NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 2, 2005

More Americans are joining Eastern Europeans on visits to the dentist. This fast growing phenomenon known as "teeth tourism" has increased in popularity over the last few years due to soaring medical costs and dwindling insurance benefits in the United States, as well as in other countries, says USA Today.

This relatively young trend finds that travelers, typically from wealthier countries, are visiting lesser-developed nations for medical care mixed with a vacation -- all at cut-rate prices. The most popular destinations are situated in Eastern Europe, in particular, Hungary.

  • In Mosonmagyarovar, an estimated 150 dentists practice out of a population of 33,000.
  • In Sopron, the population is 58,000, with about the same number of dentists.

The reasons for their success: cheap manpower, cheap prices and inviting incentives. Moreover, businesses have supplied ?dental week? packages that include airport transport and a free massage.

The difference in cost is outstanding:

  • For work on 26 teeth, including crowns, bridges and two extractions, the overall cost in the U.S. is estimated at $43,000.
  • In Hungary, the cost is $6,000.
  • Additionally, the country's location allows patients to visit neighboring Austria, Slovakia and nearby Germany.

Of course, there are potential downsides. Locals may know some English, but German is the dominant second language. Dining can be difficult for sensitive teeth. Many businesses don't accept credit cards. The term "buyer beware" is very much in play since there are fewer options after treatment, if the procedure has not gone well.

Those concerns aside, dentistry and tourism seem an ideal match, says USA Today.

Source: Mary Beth Marklein, "The Incidental tourist," USA Today, July 29, 2005.

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