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.

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