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…
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
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.
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!