, American trained doctors (whatever their origin), using the latest techniques, and with a relentless focus on hygiene and safety. Painless dentistry is impossible, but it can be minimized, and more importantly controlled. If something fails, it is often due to infection, so absolute standards of hygiene maximise success rates.  Treatment programmes are individually tailored, and patients’ needs are discussed and optimised in prior discussion. Needless to say, the return ratio is extremely high. 

What can you get done? In short, everything, from regular repair work and preventative dentistry, to implants and orthodontic and cosmetic repair and reconstruction.  The list is much more complex, comprehensive and complex than I can do justice to. See their website, or better, pop in for a visit and preliminary chat. 

Successes? Their patient list includes many of Russia’s best known sportsmen and TV smiles; but my best efforts at finding out a few stellar names were unsurprisingly unsuccessful. Unless you count me.  

There are of course a wide range of possibilities in this huge capital city; but I can recommend both of the solutions I have enjoyed – yes, dentistry can even be enjoyable. I certainly try to get everything done while in Moscow – at least equal standards and certainly much better value than at home. It makes me smile.