Thursday, June 3, 2010

There is nothing funny but a toothache, but 3 front teeth, now that is funny

Today feels like the first day in forever since I have had no pain in my teeth, face or jaw. I’ve recently become well acquainted with the Dutch dental system which is, like many things Dutch, interesting.

My tooth broke back in March after some over enthusiastic chewing, on let’s be honest, lollies. Anyhow, a quick call to the Dutchman’s dentist found her to be on holidays, so I thought I’m tough, I can wait. Pain continued.

A week later I got through to the Dutchman’s dentist only to be rejected! The receptionist put me on hold, spoke to the dentist who said NO, she did not want me as her patient. Boo hoo, serious? (This led to a little melt down about how frustrating it can be to live in this country and a paranoid suspicion I was being rejected based on speaking English.) I have never ever heard of an Australian dentist not wanting to line their pockets with more cashola from a new patient.

I finally found a dentist, who over the period of the next couple of months, worked happily away in my mouth. She also worked on a ‘needs to know basis’, providing little information on what she was doing. Speed was also her priority and I quote “let’s see how many fillings we can do in 40 minutes”. There was no reference to quality, nothing to recovery, and suspicion mounted that I had chosen a dodgy dentist.

Last Thursday I was in extreme pain, okay well it’s all relative really isn’t it? (It’s not like I got run over by a train and had lost both of my legs, but my tooth hurt.) I rang the dentist and said I needed an urgent appointment and was told they didn’t have anything for a week. At this point, my voice was wavering, I had kids crying in the background, and I was about to lose it. So I bravely asked, “okay then, give me the number for the emergency dentist” (what a fabulous concept, it’s done on a rotation system for all the dentists in the area), and was told that MY dental practice WAS the emergency dentist for the day! (Seriously wondering what exactly you have to do to get an appointment for the emergency dentist). After pleading they made an appointment with a dentist no more than three hours later.

At my emergency dental appointment on Thursday, the dentist started drilling away (he also worked on speed and limited communication).  For example, he didn’t bother wait for the anaesthetic to kick in, he just started drilling away and figured something was wrong when I flew up horizontally in the chair almost convulsing. Fortunately he then paused for a few seconds. After questioning (which went something like this, wwwaaa isssshhh wooong) I learnt I had a tooth infection. And after seeing the size of the needles going into my mouth I figured out he was doing a root canal (even I can be bright sometimes). After a very quick treatment (less than 30 minutes), he said he got 90% of the infection (what about the other 10%?) and to take a couple of panadol if I needed them.  He ended with “make an appointment with your regular dentist” no saying this is going to hurt like hell for a week, just a goodbye, or probably dag or some such Dutch farewell.

By Saturday the pain was killing me. (Okay I’m exaggerating again, it wasn’t really killing me, but it bloody hurt.) A quick call into a different emergency dentist, and she asked me who my regular dentist was, upon my response paused and sighed (oh no, even I can figure out this isn’t good). That said, I don’t think she was too keen to work on a Saturday and got me off the phone by telling me it might hurt even more if she opened my tooth up, so I had a couple of panadol and a lie down.

On Sunday I took possession of the title family lion, and really was starting to roar. Again back on the phone to yet another emergency dentist (did I mention this was after having a pink fit because ALL  phone messages are recorded in Dutch) and the girl was fantastic, she was like, “yeah sure, I can fix it, how quickly can you be here?” Fifteen minutes later this dentist was saying things like, “did they do this? No? Aha”. “Did they do that? No? That explains it”. Anyhow, after spending much time and care on my very sore tooth, she told me it would be better in 1 to 4 days. Even I could wait that long, considering it’s now June and this all started in March.

Tuesday came around and I nervously rang the emergency dentist. The pain in my mouth was still there, but I couldn’t face going back to my dodgy dentist. Tentatively I asked the receptionist if the emergency dentist would take me as a new patient (this is worse than dating!). Walla, after a few minutes and a positive outcome, I was booked for an appointment next week. Oh what a delight. What a delight to have no pain in my tooth today and not to be rejected by another dentist. The root canal work continues...

Meanwhile, as we are on the subject of teeth, I think it is timely to laugh at a photo of the Dutchman (he is a good egg and was happy for me to share this). When he was a boy he somehow managed to grow three front teeth (this defect hasn’t manifested in the kids just yet, but it was his second set of teeth, so there's still time). For the record his teeth are perfectly straight and normal now.
Even with 3 front teeth, wasn’t he a cutie?


  1. I think I've been very lucky with the dentist over here but I have heard similar stories from other people. Ouch.

  2. Honestly, it's like anywhere in the world. You get dud dentists and good dentists. I think too many people just shut up and take it when they come here because.... I don't know. Fear of encountering Dutch? Thinking this is just how it is in this culture? If you feel like something is wrong, it probably is. Why put yourself through that kind of torture instead of finding someone new? (Now, I'm not talking about you here, it seems as though you at least tried). The great thing about the system here is that you can pick up and leave for a new practice any time you want. As far as no explanations... the Dutch are very pragmatic. If you want to know something, you should ask. Sounds very logical to me, but not something that happens in American culture. It was something I had to get used to. I figure it's my body, my health, my teeth - I have the right to know what's going on, so I ask. And the pain... they don't even give epidurals here during labor. The Dutch have the idea that pain is natural. In America, we're all about comfort, so we pop pills and drug ourselves up all the time. I'm assuming it's similar in Australia. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. I would recommend studying on the healthcare system here. Many expat complaints happen because they have no idea how the system here works and just assume that if it doesn't work like in their home country that it's terrible and that if one doctor/dentist/etc is bad then they all must be. ACCESS has some great info as well as the Holland Handbook. So sorry you had to have a bad experience, but good on you for hanging in there!

  3. Oh, and dentists and doctors are not obligated to take you. It has nothing to do with you speaking English. She's more than likely full.

  4. @ Stu - Lucky you :-). I guess I just lucked out, but hoping the new one continues to be great.

    @ Tiffany - yeah Aussies also love a bit of pain relief, especially me. What's the point of having it hurt if you can be numb? I have heard about the Dutch vrouws having their babies at home and without an epidural. The Dutchman was most surprised when I told him I was having our first in a hospital.

    Chosing medical providers in a place where you have an established network is easier cos you can just ask friends/family/colleagues who is good. For us in the NL so far it has been a bit pot luck. You are right, in that you are not locked in to providers, and we are moving on to our second huisart and I've secured a third dentist, who seems really good.

  5. That's why the only dentist I trust is my mom. Every year when I go to Brazil I make an appointment with her. A long serious one. Luckily I have great teeth in top condition, no fillings or odd stuff. But I make her checking one by one. The dentists here in Holland are more for an occasional cleaning. Tree front teeth ? I will send a link to your blog to my mom !!

  6. @ Anita - tres jealous of you having a mum for a dentist, that is seriously handy. I bet your teeth are in great condition, and suppose your mum kept you well away from sugar as a child :-).