Comparative costs of dental treatment in Europe

 

According to a recent study of the comparative cost of dental treatment in nine countries, the most expensive country for dental care is England. Cost saving is the primary driver of outbound UK dental tourism.

This study determined that in nine countries the total cost of a standard filling ranged from €8 in Hungary to €156 in England. This total included the cost of the dentist’s time, overhead, drugs, materials, and X rays. Although dental care was the most expensive in England, at about €156 for a filling, it was closely followed by Spain at €125 and Italy at €135. The costs in the other western European countries were less than half that much and ranged from €46 in France to €67 in Germany. The primary purpose of the study was to determine differences in the costs of a filling.

The countries that were the least expensive for dental treatment were Hungary at €8 and Poland at €18 which are the primary destinations for dental tourists from the UK. Of the estimated 60,000 people who traveled abroad from the United Kingdom for medical treatment in 2010 it is estimated that half of them traveled in search of dental care.

That a considerable sum of money can be saved is why there are clinics and agencies that arrange for the dental treatment in lower priced countries. The most important driver of dental care costs is labour, which accounts for 70% of total dental care costs in the UK. England was closely followed by Spain and Italy, but costs in other Western European countries, such as France and Germany, were less than half the price of those in England. Unsurprisingly, the countries, which rated lowest in the study, Hungary and Poland, have emerged as the most popular destination for British dental tourists.

An increasingly large number of Irish people are heading abroad for cheaper dental treatment. Since cutbacks last January over a million people have lost financial benefits and now have to pay full-rate prices for dental care. New cuts announced in December for 2011 can only increase the problem that people are finding it increasingly difficult to afford treatment in Ireland and are choosing to travel abroad in a bid to save money on dental care. Many Irish people are now travelling over the border to Northern Ireland, where treatment is significantly cheaper and some are making the journey to Eastern European countries, including Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria for treatment; fees in this part of Europe are up to 60 % lower than those in Ireland so a considerable saving can be made even when you take the cost of accommodation and flights into account.

A group representing 32 national dental associations and chambers from 30 European countries and 320,000 dentists has warned of the dangers of dental tourism. Writing in a position paper for an EU directive on cross-border healthcare, the Council of European Dentists (CED) emphasises the importance of continuity of care and of a strong dentist-patient relationship,” Dental treatment often requires a series of visits to the dentist to properly plan and carry out the treatment, and to provide post-treatment care. Where patients spend only a short time in the vicinity of the dentist, as is often the case where patients receive care abroad, the overall quality of the health service is difficult to ensure. The CED therefore does not believe that patient mobility in the area of dental care should be actively promoted."

For any agency promoting dental tourism, The EU Manual of Dental Practice, freely available online from the CED, provides comprehensive and detailed information on the legal and ethical regulations, dental training requirements, oral health systems and the organisation of dental practice in 32 European (EU and EEA) countries, including Croatia, which is due to join the EU this year. The practising arrangements, the regulatory frameworks and systems within which dentists work in the respective countries are compared. There is also country specific information on the dental specialities that are recognised.

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