Will going to the dentist in Norway ever get cheaper? 

Almost a fifth of people in Norway avoid visiting the dentist due to the price, according to new figures from Statistics Norway. But will the cost of having work done to your teeth ever go down?

Will going to the dentist in Norway ever get cheaper? 
Could the cost of dental work in Norway be set to go down? Photo by Caroline LM on Unsplash

Going to the dentist can be painful in more ways than one. 

New figures from Statistics Norway’s living conditions survey have revealed that 17 percent of people have avoided getting their teeth looked at because they think it’ll be too expensive. 

“It is very difficult and painful to see people with major health problems, who, due to financial constraints, do not receive the necessary health care,” Hallgeir Ulsaker, a dentist in Drammen, told NRK.

He added that he’d had a few patients opt out of treatment due to the costs involved. 

Dentistry is not included in Norway’s subsidised healthcare system. Those under 18 receive free dental treatment, and those between 18 and 20 have their treatment subsidised. Everyone over 20 pays full price, although it is possible to apply to the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) for financial assistance with specific treatments. 

READ ALSO: How much does going to the dentist cost in Norway?

“I was shocked when I saw the numbers,” newly elected MP for the Socialist Left Party, Kathy Lie, told NRK. 

Lie’s party, which will most likely be a part of Norway’s next coalition government, has made dental health a vital issue and wants to impose a maximum cost on trips to the dentist. 

“We have this belief because teeth are a part of the body. Therefore, you should not pay more to go to the dentist than to the GP,” Lie explained to the broadcaster. 

Dentists have welcomed the possibility of care becoming cheaper. However, they said, in reality, this would be very difficult to achieve. 

“A dental system similar to the GP scheme would be nice professionally. However, the downside is that there can be a lot of bureaucracy involved,” dentist Ulsaker explained. 

Others said cheaper dentistry would be hard to put into practice. 

“It’s about time politicians looked at this. But before you start tinkering with things, you need to take a look at the complete system,” Morten Harry Rolstad, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Dental Association, told NRK. 

He added that when dentists set up practices, they do so without any public sector money. He explained that to make dentists move into the public sector, all the private investments practitioners have made would need to be paid up. 

Rolstad said this would cost somewhere in the region of 12 billion kroner to do. 

“If the authorities have the 12 billion to put on the table, then we will help to find out where the funds can be used in the best possible way,” the general secretary said. 

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Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office