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Three month wait, 50km away: Your experiences finding a French dentist

Some rural Connexion readers say they have no problem securing an appointment, but others have had to travel over an hour, even in an emergency

Connexion readers have shared their experiences of finding a dentist appointment in rural areas of France Pic: klyots / Shutterstock

We recently reported on a French village’s humorous appeal for a new dentist, as its only existing one prepares to retire. 

Champlitte – a village of 1,800 people to the north of Dijon and Besançon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) – did attract interest from potential candidates with its advert, but the appeal highlighted a growing issue in rural France. 

Read more: French village’s comic advert to find dentist highlights wider issue

In several regions of France, patients are struggling to find appointments because of a shortage of dentists. 

A report by France’s health ministry, published in November 2021, states that France has on average 62 dentists for every 100,000 people. 

“This is below the rate that was available in the 1990s. It is also far inferior to the national European average in 2018, which was 74 dentists for every 100,000 people,” the report states

We asked Connexion readers whether they have had issues securing an appointment or a new dentist. 

One said that their nearest dentist is about a mile away and the wait for a check-up is two weeks, while another said their nearest was “five minutes away”. 

Two months’ wait

However, several others reported problems. Jean McKenna, who lives in the commune of Blanzac in Haute-Vienne said that she must travel 47km to see her dentist, and wait two months for an appointment. 

“I found myself looking for a new dentist after the one I had moved,” she told The Connexion.  “I asked on a local social forum on Facebook for recommendations after I found dentists local to me had full registers.

“I’ve never had an emergency thankfully but have had a couple of months’ wait for treatment for small fillings.

“It’s the same for doctors. My doctor of 12 years left and I found it difficult to find a new one. Again, lots were full and towns near to me were only taking patients local to them.

“I have found one now approximately 20km away who works only part-time, so it’s a wait to be seen.

“I’ve heard of people having difficulty in my town trying to find doctors and think the problem has been made worse because so many doctors are near retirement age and younger doctors don’t seem to want to work outside cities.

“I do know if I have an emergency I can travel to see a dentist at Limoges which is approximately 50 minutes away and private. I’m under the impression one would need a prescription from a doctor to attend a dental hospital which would be difficult at weekends.

“There are many people who have tales to tell regarding finding a dentist or doctor in the countryside without having to travel miles.”

Three months to treat a chipped tooth

Melanie Jones, who runs a gîte and works park time in Scrignac (Finistère), said that her dentist has moved away and no other local dentists are taking new patients. 

She told us: “I chipped my front tooth in the December confinement. Thank goodness for masks! 

“I rang round and was knocked back from all of the nearby dentists. I went through the local pages jaunes. I was even told by one: ‘bon courage!’ 

“I was offered appointments from those that were taking patients from June onwards. 

“I rang one that my daughter had seen for her six-year-old check up and argued that as she was a patient, would they see me as well. 

“I was able to get an appointment for three months later. Luckily I had a full course of treatment when I did see them, so hopefully I shouldn't need anything routine for a while, fingers crossed. 

“I could do with a checkup on my cap that was fitted, but it'll have to wait.

“I am worried with the dentist moving as my daughter will need a check up age eight this year. If anything happens emergency wise, we will have to go to Brest to the hospital.

Ms Jones has also experienced issues with getting a GP appointment. 

She said: “Our village has a doctor who is based in another village and visits one afternoon a week. I have waited for an appointment with him for three hours [before], so I have changed as I can't wait that long with a child.  

“The only other doctor taking on patients was 45mins away, and in another department. They are good so we stay with them, and to be honest I don’t know if we would get in anywhere else!

“Although the care is good if you can get it, it's finding a practitioner that is the problem.”

No guarantee of existing patients getting an appointment

Jennifer Lamattina, who has a second home in Bonnieux (Vaucluse), said: “We have two dentists in our village and although I am already a client, they would not see me in an emergency back in April – it was a three to four week wait!

“I was obviously in pain and told them I was happy to wait until the dentist had some spare time. I was told that would not be possible and to leave.

“I called 10 dentists within half an hour of me and no one would see me. I was actually told to go to the emergency department at the hospital; what would they do? 

“I then used Doctolib and found an appointment the next day in Aix-en-Provence, which is one-and-a-half hours’ drive away. 

“The same thing happened to my husband two weeks ago – and off we went to Aix again!

“We are able to drive, and distances aren’t a huge problem, but I feel sorry for people that can’t or don’t drive. 

“For a first-world country, dentistry in country areas in France is most definitely in crisis. 

“I am also a member of a networking group in our area. Questions about dental appointments come up almost weekly. 

“Basically, if you are not already a patient, no one is prepared to see you, though if you are already a patient, that is no guarantee of being able to get an appointment in an emergency.”

Related articles 

What can I do if I receive substandard dental treatment in France?

French dentists jailed for mutilating hundreds of patients

Can you consult a medical specialist without seeing your GP in France?

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