08 October 2014

Dental woes and joys (part 5)

I'm happy to say I don't have a phobia about dentists and dentistry, despite the horrifying Marathon Man incident I wrote about yesterday. That story had a happy outcome, as this one will.

In fact, a few years later, when I lived in Washington DC, I had to have, or decided to have, an oral surgery procedure done to correct the problem that had caused my tooth pain and gum swelling in Paris in 1980. I found a very good dental surgeon in DC, just steps from the apartment that Walt and I lived in, and the operation was a success. I've never had a problem with that molar again.

And I didn't end up in the emergency room, as did the woman who cuts my hair these days, after her visit to the dentist in Saint-Aignan. The dentist had drilled so deeply into a tooth that she had damaged the patient's optic nerve, resulting in loss of vision in one eye. It was a temporary condition, and our coiffeuse recovered completely, by the way.

The fact is, however, that as August dawned, I still hadn't found a dentist. I happened to have scheduled an appointment with my médecin traitant (primary care physician) in Saint-Aignan. He examined my injured finger, and I asked him if he could help me find a dentist. He said that three dentists had recently set up a joint practice over in the village of Meusnes. I should call that office.

I had actually called there in July, only to get a recording to say that all the dentists were on vacation for three weeks. Please call back in August, I was told. In mid-August, I was out and about so I drove over to Meunes, just 7 or 8 miles west of Saint-Aignan. Sometimes you have more luck in person than over the phone. (Meusnes a wine village where, I've heard, the famous French tennis player Yannick Noah spent many summers when he was growing up.)

When I got there I drove all around the village until I found the dental office, which is in a modern building on the main road but on the other side of town, on the way to Selles-sur-Cher. There were five or six cars in the parking lot. And there was a big sign on the door saying something like « Les prises de rendez-vous s'effectuent uniquement par téléphone », followed by a phone number. So I had to drive back home and call for a rendez-vous.

Guess what? I got an answering machine again. I left my message, saying I wanted two rendez-vous and gave my name and Walt's. A few minutes later, I got a call back from a woman who said she had been unable to find either of our names in her patient database. I said that was right — we would be first-time patients because our dentist, le docteur Bigot, had recently retired.

She asked me what the purpose of our dental consultation would be. I told her there was nothing really urgent, thinking that would give her some leeway in scheduling the appointments. We could wait a few weeks or even a couple of months. And I told her that we just needed exams and a cleaning for the time being, but would like to be on her patient list.

Je suis désolée, Monsieur, she told me, but we just cannot take on any new patients at this time. And besides, she added, as if it mattered at that point, an initial rendez-vous with one of our dentists never includes a détartrage! It would simply be an informational session, a get-to-know-you meeting, and then we would continue from there. She seemed to be pretty full of herself.

She did, however, share some useful information. There are two or three dentists over in Montrichard, and two or three up in Contres — both of those towns are within 10 or 12 miles of Saint-Aignan — she said. One of them might be able to see you. I thanked her and that was that.

To be continued...


  1. The suspense is getting almost palpable here! Not sure I'd be wanting to look for a French dentist, although as a tourist, I'm impressed that doctors will make house calls to your hotel room.

  2. I'm just amazed at how gripping a story of going to the dentist can be! I know some of it wasn't the best experience for you, but as a reader, I'm fascinated and really enjoying this. I had no idea you were going to string it out to real Icelandic saga dimensions though! Fancy anyone having such a convoluted dental history!

  3. We've got a good dentist. The problem is that she's about my age, so she's thinking about retiring. Last month, when I was there for my annual détartrage, there was a very young dentist observing. I got the impression she will be joining the practice and taking over patients in the near future. If that is the case, and she's good, then I expect her to outlast me.

  4. Hi again, I just thought of something. One of my daughters went to the AMELI (that's the health service's website) found her "conventionné" dentist listed there. Another possibility, if you have a mutuelle, is to check their website for such a list of approved dentists.

  5. Holy cow. This is just an amazing story. I'm glad to know up front that you say that all turns out well. I'm on the edge of my seat, here!

  6. I'm enjoying this as much as a tv series, with a cliff hanger each night.

  7. I didn't know that part of the saga. Wow!

  8. I like the part with Yannick Noah- I loved watching his son Joakim play basketball in the final four. I'm getting my teeth cleaned today, I'll enjoy my visit more because of your struggles lol.

    1. Noah is famous for loving to go barefoot, even when he's on stage or on TV (he has had a successful second career as a singer). He said he learned the joys of going barefoot when he spent summers in Meusnes.

  9. What a shame that you weren't able to get in to see one of the 3 dentists who had set up the "joint practice" in Meusnes. How convenient it would have been to have been able to get your teeth cleaned and your finger worked on during the same appointment.

  10. As much suspense as Twin Peaks! But those are really useful comments, if our dentist has actually left to join his brother. There was an article in today's Nouvelle République about the paucity of dentists in rural France, mentioning recruitment of dentists from overseas, including French-speaking parts of Africa and Rumania, and another about encouraging young people to take up dentistry, perhaps rather a long shot.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?