My District (10/10)

Rescuing hopeless teeth… in Belair

This man says he can bring teeth back to life. Photo: Mike Zenari

This man says he can bring teeth back to life. Photo: Mike Zenari

Who knew that Belair is the place in Europe where teeth go to cheat death?

Not the place in Luxembourg City; not the place in the grand duchy; the place in Europe.

That’s according to Dr Christian Holscher, who set up his dental practice Kiantu on Boulevard Verdun three years ago. “We rescue hopeless teeth,” he says. “We’re not doing implants and all that.”

Hopeless teeth?

“You can revitalise dead teeth. It’s possible. You read a lot about it in science papers, but I haven’t found any other practice offering this,” says Holscher, who taught at the University of Göttingen for eight years before opening up shop in Luxembourg.

“The science is pretty advanced,” he explains. “If your tooth nerve dies, then, when you do the first treatments directly afterwards, it’s possible to bring your teeth back to life again—just by using special cells from your blood. Nothing artificial, no gene science or anything like that. You can regrow the tooth nerve.”

As far as Holscher knows, nobody else in Europe is practicing “regenerative dentistry” of this type. He speculates that you can probably find it in the USA, however. “In Pennsylvania,” he reckons. “They’re doing a lot of research there.”

Of all places

It was nearly the people of Japan, South Korea, China, New Zealand, Switzerland, Dubai or Singapore who stood to benefit from Holscher’s futuristic dental arts. These were the locations on his shortlist for where to open the practice.

“I decided on Singapore,” he says. “I’d already prepared everything. I had an employee and a condo there. But then I had to wait for some documents… and then, you know, plans change. I have to laugh about this every time. A friend of mine living in Luxembourg, also a dentist, asked me to help him out. He was looking for specialists, basically for root canal treatments, which they don’t have that much here. So I said yes. Why not? I was waiting anyway [for the Singapore documents].”

Holscher thus began driving from Göttingen to Luxembourg and back once per week (staying for a night), a roundtrip journey of 1,000 kilometres. “I spent ten hours per week just driving!” Obviously, that wasn’t ideal, but then he met the patients in the grand duchy. They made a real impression on him. “They really appreciated having a specialist coming here. Normally it’s the opposite. A few of my patients, they drive to Switzerland just to see someone.”

Ultimately, that’s what sealed the deal for him. “The Luxembourgish people are very warm-hearted. They make you feel like family, they talk to you in a very honest way.”

“It’s the patients that made me stay. That’s for sure.”

Cultural differences

Luxembourg also had practical advantages, however. According to Holscher, there is a huge demand here for high standards of dentistry. He points out that Luxembourg has no dental university, which means specialists are rare. “When you talk to expats from the USA, or even Sweden or Norway, they have a really high standard of dentistry,” he says. “They’re looking for a dentist offering these standards in Luxembourg.”

Around half of his clientele are expats from this camp, he estimates. People who, in the simplest cases, are seeking professional teeth cleaning services. He also mentions patients who drive in from Stuttgart, Düsseldorf and Berlin to see him, as well as some he had back in Göttingen. They come from Belgium and the Netherlands, too, and even further: “Some patients who travel a lot by plane all over the world, for work reasons, use the stopover in Luxembourg to visit our practice.”

The other half of his clientele, however, are Luxembourgers who grew up with different norms. “These Luxembourgish patients are just looking for—maybe—a kind dentist,” he says, smiling a little as he trails off. “I don’t know.”

The people of Belair

On the opposite extreme of jet-setting dental tourists is one client in particular, whom Holscher speaks of fondly. The patient is something rare: a Belair native. “He found the practice just by walking by. He told me that he’d outlived all his other dentists. So almost the first thing he said was: ‘Oh, this is a young doctor. I’ll stay with you!’”

The gentleman, an octogenarian, proceeded to mention that he used to have to drive “into town” to meet the dentist. But this is Belair, Holscher told him. This is town. Well, at a time within this man’s memory, Belair had fewer than a hundred residents. There was the church, a sports field, a few houses, and that was it. Nowadays the city is gorging on Strassen and Mamer, but back then even Belair was an urban satellite, a discrete settlement. “It’s so interesting to hear these old stories,” says the dentist.

Even if those days are long gone, and even if most current residents of Belair weren’t born nearby, the place still feels like a village. Holscher reports running into friendly patients on the street or at Fischer’s bakery more or less every day. “You have patients giving you a greeting from their balcony, saying ‘hello, doctor!’”

“I feel like I’m part of this district,” he says, drawing a contrast with Kirchberg, where he previously worked and where things were more anonymous.

Top spots in Belair

Arguably, proof of Holscher’s integration into Belair is the verve with which he describes eating and drinking in his favourite local spots.

“We have the best gelateria here,” he begins. “Bonomeria—they have fantastic Italian ice cream.” Pistachio is his poison.

Next up is Manzoku, a Japanese grocery store. “For noodle soup, this is the best spot: you can have handmade ramen noodles. Or you can buy miso. And they have white chocolate matcha cakes.”

“Then we have the corner pub, Pacha.” A highly recommendable place for meeting other expats, says Holsher. “For a snack and a good beer.”

A more proper meal can be had at Restaurant Thailand Belair. “It’s a little expensive, but super good food. I like the green curry.”

Finally comes the burger joint Café Bel-Air. “Best burgers around,” says the dentist. “I always take the whisky burger. They put Talisker in the meat.”

To the dentist’s credit, he didn’t mention brushing or flossing once during the interview, but certainly—one can imagine—after attacking these five eateries you should practice enthusiastic oral hygiene. However, if your tooth nerves end up dying anyway…