MANY dental surgeries across France are closed today as dentists strike over pay and conditions.
The National Confederation of Dental Trade Unions (CNSD), which represents a third of France’s 37,000 dentists, said its members are protesting against a freeze on the state rates for basic dental care.
They are demanding improved pay for basic dental health care, and want better reimbursement for patients for more involved and expensive procedures.
As well as today’s strike, emergency dental care was withdrawn in some areas of France yesterday, as part of the dispute.
“Mobilisation is very strong,” CNSD president Catherine Mojaïsky said.
Patients who turn up for appointments are being greeted with a sign that reads: “Your dentist is fighting so you will be better refunded.”
According to the union, official reimbursement rates for dental care from the French healthcare system have not changed in 25 years.
For basic procedures like a filling or an extraction, they have to charge the state rate, whereas for more « cosmetic » ones like crowns and braces they can set their tariffs over and above the state rates, with patients having to foot the excess themselves or via top-up health insurance (though these often reimburse poorly for such procedures).
Dentists said last year that if bread-and-butter work was better paid they might be able to lower the rates for the other kinds of work.
The CNSD said it wants "to inform patients about the reality of their reimbursements, and remind the French healthcare system of its responsibilities."
According to the union, the healthcare system « has completely disengaged from dental health care, » warning that this is something that « cannot be abandoned ».
The strike comes a few months after the publication of a study by consumer organisation 60 millions de Comsommateurs that condemned perceived overcharging of some dental procedures.
However dentists argue that the state-wide rates freeze has forced them to increase fees where they can.
They point out, for example, that the state tariff on which reimbursements for a crown are based are only €107,50, or which €75,25 will be reimbursed, which they say no longer corresponds to a reasonable market rate.
“Twenty-five years ago, it may have been possible to come up with something at this price. Nowadays , it is really impossible " said dentist Benedict Caloone, from Wasquehal, in the Nord.
Photo:© Sandor Kacso - Fotolia.com.jpg