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Going to the Dentist in Germany

There is no need to be concerned about the quality of dental care, or any other kind of health care, in Germany. It's comparable in just about every way with the care you get in the USA, and there are some who think it's better. (This is especially true regarding implant treatment.) The Germans are very thorough, and do lots of testing. Treatment is done following very strict regulations.

There is no shortage of dentists in Germany, not even in rural areas. Since 1993 the state-run insurers have been barred from accrediting more dentists than have been statistically determined to be needed in their areas. There is no requirement that a dentist have this accreditation. But if he or she doesn't have it they can accept no state-plan patients and private patients are hard to come by in these days of a dentist surplus.

All this has led to some downward pressure on the prices they charge. Prices tend to vary. So, it's good idea to compare prices - especially if you don't have adequate insurance coverage. With a simple price comparison you may be able to save up to 60% on treatment costs.

There may be some language problems but, as with educated Germans in general, many dentists speak some English and it shouldn't be hard to find one who can work with you. Dental emergency services are available throughout the country. You'll find a list of the numbers to call at dentists' offices, pharmacies, hospitals, police and fire stations and in the daily newspapers. Dental work can be covered by health insurance, but things may get a bit complicated here so it pays to investigate. There are two basic kinds of health insurance in Germany, and both have provisions for covering some, but seldom all, of the costs of dental care. There are state-run plans and private plans.

Insured persons, whether under the state-run or private plans, are covered for routine procedures such as simple fillings and dental hygiene. But major dental work, such as crowns and dentures, is only partially covered by the state plans. Privately insured persons may fare better with major dental work. But they should investigate carefully the type of dental coverage they have purchased. German companies usually limit the coverage new policyholders can receive. They probably will require a waiting period of eight months before they will make any reimbursements at all, and after that may restrict their reimbursements to 60% to 80% of the total cost of major dental work.

Payments to dentists under the state-run plans are being cut in other areas too as part of a big government program to trim expenditures. This could well mean that if you have state-run insurance you could be left holding the bag for more of your dentist bill than before. It's a good idea to check with your state-run insurer and find out what sort of dental coverage it provides. You might want to purchase some inexpensive supplemental coverage from a private insurer.

Anyone faced with major dental work should get a detailed cost estimate (Heil- und Kostenplan) before any work is begun and submit it to their insurer for prior approval. You can usually request this estimate to be done in English.

Ask for a "medical risk form", "medical history form" and the "new patient form" to make sure that your dentists knows about any health problems, medication you may be taking and allergies.