Brighter smiles – Dental tourism in Hungary

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of people from the UK flying to other countries for dental treatment, usually combined with some sightseeing tours. Some of these destination countries include Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and even Asian ones like Thailand. Amongst other source countries, the UK ranks the first when it comes to the number of patients travelling to Hungary for dental treatment. There are even clinics set up in London by Hungarian dentists for UK patients to have their first examination before flying to Hungary for the actual procedure. NHS dental treatment does not cover cosmetic treatments, such as implants and veneers, which usually cost much more. Also, there might be a long waiting list for NHS dental appointments. Even when the dental treatment costs are combined with travel costs (a return flight ticket from London to Budapest can cost as low as £100-200), the savings still seem substantial. (An online Telegraph article claims a saving of more than 40% for implant treatment, which requires at least 3 visits to Budapest).

Hungary receives the most number of foreign dental patients compared to other countries in Europe. In Hungary, regular dentists do not get to earn much with local patients. By receiving patients from supposedly wealthier countries, they get to earn more, by creating an attractive environment for foreign patients and therefore increasing the number of patients and the revenue. Hungary became a member of the EU in 2004 and several years later established free movement between borders for EU citizens. This makes it easier for travellers from the UK to enter Hungary. Also, by EU law, the dentists are not supposed to treat patients from other EU countries differently from Hungarian patients. (Here is a paper analysing the rights of EU dental patients)

However, some concerns remain with the quality of dental care abroad. There have been reports of dodgy practices or treatments, and the internet generally advises people to research the clinics and dentists beforehand, as well as looking at reviews from fellow dental tourists.

Hungarian dentists report that dental tourism, from their perspective, is a good thing. It has led to higher income, which allows them to purchase better equipment and leads to expansion and technological advancement of the sector. Some have even stated that this could lead to a reversal of the brain-drain, enticing Hungarian dentists to stay and work in the country.

A comprehensive report of the dental tourism in Hungary can be found here.

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