Dental Care in the Czech Republic

Ryan Scott finds out how much treatment his Czech health insurance covers and gets into the dentist's chair...

Imagine you're out with some friends. Suddenly you feel something cold and brittle on your tongue. It's a piece of tooth.

Once the embarrassment has passed you look with dismay at your friends. That check-up you've been putting off the whole time you've been here has now become a lot more complicated.

Back home it would be a matter of making an appointment with an available dentist, forking out the big bucks and waiting for the appointment.

When part of my wisdom tooth fragmented midway through a dinner with friends, I figured that I would simply do the same. Then I remembered that I have health insurance. Surely my company would cover me.

Was I in for a surprise? This was an instance when I should've read the small print and not assumed that public health cover meant everything.

My general health insurance (Všeobecná zdravotní pojištení, VZP) only entitles me to one check-up a year, which includes your teeth and gums. By then it was too late. The pain was affecting my sleep. The thing needed to come out.

Perhaps I should've taken out VZP's Zdravotní pojištění cizinců pro případ komplexní péče ("Comprehensive Health Insurance for Foreigners") coverage (Zdravotní pojištění cizinců pro případ komplexní péče). But 1,900 CZK a month is pretty steep and the cover is only for acute dental care. Until my problem, I never thought I'd need it.

I could've gone private, of course. But I would have had to have organized that months in advance.

For most private health insurers, additional care such as dental treatment doesn't become available until after the first few months. The actual period varies depending on the company.

There are any number of private clinics in Prague. Their websites look professional and give the impression that their staff are competent in English. (Czech's tough enough without dental paraphernalia and swabbing in your mouth.)

A couple of friends said they were satisfied with the care they received at a few of the clinics mentioned.

The service was professional, the staff's English-language skills good enough to make them feel relaxed, and the final bill smaller than it would have been at home.

Despite this, I still wanted to see what my options were within the public health system.

Though I had been in the Czech Republic four years by this stage, and had visited the hospital once and the doctor several times, my natural fear of the dentist conjured up some nasty images of poorly lit rust-stained back rooms over which Dr. Frankenstein's great-grandson presided.

The dentist, who also treats my Czech wife, was anything but, although it did take some cajoling before he accepted me.

Like doctors, dentists can refuse patients if they feel overburdened. This is a problem for Czech patients as much as for foreigners.

Fortunately, he also accepted my VZP insurance.

He was friendly, asked me lots of questions about my stay in his country, and always made sure that I understood the procedures he was carrying out and the costs associated with them.

He was perfectly willing to speak English, as was his assistant, and the surgery was modern and clean.

After the initial check-up, which cost 90 CZK, he told me what I had known all along -- the tooth would have to come out. I was booked in again two weeks later.

The operation itself was over in moments. After two injections for the pain, I waited 20 minutes for the anesthetic to take effect. Then, with the greatest of care, he removed the bothersome tooth.

The operation cost only 200 CZK.

I can't deny how fortunate I was to meet this dentist. But I don't think this is any different from back home, where doctors and dentists run the gamut from saints to quacks.

If you aren't fortunate enough to have a local advise you -- and I'm sure a colleague, student or drinking buddy would -- you can use the VZP website to find a dentist.

Just follow the instructions on "Finding a Doctor" in my earlier Healthcare in the Czech Republic article, but select "ambulantní stomatologické zařízení" in the "Typ subjektu" box and "stomatologická služba první pomoc" in the "odbornost" box.

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