The expansion of the European Union has given rise to many new business opportunities, with borders effectively removed and trade being opened up across the continent. One vertical which has made the most of this is the healthcare sector, with the dental care industry being particularly lively across Europe.
The fact is that England has the most expensive dental care in Europe (according to this article from The Independent ), with a molar filling for a 12-year-old child costing €156, compared to under €20 in Poland or Hungary. Many people comment on the number of Eastern or Central European dentists coming over to work in the UK because of the money they can make, but more and more are starting to realize that it’s just as easy for them to head to Europe to take advantage of the low prices of dental work.
Enter the rise of dental tourism. There are a number of companies who specialize in assessing UK-based patients and organizing dental treatments in Poland, Slovakia or Hungary, ensuring that patients can receive the same level of care at a fraction of the cost they’d experience in the UK — even including their flights and accommodation.
In 2006 alone, 77,000 people went abroad for medical treatment and this number is growing massively every year. The cost of dental treatment in the UK is the primary reason for this, as is the growing distrust of UK dentists. With countries such as Poland or Hungary being in the EU, they have to conform to the same safety standards and rigorous checks as dental practices in the United Kingdom, so patients are now assured that the quality of the care they’ll receive will be at least equal to that in the UK, if not better. When confronted with the choice of paying significantly more for their treatment in the UK or heading to Poland or other Central European state, the outcome seems to be fairly obvious.
In terms of the costs of dental consultations, the price tends to average out at around €2.88 a minute in the United Kingdom, compared to under €0.20 a minute in other Eastern European states. Labour costs in the dental sector in England account for 70% of the total costs, so it’s unsurprising that so many are choosing to take advantage of the rise in dental tourism. A dental practice in Poland – Dentistry in Poland – states that the lower cost is the main reason why Brits and other Western European come to their clinics to have dental work done. Another clinic we spoke to (http://www.polishmysmile.co.uk/) stated that, because of the lower costs, clinics abroad are sometimes regarded as offering lower dental standards, which Polish My Smile says is completely untrue. The owner of the clinic told us that their facility is absolutely state-of-the-art and dental profession is strictly regulated by the country’s and the EU rules: Many dental facilities abroad additionally offer a long-guarantee on the work, something that is apparently not so common in the UK.
Generally speaking, the process consists of an initial consultation in the UK where a local dentist can talk the patient through the available options and explain the procedure to them. If the patient decides to go ahead with treatment the dental tourism company will help them in booking their flights and accommodation, being well-placed to recommend places to stay and often even having arrangements with local providers, allowing them to offer the patient even better rates on their accommodation for the duration of their stay.
As a business opportunity, too, it’s a booming industry. For a business owner to open a small UK clinic without the need for complicated licensing (as no medical procedures are being carried out there) they then make their profit by arranging the visit to the clinic abroad. For the patient, they have less hassle in arranging their treatment and still save a lot of money over the cost of having the work done in the UK. With UK patients saving, on average, 50-70% on treatments by heading abroad, it’s a trend which looks set to continue for some time.