July 30, 2011

At Home in a New Country: The Dentist Test

I don’t know about you, but the final measure of whether you’re completely at home in a new place, especially as an expat, is when you’ve found a new doctor and dentist. And not just anyone, but somebody you really like. Just a few days ago I realized that, judging by this standard, we’ve finally arrived in South Africa. Almost one-and-a-half years after we actually set foot on African soil.

If you've been an expat before, you know what makes this process so lengthy: First you actually ignore the whole issue because you've got other, bigger ones on your plate. You've got to battle the Department of Home Affairs because you've been waiting for your visa for three months and no one will sell you a car or cellphone without one. You've also got to chase a bunch of contractors as well as the owners of your house who live in Australia because the fireplace has never been working and the pool pump has broken down. And you make a trip to the school uniform store every other day because you didn't buy the right kind of PE shirt or the one you did buy has disappeared in the bottomless pit of your school's Lost-and-(never-again)-Found. And remember you're doing all this without a cellphone or car, because... Well, you get the idea.

Then you get sick from tick-bite fever after your first ever safari trip and, since you don't actually have a doctor and since you have no stomach to research one now, you opt for the emergency room, which is good to get to know in any case. While you are waiting to be admitted, then waiting for x-rays, then waiting for an ultrasound, then waiting for a blood test (while wondering if it is save to have a blood test in Africa), then waiting for the doctor again who proceeds to tell you that you are the 15th patient today with tick-bite fever but she wanted to rule out anything else with this battery of tests, you pledge that you will search for a proper doctor ASAP when you get home. But alas, the antibiotics have the desired effect so that your busy life can reclaim your attention and once again the doctor search slides to the bottom of your list.

Some time afterwards you're off to your first visit of Mozambique for which you need malaria tablets, so you select the nearest travel clinic where you get great advice on tropical diseases but not so much on the common cold. At this point it occurs to you to ask some friends and acquaintances where the heck it is they go when they get sick. But this is a bit tricky in a new country. They might swear up and down that they have the best doctor, but is it really up to the standards you know from home? Another expat might recommend their dentist but then you pause and think what country they are comparing it to - frankly, if it's somewhere in Europe, I am not so impressed. (Whenever my kids complain about going to the dentist, I pounce on them with stories of "Frau T." who did not believe in any anesthesia whatsoever when pulling whichever teeth she felt like that day). You find yourself surreptitiously glancing at the other person's mouth to get an inkling of the quality of said dentist...

Anyway, to spare you all this, I'm going to recommend our doctor and dentist to those of you who live (or will live!) somewhere near the Fourways area of Joburg:

Family doctor:

Dr. Moray Shirley
General Practitioner

Shop 15 Broadacres Shopping Centre
Cedar Rd, Fourways

011 467 1432
082 898 6748

What I like about this practice is that it's small and that I can always get a same day appointment. There are two doctors (both women), so you don't end up getting handed around like at larger practices. Since we've been there their diagnosis has always been accurate. Note that this is a GP, not a pediatrician (those act more like specialists, typically at a hospital, that you might get referred to by your GP). 


Dr. Richard Lombard

Fourways Mall, one floor up from cinemas (by elevator)

011 465 6410
082 657 6410

Don't be fooled by the cramped and tucked-away quarters. The practice has several good hygienists so I'm able to schedule all my kids at once, and we've gotten excellent advice so far. 


Dr. George Thomadakis

Rivonia Rd cnr School Rd, Morningside/Sandton

011 783 8880
082 782 8880

An excellent orthodontist who comes highly recommended in Johannesburg; just be aware that orthodontic treatment is fairly pricey in South Africa, and book early as to get your kids a slot.


Jozie Days said...

I related so well to this blog. In our first week in South Africa my husband had the car (we only had one at the time) and my eldest son had a tooth ache that needed to bee seen to urgently. We found a lovely dentist in Lonehill. Dr Cerny (Tel 011 4656686) is great with kids and does pain free dentistry. She has a good rapport with my children. Finding a doctor was also on my list. I have been very happy with Intercare at Fourways. I see the same doctor every time and can usually get an appointment on the same day as I call. They can give flu shots and tetanus injections. The sisters there are very sweet. They also have an Xray department (Mon to Sat) and a lab for taking blood tests. They have a lovely physio who helped when the second born injured his wrist playing rugby. My husband also goes to the dentist at Intercare. I also like the fact that I can go straight into Clicks Pharmacy (in the same building) to get my prescription. Also not that if you have medicines on repeat prescription you can collect them at any Clicks Pharmacy in South Africa. This helps when you have gone off to Durban and run out!

August 1, 2011 10:12 AM

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for all your helpful advice. I'll be heading to Jozi for work in 1 month and I've been so anxious not just because it's a new country but because i'm a single female moving alone to a new country.

Your blog has made planning for such a big move much easier to both plan and prepare for.


Sine said...

Thanks Jozie Days. I have to say I also like having Clicks so close to Intercare and it is overall very convenient, but I didn't like always having different doctors there because the one we liked invariably wasn't available the next time. Still, a very good tip for newcomers.

K - good luck with your move and I'd be happy to help if you have any specific questions!

Pookytoo said...

Hi there - I have just started reading your blog and am really enjoying it.We have lived in Dainfern for over 15 years but are currently expats ourselves, in Kuwait and renting out our Dainfern house to other expats.It is wonderful to read about your experiences in an area I know so well - so similar to what we are experiencing in Kuwait.By the way, Dr. Moray Shirley is an excellent choice for a family Dr.Enjoy your stay in South Africa and Dainfern!

Sine said...

Pookytoo - glad you found my blog and thanks for the feedback. That is really cool that you are on the "other side" so to speak! Good luck to you in Kuwait and if you start a blog please let me know:-)

Deanna said...

Hi, I've just moved to SA less than a week ago. I'm thrilled about your blog. My new husband, whose been here since March 2011, suggested I read it. I'm already feeling some of my anxiety decreasing. Thanks for your useful tips. I'm definitely staying tuned.


Sine said...

Hi Deanna,

welcome to South Africa! I'm glad you found my blog and I hope it continues to make you feel better and answer your questions. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help...

jowdjbrown said...

Just a few days ago I realized that, judging by this standard, we’ve finally arrived in South Africa. Almost one-and-a-half years after we actually set foot on African soil.affordable dental care

W. A. Jeffrey said...

I think dentistry is getting high pretty much everywhere that has decent dentists. Thankfully I no longer have to worry about that as I have dentures. Although if something went wrong with my dentures i might feel obliged to fly back to the states to get it taken care of. Not because I don't trust the locals, just that I want to stay with the place that made them.