Going to the dentist in France: Things you never want to hear your dentist say

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Going to the dentist in France

Going to the dentist is never fun. Add some dental work to the mix and a big bill and it’s even less fun. And even without dental work and a big bill, going to a dentist in a foreign country for the first time can make you anxious. Luckily, we have dental coverage and I decided right after Christmas that it was about time to get my regular cleaning. And guess what? I lived to tell about it! But not without a few stories…

Read on to hear about going to the dentist in France!

I’m one of those people who tolerates the dentist but gets really nervous. I’ve had a jaw problem for years, had a bad experience because of that at the orthodontist when I was young and just don’t like people messing with my teeth. Because of that whole nervous thing, I go out of my way to floss and treat my teeth with extra care to avoid any major work. For me, having a root canal would be a life failure and would mean I really messed up. I’m more likely to get a tattoo across my forehead than willingly submit to major dental work. Holy panic! So let’s just say that making an appointment at all with the French dentist was a major feat.

What’s going to the dentist in France like? It’s similar to the US in a lot of ways except my dentist said a couple of things you never want to hear your dentist say. Ever.

going to the dentist in france

Going to the dentist in France

NOTE: This is just my experience of going to the dentist in France based on a dental visit in my area (where there is a shortage of dentists). Not all dentists in France are the same and others’ experiences will vary.

Thing you never want to hear #1:

Sure, since you’re a new client, our next available appointment is…. May 15. Does that work (remember I called in December)

May 15?!?!? DOES THAT FRICKIN WORK?? SWEET JESUS, NO IT DOES NOT! Well, that’s what I wanted to say. I really, really did. But my regular New York-influenced personality doesn’t really fly in France. I had to tone in down because, you see, in France it’s all about the charm. What did I do? I did clarify that I heard correctly (I had) and was informed that as a new patient, you have to wait. Yippee. France is cool and all for a lot of reasons, but new dental patient waiting times is not one of them.

Going to the dentist in France

Thing you never want to hear #2:

In my introductory visit, the dentist explained that he has two options if I needed dental work: gas and a regular Novocaine shot. But, he can’t administer the gas because he hasn’t done the training session for it yet.

Oh man, are you sure you’re really a dentist? You are kinda young. And while I’m all for honesty and being direct, maybe scale back this honesty thing on a need to know basis — especially when you’re dealing with an already nervous patient who doesn’t even have a need for Novocaine or gas now! Makes me want to run for the exits. Way to instill confidence there. You know how to use the spit sucker, right? RIGHT? That’s important.

Thing you never want to hear #3:

OK so for your cleaning, we’ll schedule that soon. Not a long wait. How about the end of July?

Uh dude, not sure what calendar you follow or if you work 2 hours/day just once a week, but that is two months away! You know it’s May 15 now and an additional two-month wait won’t work for me. That’s insane and you’d better fit me in next week or I’ll…… I’ll….  Ah dammit, I can’t do anything. I wish I’d said all that. I just smiled and nodded my head like the charming, submissive French wannabe that I am. Much to my utter disappointment, getting pushy and demanding SO doesn’t work here. I’ve become a shell of my former self!

Some other observations:

Preventive work isn’t really the norm. And that makes sense. Dental care isn’t expensive here, so if you have good teeth that you take care of, you won’t be making the dentist any money. He wants you in agony so he can do root canals and crowns and make a living. No need to go digging around for tiny cavities. Just wait til you can see it on an x-ray or you’re writhing in pain! (Note: Generally if you have severe tooth pain, a dentist will do his/her best to fit you in sooner. They aren’t all masochists.)

Two or more cleanings here aren’t the norm. (my old dental insurance in New York paid for 3 cleanings a year even!) Basically you go to the dentist when you have a problem.

French people, like Americans, find dental care expensive. And if you don’t have a supplemental insurance that covers dental, anything more than a regular cleaning/exam will cost a bit (but nowhere near the cost of things in the US). A dental x-ray, exam and cleaning is about 50 euros total where I go, before insurance reimbursements. Oh happy day!

There is no little goodie bag at the end. No free toothbrush, floss (the French don’t use it anyway) or toothpaste. What a bummer! That bag was proof that I survived!

Do you take care of your teeth? If you’re going to the dentist in France, you really don’t have anything to worry about!

Do you hate going to the dentist? Tell me about it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Comments (15)

  • stella

    |

    I don’t like going to the dentist either. I think your dentist is weird telling you about the gas thing when you don’t need it and he doesn’t know to do it! As you said it’s not really reasuring.

    I think you should have tried to ask for an earlier appointment or ask him why he couldn’t do it now! But if you take good care of your teeth I think you’ll be ok! Don’t worry.

    I have to find a good dentist in Belgium to get it clean too, but I don’t know any and it’s scary to go to someone you don’t know or isn’t recomended. I took me so long to get a dentist I liked in France and I have to start it all over in Brussels. And it’s the same with all the doctors.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Yeah, it was definitely weird. I hope you find a good dentist and doc in Brussels. It’s not easy but once you find someone you like, it’ll be smooth sailing

      Reply

  • Sarah Gabreau

    |

    I’m French and I have to say since I found it, I love reading your blog. It’s quite funny to read what an American woman leaving in France think about French people, when I was a still a few weeks ago a French woman leaving in the US, writing about American people.
    Anyway, your post reminds me of the first experience of my American boyfriend with my French dentist. He was shocked that the dentist was doing the cleaning herself and not an assistant! But definitely he was happy about the price!

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Thanks for stopping by, so glad you like the blog! Really enjoying discovering France, so stick around!!

      Reply

  • Den Nation

    |

    I can’t believe the wait is 5 months where you live! In Bordeaux I can get an appointment for the week after I call and sometimes even sooner. There really are differences in France between the cities and the countryside when it comes to healthcare.

    I also dread the dentist. I was alright until I had some treatment in the UK and the Novocaine shot didn’t work. Now I can’t sleep the night before going to the dentist.

    Yes, the French hate flossing. They say it is unhealthy for the gums, causing tearing and bleeding. My dentist always tells me to use what I call the “pipe cleaners” to clean my teeth. I haven’t tried them yet.

    This was a conversation I had a few years ago with my dentist:

    Dentist: You know that you don’t have to floss around your tooth that has a crown (I had a root canal when I was a teenager and now I have a crown on that tooth).

    Me: Um, but what about the teeth around the tooth with the crown? They are still alive and need to be kept clean and free of plaque.

    Dentist: Oh, yeah, that’s true.

    What?! So I’m the one that’s telling you how to take care of teeth?

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Yeah, it’s really nutty here sometimes. And seeing all the differences. So the wait was only 5 months because I was a new client. Now that i’ve had that first visit, it shouldn’t be that bad. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Just crazy!

      Reply

  • Kate

    |

    Out of interest, what is the cost for a check up and x-rays in France?

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      For the dentist you mean or the regular doctor? I noted in my post that an exam, cleaning and the round the head x-ray was just 50 euros! Nice, right? Now the cleaning and exam wasn’t as thorough as what my dentist does in the US, but hey, can’t complain!

      Reply

  • kari

    |

    Five months is crazy! I had to wait five weeks for one as a new patient at an office near Lille and I thought that was too long.

    My French dentist was really efficient – x-ray, exam, and cleaning all done within thirty minutes. it usually takes much longer than that at my American dentist. The French one kept telling me my teeth were perfect, while my American dentist always tries to find fault with them somehow, it seems!

    I am always trying to get my (French) boyfriend to use floss, but to no avail. He think it’s torture.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Five weeks is great! I think my area just has a major shortage. Lots of dentists retired over the past few years and only one or two new ones have opened up shop. But at least now I’m a normal client so can get in with no problem now. Silly how it works. And yes, floss, forget it! French people think it’s unnecessary. Maybe one day my husband will use it! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  • Alan

    |

    Thank Diane,

    I still need to connect with a dentist so I appreciate the hints and experiences.

    Alan

    Reply

  • Jess @UsedYorkCity

    |

    I’m a huge David Sedaris fan, and he talks about going to the dentist in France in one of his books (hysterical!) I think you’d very much relate to the experience!;-)

    Reply

  • Jennifer

    |

    I was reading this post last night, and I commented that I’d had the best dentist experience of my life in France. So this morning I thought I’d elaborate. My brother-in-law is a dentist in Béziers, and he’s just launched a website. He’s extremely talented, and uses a high technology method that isn’t very common in France. Many people travel from all of over France and even other countries to have their dental work done by him. I guess I’m lucky to have a great dentist in the family. http://www.espace-dentaire-beziers.fr/le-cabinet/

    Reply

  • Marie

    |

    Ce que je peux t’en dire c’est qu’en France le dentiste ne voulait me faire un détartrage que tous les 2 ans et à Montréal on insiste pour que ce soit tous les 8 mois. En France ça dure 10 min et ici 1h! Ce ne sont pas les mêmes standards.
    En France on a l’impression d’aller chez un médecin tandis qu’au Québec ce sont des commerciaux : ils essaient de te vendre un maximum de choses et les secrétaires te relancent constamment pour un nouveau RDV ou un nouveau service à te proposer.

    Reply

  • Jo-Anne

    |

    What the hell, going to the dentist here isn’t that bad we can usually get an appointment the same day if not week
    Jo-Anne recently posted…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    Reply

Leave a comment

CommentLuv badge