We're not all equal under the dentist's drill

Anne McElvoy thinks that the dentists have solved the funding problem by going quasi-private ("Think, think and think again", 5 February). The fact is, of course, that people who have neither the income nor the outlook needed to think middle-class thoughts have totally given up the idea of going for a dental check. They wait until they are in pain, and then have difficulty finding a dentist who takes new NHS patients. Whether pregnant women realise that they are entitled to free dentistry is moot.

You probably won't die or be off work with bad teeth, but you develop digestive problems and other troubles due to poor nutrition. And the problem with inequality is that though some inequality is necessary and healthy, when the gap gets too wide you get a division between Spartans and Helots - or between Dives and the beggar who turns to theft or terrorism.

In London, the chap who sweeps the roads is not paid enough to cover housing association rent. If he does not get housing benefit he must stop work, so that he is eligible for everything going. So who sweeps the roads in a city where people pay £200 per week to live in a broom cupboard?

The voice of Anne McElvoy is that of Basildon man. He doesn't know these things. He probably doesn't live next door to a street full of bed-and-breakfasts.

Ann Barton
London W14

This article first appeared in the 12 February 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Kick out the image-makers