Sunday, May 15, 2011

My French Dental Journey ... 5 dentists in two years (riveting reading here folks!)

I have what they call, “soft” teeth. While my teeth are generally straight and relatively stain free, they are fragile as a robin egg. True story, I broke my tooth once eating bread. Okay, it was a little seed in the bread, yes, but still it wasn't like corn nuts.

I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours getting work done on my teeth. Having had dental care in the States, Taiwan, Honduras, and now France you could say I am one of those medical tourists. Without a doubt, each of my teeth (the remaining ones anyway) have multiple fillings. Most of the silver have been replaced and I have now 5 crowns. I am so good at being a dental patient that I have been able to tell the dentist what I need done before they even look in my mouth, not based on pain, but based on the fact that a tooth hasn't been worked on in a while.  It is not because I don't take care of my teeth or don't brush, I just have soft teeth.

So, when I last had dental insurance in the states, my dentist and I made a dental plan which I couldn't complete because surprise, surprise! I reached my limit and so had to pay out of pocket. I remember I did some temp work to make extra money to pay at least to get the most important stuff done – but what could I do after that? It would have to wait until next year when the dental insurance started new again. Of course, by then I was no longer working there and didn't have any more coverage. So it goes...

A few YEARS later, after moving to France, I had my big chance to see a dentist for free (well, you know I don't really mean FREE because people here work very hard and pay into the system). That would be the beginning of a journey that would I am pleased to report end, happily. But, if you care to join me down French dentist memory lane, c'mon.

My first dentist was one a couple summer's ago whom I had casually walked past and strolled in and made an appointment. I had no idea that there could be a 'bad' dentist at that point. I soon found out that yes, they existed but in a variety of forms. Once you thought you knew what to look for, another weird quirk would show and that dentist too would go to the “I am never going back there again!” file.

This dentist looked in my mouth and said, “Looks good!”. I was like, are you fucking kidding me?” Okay, um, yeah well, could I at least just get a cleaning since I am here? Well, turns out the American style of teeth cleaning is rather coveted here. No doubt about it. He took a sharp object and picked at a few teeth and called it a day.

Second dentist, lovely man really, but he was so busy and rushed that I just about had a full-on panic attack since he was so hasty with me. Not good. I have experience with strangers putting their fingers in my wide-open mouth, sure, but I didn't trust him and he gave me no reason to.

Third guy, I was sure was gonna be great. He had his office not too far away from our apt. He was from New Zealand and spoke English. I presumed many things about him before meeting him, ALL of which were completely wrong. For one thing, he had lived so long in France that he kept forgetting to speak English to me. I had to demand an X-ray so that he could see that I was telling the truth that I had several neglected cavities. In the states, they take one look at the X-ray and they get straight to work. Not sure why, but the X-ray is generally not that important here. Then he decided that I did need some fillings, but would have to schedule a separate appointment for each one. I was like, are you kidding me? But since I really didn't know the system, I actually thought that was just how it was done here. Oh, how wrong I was. That greedy bastard wanted the pre-set base rate gained from each appt. He didn't make much money doing a few fillings, but each appointment was a set rate of I think it was like 40 euros. Of which, the govt (therefore the citizens of France) were paying for. AND, on top of that, he smoked and so I could barely stand when he was breathing near me with his repulsive breath. Not only that, but he would answer his phone with his gloves on as he was working on my mouth and then go to his computer and check his calender and so on. To this day, I cannot imagine why I didn't ask him to put fresh gloves on. I still think about it and shutter.

Then I went to the forum of the mom's group I mentioned in my last post. And here is the interesting thing about France... “the”... a hem. Medical Professionals CANNOT advertise in any way, shape or form. So, even in the forum, no one can say I went to the most amazing gyno, no no no. What you can say is, I went to a gyno and her contact info is... Yes, even on a private website forum, NO recommending anyone medically. More on this later for my post on the coolest ostheopath and what ostheopathy is, but the takeaway for the moment is that there were no dentist recommendations. I really felt hopeless :(So, I put a call out for anyone in the group to privately email me.

I said, if anyone knows of a dentist who blah blah blah and doesn't blah blah blah blah blah please email me the name, contact info and ALL PERSONAL OPINIONS about her/him and I will compile a list which I will send to anyone who requests it. And so that is just what I did. I got about eight responses (and have sent it out to others umpteen times)  and chose a guy based on the story the woman wrote detailing her wonderous experience in this guy's office. It was far, far, far from our apt. It required me to walk a bunch, change a couple of trains and walk some more. To make things more complicated, Hicham met me there during his lunch break to take care of Sabine while I met with the dentist. I was late, very late because I was not using the metro I was using suburbian trains which are confusing to almost everyone in the world. By the time I got there, I was sweating and almost in tears because of the frustrating journey and then to disrupt Hicham's workday like that - not cool

But I get there and go into the most bourgeois, fancy dental office I have seen in my life. There was a wide screen TV built into the ceiling for patient's viewing pleasure, leather chairs and mirrors etc. It was really decadent. I first met with his assistant who was also the woman who cleaned my teeth using state-of-the-art technology. My teeth were GLOWING after that cleaning. I am not even sure what the machines she was using looked like, I just laid back and let it happen. It was like one of those times in your life when you have been so satisfied or impressed with the intro that you feel whatever is coming next is bound to be equally fulfilling. Yeah, so you can see where this is going. He preferred to fix the broken tooth in the back and not worry about the tooth that was actually causing me great agony. That broken tooth would need a crown and that would be 1000 euros.

Sounded fair to me, crowns in the states are at least that. And anyway, as I ran my tongue across the cleanest, whitest smile I had ever had, I was hooked like a botox addict. I was like, no problem and how about some whitening while we are at it? Well, Hicham had a different point of view. ONE THOUSAND EUROS??? He didn't care about my glazed over eyes and giant cheshire cat smile. A crown should cost about 500-700 euros (in Paris, 700 is about average, in the small towns they are much cheaper). Well, needless to say, I was glad not to go back in for nothing else but avoid the hassle of getting there.

Finally, Hicham asked his trusty co-worker Layla who she went to. She had recommended an albeit brisk, but nevertheless extremely competent gyno for me when I was first pregnant. And since my broken tooth in the back, had broken off even more and it was to the point where I would at times slice into the side of my cheek when talking so, Hicham made me an appointment.  I will admit, I was reluctant, but glad I went.  It was right near Hicham's work, so meeting me during his lunch break was easy too.

Let me just stand up right now and say that I HAVE finally found the perfect dentist in all of existence.

Assistant, me and Madam Dentist Arditti.   My mouth is numb so that is why I am smiling like that!                                         

Her office, immaculate. Her demeanor, professional yet warm. Her technique, swift and competent. Her skills, without a doubt - worthy of complete confidence. Her assistant, personable and helpful. I just sat back and relaxed as she did her magic. She took the X-ray without any prodding whatsoever, she decided what needed to be done, discussed the pricing options with Hicham, made a mere three appointments with me and in that time, I got two new crowns, several fillings and so repair work completed. Most of this (maybe all) will be covered by the govt and Hicham's supplementary insurance from work.

I just could not be happier. I asked the dentist if I could take her picture and post it on my blog. After all, she singlehandedly did what so many have tried (well, that is debatable isn't it?) and failed to do. I am so grateful to her. She appeared to be taken aback a bit. Apparently, her other patients have come to expect this type of dental care, as they should really and certainly don't want a love-in photo. Although, she was genuinely glad (as was her assistant) to be in the picture.  She also mentioned that I could not advertise her services. I said, well, I am just sharing my opinion.  

Isn't that a charming office?
So, here it is my opinion on Sophie Arditti, The best damn dentist this side of France! If you want to make an appt her number is:   01 48 00 94 94. Metro: Chaussée d'Antin - La Fayette 


sol chica said...

You are so good for going through that to find someone good. My dentist in Berlin sucks. No x-ray in three years! "I only whiten the teeth of dead people" and the cleaning leaves a lot to be desired. I am inspired to find a new one.

Kenai Alaska Or Bust! said...

Absolutely amazing! Without creating a 'post' out of a comment, let me say your story was inspiring to me and I can so relate. I have had, almost verbatim, the same experience with dentistry. I am so friggin annoyed!! My problem is receding gums, not becaue of bad hygiene, but rather 'just is'. I also am plagued with the related result of tooth decay at the gum lines. Like you, I laugh when they tell me what to expect next because....been there done that 1000 times! lol Right now I am in a huge conundrum with some issues. Been to two dentists in the past three weeks and getting little of the results I yearn for and so need before it gets any worse. Currently, like you, the tooth that was the original reason for going in has been neglected and I don't know where now to turn. Not like there is an over abundance of dentists in this part of Alaska! Since I have no insurance it is all out of pocket and killing me. ARGHH!! Think your gal would see me in France?! I am desperate!! Great post.

Anonymous said...

I love your writing, and our taking the bull by the horns to help others! you go girl!

Anonymous said...

thank you!

Anonymous said...

May I just say I am in love with your blog? I’m moving to Paris this summer, and I've been browsing forums, hoping to find a good gynecologist and a dentist. So how good is your dentist at giving the shot/injection? And could you please recommend me a gynecologist as well? Thank you!

- Liz

Donnie White said...

That’s like searching for the one. Haha! It’s good to know you finally found her in the form of what you reckoned as the perfect dentist. She does have a perfect office – an incredible bonus aside from her excellent competence in this field. On top of that, most of your appointments will be covered by insurance, so your pockets will be happy too. Cheers!

Donnie White @ Good and Associates