10. Dental Care in France
10.1. Routine Dental Treatment
Dental services in France operate on a very similar basis to that of the general medical services.
Unlike other services you have no need to be referred by your family doctor to receive treatment, without financial penalty.
Accordingly, you are free to use any dentist you like, and you do not need to go to the same dentist for all of your treatment.
Nevertheless, as in many other European countries there is a shortage of dentists in many parts of the country so you may not have too much choice!
Most dentists work within the framework of the public health system, so your general dental treatment is reimbursed in very much the same manner as that of other medical specialists.
That is to say, you will receive reimbursement from the social security system at 70% of official rates and your voluntary health insurance policy will pay for balance, assuming you have such a policy.
There is no €1 surcharge in the manner of other medical treatment.
Fillings, extractions, treatment for gum diseases and most other general treatment are covered by the social security and voluntary health insurance systems.
The level of the charges will depend on the type of treatment but they are not excessive by the standards of many countries.
Thus, the charge for a basic consultation with a dentist is €23 (2018), which is reimbursed at the rate of 70% by the social security system.
The treatment for minor tooth decay costs €16.87 at the official rates, of which 70% is reimbursed by the social security system.
A tooth extraction will cost €33.44, again reimbursable at the rate of 70%.
For emergency work on a Sunday or a public holiday there is an additional charge, but this is equally reimbursable.
The charges are kept artificially low by the government to ensure that basic dental treatment is available for everyone.
Some dentists are permitted to charge more than these rates (dépassement d'honoraires), so you do need to ask the dentist for their price list.
In most cases the excess is not significant, but whatever the charge, the level of reimbursement remains the same.
10.2. Non-Routine Dental Treatment
In return for keeping routine treatment prices low, dentists are given freedom to set their own prices for non-routine treatment, such as crowns, prosthetics and orthodontics.
The level of reimbursement by the social security system for such treatment covers only a fraction of the actual cost.
Prices across the country vary considerably.
A survey in 2017 showed that the cost of a crown varied from €400 to €1,200, of which only €75.25 is reimbursable by the social security system. This is because the official tariff for a crown is €107.50.
The cost of a tooth implant varied from €1,250 to €2,500, for which you will receive €45.15 from the social security system.
The charge for teeth whitening varied from around €500 to €1,000, none of which is reimbursable.
As a result of such variations it pays to consider shopping around for your dental treatment, although there is no easy way of doing so other than to make an appointment with a dentist and obtain an estimate for the work.
All dentists are legally obliged to provide a written estimate of their charges before they undertake treatment.
The difference between the official level of reimbursement and the actual charge may also be picked up by having a top-up complementary health insurance policy. However, you need to review the terms of the policy to establish the level of cover as many cheaper policies only reimburse at the official rate.
There are also other instances when there is absolutely no social security cover at all for the treatment and where only the best quality voluntary health policies will cover some or all of the cost of the treatment.
The main types of treatment are ‘parodontology’ (oral surgery), ‘orthodontics’ (tooth irregularities) for adults and certain types of prostheses.
If you wish treatment of this kind then you will probably need to pay for it.
Whilst they are free to set their own prices for specialist treatment, they are required to do so with ‘tact and discretion’. As there is no definition in the regulations as to what these words mean, charges do vary widely.
The government announced in 2018 that they are to increase the rate of reimbursement for dental treatment, which will be effective in 2019. We have published an article about these changes, which you can read at Dental Treatment Charges in France. We will update this Guides page in due course.
10.3. Child Dental Treatment
All children are entitled to a free dental check every three years, between the ages of between aged 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18.
The service is called le bilan bucco-dentaire (BBD).
If any treatment is needed as a result of the check then most of this work is free of charge, although there are some exceptions, e.g. prostheses and orthodontics (brace).
In order to qualify for 100% reimbursement the treatment must be started within nine months of the dental check. You will need to pay at the time of treatment, but it will all be reimbursed by your caisse.
You will be advised by letter from the Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie one month before your child’s birthday of their entitlement to a free dental check.
The check-up must be carried out within six months following their birthday.
The letter will contain tags or stickers that you should hand over to the dentist in order that they can recover their fee.
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