How it works…
If you have had toothache, it is very hard to think of anything other than getting a fast acting painkiller and seeing a dentist as soon as possible. The pain can be so intense that you need attention right away, day or night. If your dentist can see you and can treat you, then you are in luck. But what about all the people that have not yet found a dentist or their dentist is unavailable ? Also, it might not be toothache. If you have had a fall from your bike? It might dental trauma, which is more serious and that happens all the time. On the flip side, a lot of Dutch people seem to have good teeth, in great shape and never have trouble. How does that happen? We are going to find out with a Q&A with Thomas Rietrae, the founder of Lassus Dental in Amsterdam.
So how does the dental system in the Netherlands actually work ? How do you choose a dentist ? And how much does it cost ? That is the part that drives fear into the hearts of expats. Everyone has to have medical insurance, but even if you do, you might still need to pay up for certain treatment. The expats I speak to rarely seem to fully understand how the dental part of healthcare works here. This article has the aim of shedding light on the matter. Americans for example might think that dental care will cost them a fortune based on their experiences from home. The French with their excellent healthcare system will have other expectations. We we will explore the Dutch system for dental care.
Expats and Dentists
One big thing that lots of expats do not perhaps know is that there are no ‘private dentists’. Since 2006 all dentists are public dentists. Expats should choose a good dentists as all Dutch people do and go for check ups at least every 6 months. There is a scale of maximum charges for dental work. This puts every dentist on a level playing field in terms of price. All dentists also have to have a BIG certificate as stipulated in the Health Care Professionals Act. Without it they can not practice. In general, most dental practices are modern and friendly. There is plenty of competition and that fact pushes the dental centres to up their game – better experiences, friendlier staff, the latest equipment, etc. We see people asking other expats for recommendations on social media. Everyone is different and what counts is how you feel with a certain dental practice. Perceptions vary between different people. So look around, don’t just jump in with the first one you visit or the one nearest home.
Hygiene & Prevention
It sounds obvious, but prevention is the best cure. This highlights the importance of regular dental check-ups, good brushing techniques, flossing and general maintenance in order to avoid buffer issues. Many dental centre have hygienists just for that role. They will help to clean your teeth and gums and give you tips and drills. I used to always avoid flossing because I found it so awkward. Now I use small wooden sticks and tiny brushes at 90 degree angles to clean between my teeth. I also use an electric toothbrush which makes a huge difference. All advice I was given since I moved to Amsterdam.
Bigger Issues and Trauma.
Sometimes accidents happen. Having lots of people cycling around on bikes is great, but it also means a lots more bike accidents and that is often the source of severe dental trauma. In those cases treatment is more urgent and must begin within the first 30 – 45 minutes after the accident. All dentists are obliged to assist at any hour, day or night, in those cases. Some cases might come from a cracked tooth while eating dinner. The pain can be excruciating and it needs urgent attention. These kinds of actions can have varying costs depending on when the help is required. The main message remains the same – in case of severe damage, get to a dentist as soon as possible.
What you get depends on the package you choose. For kids and up to their 18th birthday, all dental care is included in the insurance package. Ask your insurance provider specifically about the dental package and then compare like for like.For more depth about dental care we decided to ask some questions to one of our dental partners here in Amsterdam. Lassus Dental Practices are well known by expats for providing excellent dental care and in many languages. They have several modern locations around the city and the staff are well qualified and friendly. So who better to ask about dental care for expats in the Netherlands….
1. What should expats look for when choosing a dental practice ?
New practices, which still take on new patients often have websites (there are still quite a number of dental clinics without one!) . It is advisable to do some comparative shopping before deciding on a practice. Issues to take into consideration are: philosophy of the dentist/practice, opening hours, is there availability for emergency treatments, is there a dental hygienist in-house or other specialisms, are refresher courses taken on a regular basis, what does the practice specialise in, does the staff speak English or other languages etc.
2. The insurance agreements for dental care are quite confusing for expats. What are the essential parts they need to understand ?
Dentistry is privatised in the Netherlands, i.e. the patient is responsible for the payment of the costs of the treatment, not the insurance company. However, under Dutch basic health insurance, the insurance company will fully cover all costs of dentistry for children through to the age of 18 as well as dental surgery for all adults (dental surgery will be done in hospital and ‘own risk’ will apply).
All other dental care, which constitutes the majority of care given, can only be insured by taking out an additional insurance. This supplementary insurance can cover up to 75% of the costs. For the exact coverage, check the policy terms or contact the insurer.
Also good to know: it’s mandatory for all dental clinics to give you an estimate for treatments above EUR 250.
3. How much does language play a role ? Many (if not most) expats cannot speak Dutch. What are the languages your staff speak ?
Quite a lot. Especially if you are in pain it’s better if you can explain it in your own language. Lassus has a multilingual staff. Besides Dutch and English there are several dentists and specialists who speak Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian or Farsi.
4. Children never really want to go to the dentist. What are your techniques for making children feel more relaxed when they visit ?
Take your kids with you during your own check up, so they can see their parent is relaxed which really helps them to adjust. First step is counting the teeth together. If they are still relaxed, the dentist can check the teeth. Everything the dentist does in the mouth, the dentist will show and feel it first on the hand.
5. Lastly, what are your top tips to keep strong and healthy teeth ?
You are 365 days a year your own ‘dentist’. Brush twice a day for min. 2 minutes and clean interdental with floss or brushes. Visit your dentist twice a year with a combined appointment for dental cleaning.
Eat and drink max. 7 times a day so your enamel can recover from acid juices and food. Stop smoking, because that is really bad for your whole body and also for your teeth and gums.
Thank you Thomas for those great insights.
If you want to know more of book you treatments, please contact Lassus directly at these three locations or look on their website :
1075 GV Amsterdam
Tel 020 47 13 13 7
1015 CW Amsterdam
Tel 020 42 21 91 2
Stadionplein 125 (parking free for 90 minutes)
1076 CK Amsterdam
Tel 020 210 4007