• Joshua Dopkowski

Experiencing The French Medical System

Just mere weeks before I was supposed to take a one-way flight to Paris, I awoke with a menacing pain in my jaw. Painkillers initially did the trick, but after several more days, the pain persisted, and worsened. I visited a dentist in Livonia, MI, who told me that I needed to immediately undergo a root canal, and get a crown for my tooth. I was still insured by L'Oreal, and yet my out of pocket expense would have been $1,600.

The dentist also informed me that one of my wisdom teeth had significant decay, and while I could probably hold on for a while, it would be best to remove it as soon as possible. Ironically, at the exact same time, I had another Detroit area dentist hitting me up for around $300 for a bill from 8 years prior. After a bit of negotiation and record checking, I decided that I needed to pay the old bill, however this made it impossible for me to pay for the procedure for my tooth. As a result, the Livonia dentist prescribed me antibiotics in an attempt to alleviate the condition.

A friend of mine in the area gave me some homeopathic and metaphysical advice, and so I rinsed with salt-water, apparently with a special sea salt from some remote corner of the world. The pain actually was alleviated right away, and after a couple more days of rinsing routinely and taking the anti-biotics, the pain was eliminated. By the time I arrived in New York about five days later, I had all but forgotten about my dental problems.

10 months later, I finally visited a dentist in France. I was hoping to go much sooner than that, however the path to receiving my medical card here was not straightforward.

Luckily, the pain remained in remission for about nine months, and never returned in the same manner as it had been previously.

The dentist office was in a residential building, and felt like going to someones house. Once inside, the interior was futurist and minimalist, with a small waiting room displaying tranquil scenes amidst the backdrop of ambient music. A Dyson air conditioner blew cool air on us as we patiently waited to be seen.

My daughter accompanied me, and the dentist and his assistant were very accommodating. They let her sit in his office while I got my x-rays, and spoke with her in French on a few occasions.

The dentist, Dr. Baroud, pointed to the x-ray and said to me "see that tooth?" He was pointing to the wisdom tooth. I replied in the affirmative, and he said "that one's done." I laughed slightly at his directness, and then he went on to say he needed it to take it out soon. He asked me if it hurt, to which I replied "no not really" and he joked, "are you sure?"

He proceeded to tell me something similar as the dentist in Livonia had regarding the other tooth, but also stated that there was no rush. It should be noted that the dentist in Livonia wanted to fix it that very same day.

Next were the quotes.

For the wisdom tooth, I'll pay €309 euro and be reimbursed roughly €64. I will submit to my private insurance to see if I'm eligible for more, however I believe my out of pocket will be about €245. For the root canal and crown, I will pay €1096, and be reimbursed €622, resulting in €328 out of pocket. It's not free, but the costs certainly are far less here than what I would have had to pay in the USA.

You may be asking yourself, is the quality of care the same?

I arrived five minutes early to my appointment, accompanied by my daughter. We waited about 20 minutes, at which point the dentist offered to have her in the office while he removed my tooth. His office was actually in the same room, however it was on the other side.

The first thing they did was take a 3-D x-ray of the tooth, which took 3 minutes. Next, I sat in the chair where he proceeded to load me up with about 6 injections of Novocaine. For the next 3 or 4 minutes he and his assistant talked with my daughter while he waited for my mouth to numb. Once I was ready, he proceeded to drill for at most one minute, and next secured some sort of band around the tooth. Up to this point I had felt nothing.

Then the moment of truth. I braced for the tooth to be yanked, and he said to me, "don't worry, you aren't going to feel anything." Despite his reassurance, I still braced in anticipation. Then, suddenly, his assistant took off my bib and told me I was done.

I was stunned! I had no idea that he had already taken the tooth out. He was actually seeing if I had realized it or not, and when they finally told me I exclaimed "that's it? Are you serious?"

After a little playful banter, the dentist took me up front and gave me all the paperwork and prescriptions. The only issue I ran into was with my American credit card, which was declined due to security reasons. After a few minutes on the phone with someone from India, I got my card reactivated and managed to pony up to the dentist.

My daughter and I then went to the pharmacy, where they gave me anti-biotics, an alcohol free anti-septic mouthwash, prednisone (anti-inflammatory), and of course, strong painkillers. My cost at the pharmacy was €0. Yes, that's correct, zero, with a z.

Overall, my first experience with the French medical system was quite positive, and definitely affordable.


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