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Healthcare in Germany
Going to the Dentist in Germany
Afraid of drills and needles? You need not fear going to the dentist in Germany. German dentists are highly qualified: It can indeed be rather hard to become an officially licensed dentist in Germany. Nonetheless, even in rural areas, there’s usually a dentist somewhere nearby.
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Both quality and quantity come at a price: Costs for dental health in Germany rank amongst the highest in Europe, while public healthcare costs consume a large portion of the national budget. As a consequence, an increasing number of dental treatments have been excluded from reimbursement by public healthcare plans.
Therefore, critics have denounced the emergence of a two-tier medical system for the haves and the have-nots, who might not be able to afford paying for healthy teeth and an attractive smile. Widespread criticism, however, cannot deny the overall high quality of dentistry in Germany.
Acquiring a medical degree in dentistry remains very attractive to German and foreign students alike. Apart from university education and professional licenses, another factor accounting for the quality of German dentists is the high standard of technical equipment.
The largest obstacle for expats receiving dental treatment in Germany is probably the language barrier. The dentist usually speaks at least some English, but nurses, receptionists, and secretaries may not be fluent in a foreign language. Even the doctor’s language skills might not be sufficient to discuss important details.
However, you should definitely be able to talk about your symptoms, any allergies you have, or medication you take. Ask your embassy for addresses of an international dentist that speaks your own language, or take a bilingual friend and a good German dictionary with you.
It is worth calling a number of German dentists, especially if you need more complicated surgery, so you can compare cost estimates for certain kinds of dental care, like coronas or implants.
Cost of Dental Care
Costs for your yearly dental health routine are covered by all standard medical plans. This includes two annual check-ups, dental clearance (Zahnsteinentfernung), and basic fillings. You may, however, have to pay for more expensive fillings (e.g. ceramic inlays) or extra cleaning measures from your own pocket.
As far as the costs of other treatments are concerned, it can get rather complicated. Prices for root canals, sealants, braces, bridges, coronas, implants, and dentures may vary from practice to practice, while reimbursements sometimes differ between insurance companies.
As a rule of thumb, you can assume that public healthcare coverage will come up with a fixed partial payment for every sort of treatment or surgery. However, the actual price may exceed this payment considerably. For instance, if you want a good implant, this may cost up to 3,000€ per tooth while you only receive several hundred euros from your provider.
If you need more complicated dental treatment during your stay, you should look into private insurance or dental “top-up” packages from public insurance companies (Zahnzusatzversicherung). If you are unsure how to find and interpret the necessary information, Stiftung Warentest (Germany’s leading consumer protection society) is always a good place to start your research.
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If you are in need of dental care on a weekend, public holiday, etc., there is always at least one dentist, practice, or walk-in clinic available. To find out who is on call for emergency duty, you can enter the area code of your phone number on the website of the Ansage und Vermittlung Zahnärztlicher Notdienst e.V.
You will get the number of your local emergency hotline which tells you whom to contact in an emergency. However, it is not guaranteed that the hotline staff (or the doctor in question) speaks English or any other foreign language.