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The rise of dental tourism
Placed by : Looking for Dental 10-04-2008
LAST year 45,000 people from the UK travelled overseas for dental treatment.
In 2006, that figure was 30,000, demonstrating the massive increase in popularity of so-called dental tourism.
It's easy to see why. A few years ago, shortages of NHS dentists led to huge queues building up outside surgeries which were taking on new patients.
That is now a thing of the past, but since the introduction of new dental contracts many more dentists have chosen to go private.
A survey of people in Leeds last year revealed residents travelling as far as County Durham or Nottingham for dental treatment.
For patients who are with a private dentist, that usually means an increase in cost – something which could be bearable for a six-monthly check-up or straightforward filling.
But when someone needs complex dental treatment, the costs can really stack up – sometimes into the tens of thousands.
Many people simply can't afford to pay and so may live with pain and discomfort.
Or NHS patients may find that the treatment they want – such as dental implants – is not available to them on the NHS so they must pay the full cost themselves.
That's why more and more people are looking abroad to have dental work done. Last year's survey also revealed people in Leeds had travelled to Poland for treatment on their teeth.
And medical tourism search engine RevaHealth.com showed the city was in the top five in the UK for people enquiring about foreign dental treatment.
Each month, an average of 150 people from the Leeds area log on to the site to find out more about travelling abroad for dental work, with Hungary the most popular destination.
The majority of those, 79 per cent, are interested in having dental implants.
It seems this treatment is one of the most popular. This relatively new procedure involves implanting a metal rod into the jawbone on which to fix a false tooth.
Having implants is a long procedure with the implants usually put in six to nine months before teeth can be fixed to them.
They're also costly, as Doug Wynter, from Temple Newsam, Leeds, found out.
After suffering problems with his teeth for many years, Mr Wynter eventually turned to the internet for help.
"I was told that eventually I would lose all my teeth because of gum disease," he said.
"I did lose a few and had to have a plate, then I went on the internet, looked around and thought about implants. I was trawling through and the prices for treatment here were out of the question."
Mr Wynter, a carpet salesman, said he found basic prices of around £3,000 per implant in the UK – he needed six.
Instead he discovered Vital Europe, a dental clinic based in Hungary but which also has a surgery in London.
The full article contains 480 words and appears in EP Leeds First & County newspaper.Last Updated: 09 April 2008 7:23 AM