A Dental Nightmare

I was convinced I had a sinus problem.

For the good part of the past three years, I had pain shooting up my left cheek, suffered from unprecedented headaches, and had only one useful nostril. I was planning on visiting my old ENT(an ORL in France) next time I go back home for a visit.

Never suspecting anything wrong with my teeth, I asked for a referral from friends for a dentist to get a much over-due cleaning. They warned that I should be very careful with dentists around here and referred me to a trusted one in one of the most expensive zip codes of Paris. "She is expensive, but she is worth every penny," they said. "Plus, you do not have any major tooth problems, her fees may not be that bad for a cleaning". I succumbed to the logic, and took the plunge.I called to book an appointment. The secretary said that I should come for an evaluation first, and then they would discuss what was needed. Logical and professional, I was sold.

I had a very impressive visit. The dentist was efficient, competent, caring, and downright thorough. To my relief, she even spoke English fluently. She examined my teeth completely, took X-rays, and noticed the details of every work ever done on my teeth before. Then she asked: "Don't you have head-aches?"

Bingo! I had an infected moral for the past few years that had devitalized on its own. She said she would not touch me unless I saw a specialist right away who would save my tooth and then return to her for cleaning as well as other work I had not realized I needed. "Come back before you start having pain", was her advice. Insurance would not cover the fees of the specialist (1000 euros), and the devis she gave me was astronomical; roughly speaking, it was about eight times of what was covered by insurance. Just to take care of the infected tooth, I would have to cough up 2,500 euros - out of my pocket. I gladly paid the 125 euros for my evaluation visit, and went on to find a less expensive option.

My friends were no help. The only dentist they would ever go to was the luxury one I had already seen. I turned to our neighbors, and finally took the advice of a friendly optometrist who recommended his brother. It was really convenient; his office was close by and he was available to see my right away. I asked if he could fix my infected tooth. "Bien sur!" he said, "just call this guy and get a good mutuelle 'Sans plaffond', and I will take care of you with no out of pocket cost to you!" Too good to pass up - I jumped on the opportunity; the nightmare began.

I got an excellent mutuelle. He did not evaluated me as thoroughly as the other dentist. Just looked at my teeth briefly and decided I needed caps on all my front teeth, as well as some other work. Odd! I said to him that I would prefer finishing up with the infected tooth first and take one step at a time. The work began. After a two hour visit, with excruciating pain and fatigue, he informed me that he could not fix my infected tooth and I should visit a specialist. "No worries", I refer you to someone I know who will take care of it for little cost to you." I had no other option; which other dentist would take this mess?

His friend actually turned out to be a good dentist. Competent and professional. He did get the main part of the job done in a couple of visits. But I had to go back to the local dentist to finish the work; the nightmare ensued. When I called to book my follow up visit, he gave me four long appointments back to back. "Why?" I asked; "to finish your work as soon as possible". I explained to him that I wanted to finish with the infected tooth first and then go on to the next tooth. "I am ordering a crown any way, might as well order the ones for your front teeth".

I do not know why I fell for that. Maybe I relented because I was tired and wanted to get it over with. How bad could he be? I called my dentist back home. Having had worked on my teeth before, he suggested that I should avoid aggressive treatment and half-heartedly approved of only three crowns in the front for aesthetic reasons. I went back to the dentist.

Instead of finishing up with the infected tooth, he embarked on doing a root canals on the three front teeth. I do not remember the excuse, but it does not matter. I was there, it was done. I watched with trepidation as he haphazardly applied questionable hygiene, took x-rays without covering me with a lead coat, and dropped and picked up his tools to continue his work on me. "Please, do you have Listerine?" I demanded in broken French; realizing that I was the sole person responsible for my health in that office. Listerine would surely kill some of the germs he had inoculating me with.

I was numb afterwards, physically and emotionally. My husband came home to find me exceptionally quiet. Then we had dinner, and I realized a difference. Food was getting stuck between my healthy teeth. I remembered the dentist scratching, then using the drill in that area while working on my root-canals. "Could it be true?", i asked my self, "did he intentionally create a space between my teeth to encourage tooth decay?" I shivered at the thought, but kept quiet.

The next day, I had pain. Not the infected tooth, not the root-canals, but it was the healthy teeth he had fooled with that were alerting me to a disasters. My husband watched me in disbelief when I picked up the phone and canceled my appointment with the dentist. "What's wrong?", he asked. I did not know what to say. I was trying to explain to my husband my ordeal when the phone rang. It was the dentist himself. He wanted to know why I had canceled the long appointment he gave me. I told him, again in broken French, that I needed time to recover from his previous work and will not come for my appointment. Would I keep the other appointment next week? "Oui," I told him. He hung up. My husband was puzzled. He thought that I may be too tired to think about it then.

I was having lunch with a friend the next day when I had pain again. She, a smart executive with incredible problem-solving abilities, suggested I go to the nearest dental school and get evaluated. I took her advice. The first appointment would be in a few months, but they took me on emergency basis because I had pain. The x-ray showed damage to my previously healthy tooth, and we had to wait a week to see if it needed a root canal; I shivered again. I called the dentist when I got home. "I cannot be a good patient for you", "I will not see you again". He was taken aback: "but we have already started a lot of work," he exclaimed. I shot back: "I am going to the States for the remainder of the work. It is not you, it is me. I do not like dental work and am used to the way my old dentist in the states works." Lame excuse on my part, he kept on insisting that I should go back. "Non, monsieur, " - I knew I had the right to change dentists. He suggested I came by to pick up my file, x-rays, and pay for the work done. I thought it was over.

When I went back to pick up my file, though, he had a change of heart. "Oh, the crown for your infected tooth is already ordered, I need to finish that work to charge you, come back on Tuesday". As I left his office, I was upset. He had changed his story, manipulated me into having another appointment, and there was no way I would sit in that chair again. I emailed the dentist that same night. I explained that I did not wish to continue with him, even for the work he had already started. He emailed me back that I had the right to do that. That he would only charge me for the infected tooth and I could pick up my x-rays and file when I came back. I rescheduled the appointment the next day, I had to take care of my sick son any way.

I was scheduled for a follow up visit at the dental school yesterday. Thankfully, the healthy teeth that were fooled with have stopped aching and I do not need any work done on them at the moment. The unfinished root-canals are different. One of them is done so badly it needs to be redone. Meanwhile, i received a formal email from my dentist last night. He has changed his mind yet again and wants me to go back with my cart vital so that he could charge for all the work he has done.

Help! I do not trust this guy and cannot be sure what he is going to do with my cart vital once he gets a hold of it. if he charges for the butcher job he did, the insurance will not pay for a redo. What shall I do????

Not wanting to make light of your situation, Abigail, but I just had to laugh when I read that you had an infected moral! Suppose it’s better than having no morals!
Good luck.


There is a Scottish dentist been living and working in the greater Paris region for a good number of years now and she is also a SFN member. Her name is Margaret French-Theoleyre (and that is a link to her profile page).

You may say I put you in touch with her if you like. I am sure she will give you some sound advice.

Kind regards