The French health system reimburses only a small fraction of the costs of non-routine dental treatment, and the charges imposed by dentists for such treatment varies considerably.
By the standards of many other countries the charges for routine dental treatment in France are most reasonable.
Thus, the charge for a basic consultation with a dentist is €23, 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%.
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.
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.
As a recent survey has shown, prices across the country vary considerably.
The survey 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 reimburseable.
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.