08 December 2012

Chez le la dentiste

I had an appointment with the dentist yesterday. It's a long story, and it ended up being just a routine visit.

Our first dentist in Saint-Aignan, Dr. Christian Bigot (seriously — [kree-STIÃ-bee-GOH] — Bigot being a very common family name around here) retired a couple of years ago. (His wife's name is Christiane Bigot, and she's a pediatric dentist.) There are three other dentists in town, but two of them have very long lead times (3 or 4 months) for new patients. If you have a dental problem, or think you do, that's a long wait.

Callie in the vineyard at sunset
The photos in this post have nothing to do with the text...

So by default, Walt and I have ended up making appointments with the third dentist, whose office is right off the market square in town. She has a decent reputation, as far as we can tell, but she's very brusque and works so fast you are in and out of her office before you get a chance to ask any questions. You end up wondering if she's being thorough at all, or if she's just trying to see as many patients as she can in a very limited time.

This was only my second visit, so I'll reserve judgment.

Back when in lived in Paris 30 years ago, I had a very bad experience with a dentist, so I'm suspicious. I don't know why I should be, because I also have had very bad experiences with dentists in the U.S. — as well as very good ones. The man who was my dentist in San Francisco for nearly 20 years was fantastic. I also liked Dr. Bigot here in Saint-Aignan, and I'm sorry he retired.

Electrified wire fencing helps keep deer out of the vines

To make a long story short, I was very impressed with the new dentist yesterday. She seems to have state-of-the-art dental equipment — or maybe in the ten years we've lived here I've lost touch with the practices and the equipment used in the modern dental profession.

I needed to have a couple of x-rays. I was amazed how easy it was. My dentist in SF used to aim a bulky ceiling-mounted camera on a long arm at my jaw while I held a piece of film in place behind the teeth he was going to x-ray. He would leave the room while the camera made a loud buzzing sound as it took the picture (the dentist was worried about repeated exposure to radiation, I guess).

This time, in this tiny office in Saint-Aignan, the dentist pointed a little digital-camera type device at the side of my face and the x-ray image popped up on a computer screen that she and I could both examine. There was no waiting, and no holding up of tiny negative images toward the light — no squinting to see what they revealed. The image on the computer monitor was big, clear, and bright.

Is that equipment that all dentists use nowadays?

The garden path

Luckily for me (I think), the x-rays didn't turn up any problems. I thought I might have a cracked filling, but the dentist said I don't. "You're American, aren't you?" she asked. Yes. "So you know all about dental floss and mouthwashes, right?" Yes, I said. Then she sent me on my way, with a smile.

The fee for such a visit? Twenty-one euros, or less than 30 U.S. dollars. I'll get a good portion of that reimbursed by the French national health service.


  1. Your experience with x-rays is the same as what I have been getting for several years from my dentist in Texas. Much easier! And if there is a problem, they can zoom in. Also, the last time I had a filling it was done with a laser instead of a drill. MUCH easier! It only works on small caries. But no high-pitched drill. That sound is so scary!

  2. Oh! My boyf is a dentist, and also uses that type of camera. Ten years ago, I went to a dentist who was already using somethink similar. I think it is increasingly common.

    I don't like that kind of dentist who don't speak to the patient, nor explain anything, cos I think that is part of the word. And the problema is that, sometimes, perhaps it's because he or she is shay or closedd, but anyway, it will appear that he want to speed up the agenda.

  3. Glad it wasn't anything serious.
    The new technology is amazing isn't it?
    Now I'm not so fearful of a visit to my dentist. I love watching her at work with all the new gadgets.

  4. I've been a bit nervous about visiting a dentist in France - after seeing the quality of local teeth I suspected it was like British dentistry!

    My dentist back in Sydney is quite amazing and seems to be quite on top of the technology. 20 years ago I had a tooth punched out by some street thugs and the ensuing dental, orthodontic and periodontic work took up a year's worth of weekly visits.

    A few years ago my dentist said that the replacement crown had cracked and needed to be taken out. While it was disheartening to see a year's worth of work crumble a matter of seconds, he put in a temporary with special adhesive that looked and felt every bit as good as the 20 year old permanent.

    I tell you materials science is absolutely fascinating: seeing him mix up stuff with so little effort on his bench would have been magic back in the 90s.

  5. Glad you had good news, and I'm encouraged about the laser drilling and the new type of image-taking. I need to find a dentist for a checkup.

    Did you get any snow?

  6. I think I need to find a dentist with the modern equipment! Glad your visit went so well and thanks for the info you provided.

  7. Judy, no snow at all here. Frost and then rain, that's all.

    Mike, French dentistry has always been a little, well, strange, but I think great progress has been made over the past 20 or 30 years. Back in the 70s, I ended up at the American Hospital just outside Paris so that a French but UCLA-trained dentist could repair what a Paris dentist (North African, actually) had done to my teeth. It was not fun. But these days, I think you can go to a French dentist with confidence that you'll get good treatment.

    Paula, I agree with you. I want a dentist who will talk to me about what needs to be done and what she or he is prepared to do.

    Margaret, I haven't yet experienced the laser "drilling" but it must be better than the old style with that high-pitched whine. Makes me think of the movie Marathon Man...

    Evelyn, I was really impressed. Dr. Bigot didn't have the modern equipment that Mme Gérard uses.

    Virginia, thanks, no, it turned out to be nothing, actually. That was a relief.

  8. Your detailed explanation of your dental visit was very interesting. My dentist has been taking care of my teeth for over 20 years (actually a chum I've known since primary grades)who has been honored in the past as President of the dental org. in Oregon. I recently had xrays that were modern, but not with a camera. For several years I have experienced the new lazer drill that has been used to clean my teeth. ar superior to older model.

  9. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your dentist's name!!!!!

  10. I just had experience of the French dental system too - those new X-ray machines are good (a radio isn;t what an Anglophone thinks it is!). It took four visits and 600 euros to have a crown fitted - next time I break a tooth I'll hang on till I've got my carte vitale (january, god willing). My dentist is charming Rumanian who prefers to speak English... Pauline

  11. I'm on the same page as VirginiaC. Our dentist has been using digital x-rays for several years. He's quite a gadget hound.

  12. Looks like you found a good dentist. The trick to finding a specialist (dental or medical) with up-to-date equipment is to choose someone relatively young. The older practicians won't renew their equipment if they can't amortize it before retirement.
    As we have retired, our doctors and dentist are approaching retirement, too, so we will be faced with finding their younger replacements, soon.


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