Dentistry in Portugal
My first trip
I have a totally irrational dentist-phobia. I have never had a bad experience … never needed a root canal … only have 4 fillings … I am just nuts. But I needed to have my teeth cleaned. Besides, so many of you appreciated my story about Portuguese medicine it just had to be done.
I want you to understand the extremes to which my irrational mind will go. You see my dentist in Philadelphia, a nice young man that was a neighbor, gave me nitrose to clean my teeth. I actually had my own nose mask in his office with my name on it. When we moved to Florida, I would arrange dental visits around required visits to the corporate headquarters. Then I left Siemens. Spending money on a flight just to have your teeth cleaned seemed extreme…so I went without seeing a dentist for six years. Yes, I am an idiot. (And not proud of this fact.) Oddly enough I didn’t have any major tooth problems…but I couldn’t stand the color of my teeth.
So I searched and consulted with friends and found a dental practice in Leesburg, FL called the Dental Touch. I loved Dr. Dhanani and her staff! She didn’t make me feel embarrassed about my “condition” and would also provide nitrose if I needed it. When I needed to have a crown years later, she even gave me valium (as long as Denise would drive). Because I had neglected my teeth for so long, I did have some gum disease. But over time she weaned me off of the nitrose. While I was always nervous … I went as scheduled (four times a year) to see her or her hygienist. When we moved to California, I timed my visits to my mother to coincide with required cleanings.
When my mother died, I had to find someone in Rancho Mirage. If you are familiar with Rancho Mirage you won’t be surprised to learn that I found a dentist who provided aromatherapy, earphones, and reflexology as part of the service. I didn’t care that she didn’t take my dental insurance and charged $270 a visit. Fear overcame my frugality. This brings us to today.
US vs Portuguese Dentistry
I consulted the 2021 version of the Yellow Pages, Facebook’s Cascais Expat Group, to find a dentist. An English dentist just a few blocks from our apartment was recommended over and over again. Before I lost my nerve I called Dr. Haley’s office. I didn’t ask what he charged…I didn’t care. Other dentist-phobic expats had recommended him. I arrived for my 11:00 appointment, gave my NIF number (don’t leave home without it!) and email address to his assistant/receptionist, and went into the exam room. Looked just like an American dental office…though there was no TV nor anyone to rub my feet. Here are the other differences I experienced:
The dentist did the cleaning. Nearly all the dental practices in the States have an army of hygienists for each dentist in the practice. I learned Dr. Haley does have one hygienist that comes in on Wednesdays…but otherwise he does it himself.
Here is the way the conversation went. Dr. Haley, “Any problems?” “No just need to have my teeth cleaned,” I replied. Dr. Haley, “Do you mind if I take a look … Everything looks good … If you’re okay, I’ll just clean your teeth now.” Since my mouth was wide open I just responded, “Ahaaaaa.” My point is no X-rays were “required” even though I didn’t bring ones done within the last 12 months.
I was not told I should have my front bottom teeth straightened so it would be easier to clean. I guess getting these Invisalign things in your 50’s and 60’s is an American thing.
No $20 fluoride treatment (that isn’t covered by insurance). Perhaps that is because there is already enough fluoride in the water. I don’t know…I am not an expert.
I was told I did not have gum disease. He told me my teeth and gums looked pretty good. It was up to me, but he didn’t think I needed to have my teeth cleaned four times a year. (I suspect I will change to two or three times a year. I last saw Dr. Dhanini in December when I was hanging out in Florida waiting to leave.)
Bill €70. Having spoken to others, I realize this is a lot by Portuguese standards. But we currently live in Cascais and I went to a dentist who advertises that he speaks English and French. I spoke to an expat in Lisbon that had full X-rays, a visit that included replacing a filling that had fallen out, and a cleaning for €130. Another friend’s crown came off and needed to have it re-applied in the Algarve…the cost €50. She went back a few weeks later to have a cleaning and again was charged €50.
Though we did review insurance policies to which you could attach a dental rider we did not. We expected the cost of dental care in Portugal would be less than in the States and decided we would pay out of pocket. In preparation for writing this article, I also did a little research and learned:
Free dental care isn't available on the SNS (Portugal’s public health system) unless you are classed as being in a vulnerable group unable to pay; this includes children, elderly, or disabled residents. Most dental treatments such as crowns and bridges can be covered by some form of private health insurance in Portugal. - Expatica
So there you have it. Just one Looney Tunes, dentist-phobic’s, single dental experience in Portugal. Pelo que vale…