We've been living in France for over 2 years now and, I have to confess, there has been a shadowy anxiety lurking in the back of my mind the whole time... what if I have to go to a dentist here? Now, please don't think I'm terrified of dentists. No, it's just that the day before we left to start our new life here in France I was forced to have an emergency dental appointment due to excrucitating pain. My Polish dentist advised that the source of my pain was an impacted and infected wisdom tooth. It will have to come out, I was told. Small snagette that I was leaving the country and not able to join the long, long NHS waiting list for an appointment at the Portsmouth hospital. "It will flare up again" she told me. And she was right, it did. Luckily I was offered incredibly strong pain killers by a friend at the time who had a rather impressive list of ailments and consequently access to an extensive range of prescription medicines. Since then I have lived in fear, waiting for another bout of pain. And last week I could feel it beginning. I was being woken every night by the sensation of being repeatedly punched in the face. I had no alternative. I had to go to a French dentist.
Here is where my luck really came in. I mentioned this to fellow Camon residents I am proud to call friends who immediately suggested I go to their dentist in Limoux. They made an appointment for me and offered to go with me. I can't say I was relishing this trip but amongst friends it was less terrifying that it might have been.
My impressions of the rather drab exterior of the building were not improved by the deserted reception desk and the bland waiting room area with strategically positioned CCTV cameras. Just as I was at the point of suggesting we leave we were summoned into the dentist's room. All 4 of us! I didn't know what to look at first: the state of art treatment chair and equipment, the impressive artwork on the walls, the scultures or the dentist's medals for running the New York marathon. I focussed my attention on Cassandra Einstein's lovely sunflower painting rather than the toothbrush collage or the nude statues on pillars at the end of the office.
Dr. Bac's sunflowers with Bach music by Cassandra Einstein. A welcome distraction in the dentist's surgery
After a brief examination the dentist said I needed to have a panoramic X-ray before he could diagnose the problem. Phew, I thought. This is where we all go home and open a bottle or two of vin rouge and try this again in a couple of weeks. I was wrong though. He phoned the Radiographie clinic and asked if they could see me now. They could, so we dutifully trooped around the corner and took up residence in the waiting room. In under 5 minutes I was being instructed to remove my earrings and not to move once inside the X-ray equipment. Back in the waiting room I had barely sat down before I was handed an envelope containing my X-ray.
Back at the dental surgery my dentist quickly pinpointed the problem: I had a large infection under a tooth. Not a problem with my wisdom tooth at all and no need for surgery. Phew, I thought. This is where he prescribes strong painkillers and an antibiotic and I get to go home and open a bottle or two of vin rouge. Wrong! Back in the chair he treated me with NO painkillers. No fuss. No waiting. And no pain during or after the procedure. Simply amazing.
I was still quaking as we started to leave the office. My lovely dentist opened a side door and ushered us all upstairs to his apartment to meet his wife and share a glass of wine and nibbles in his astonishing home. I have to say NHS dental treatment was never like this!
I've got a follow-up appointment this week and I have honestly never looked forward to going to the dentist so much. Vive la difference!