MADRID: Study Abroad and Tooth Aches

Nobody likes to go to the dentist. The same is true for the dentist while studying abroad in another country. I was unfortunate enough to have the thrilling opportunity to navigate the Spanish dental system this week. 

One of my molars had been hurting for a few days, but I was hoping if I ignored it that it might go away. However, as I was sitting in class, a piece of my tooth chipped off. You can imagine my horror as I ran my tongue along the inside of my mouth to feel a gaping hole in my tooth. I was convinced that half my tooth had fallen out. In reality, it was just a small part of my composite that broke off. 

During the ten minute break between my classes I frantically searched for dentists in Madrid. I typed in “English-speaking dentist Madrid” into Google. Luckily, the second office I called had an opening that night. 

I was relieved to find an English speaking dentist, even though I probably could have managed in Spanish. It just made me feel more comfortable to know exactly what was going on, especially because I really hate going to the dentist, even back home.

But before I could make it to the dentist, I still had a full day of class. I sat through my next six hours of class without being able to eat or drink because my tooth was so sensitive. 

From my apartment, it took me 45 minutes by metro and another 15 minute walk to get to the dental office. The whole time I was contemplating scenarios of the upcoming major tooth surgery. I finally made it to the office only a few minutes late and more than a little apprehensive. 

The waiting room was just like any other medical waiting room I’ve been in, which didn’t help ease the nerves. I filled out some paperwork and talked to the nurse in Spanish about my condition. I only waited a few minutes before I was seated in the dentist’s chair. 

I told the dentist that I was from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and he told me that he had just been there a month ago. He had been visiting his daughter who is currently studying abroad at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He said he loved Santa Fe. It really is a small world. 

This, along with his kindness, made me feel more at ease while he poked around in my mouth. He fixed me up in less than an hour and I was good to go.

I was actually surprised by how smoothly the whole process went. I only had to fill out a single form with my Spanish address. I didn’t even show any identification. Not knowing what to expect I tried to be as prepared as possible. I brought every form of identification I thought I might need, including my passport, driver’s license and travel insurance plan. 

Spain has a universal healthcare system which covers all Spanish residents. I’ve heard that even illegal immigrants will not be turned away, which is pretty controversial as you can imagine. But Spain has one of the highest life expectancy rates in Europe, so they must be doing something right. 

Since I am not a Spanish resident, I pay for everything up front and get reimbursed by my insurance later. I paid €100 for the procedure, while I was expecting to pay a lot more from my past experience with dentists in the U.S. Even the dentist noted my surprise as he commented, “Not as expensive as America eh?”