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Consumer - Dental Tourism

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A recent mini survey published by the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI), compared dental costs in Dublin and Belfast and found that on average it cost 29% more to get treated in Dublin. The story is the same if you look at the rest of the country and the prices we found (below).

So are you going to the same local dentist for years or should you shop around for value and service? What about heading North or going further afield to Hungary or Poland?

Tina Leonard, consumer expert, is here to give you an idea of the price comparisons between getting dental treatment in the Republic, Northern Ireland and in Hungary. She'll also explain why it is dearer here, the quality of care you get and a checklist to make sure you get value for your money.

Caoimhe Stack
In February Caoimhe Stack discovered that she needed a crown and was quoted €1,200 by her dentist in Dublin city centre. Thinking the price was quite high she got quotes from dentists outside of Dublin but the price was still too high at only €150 less than her original quote.

Her cousin's husband then recommended a dentist in Banbridge, Co Down called Adrian Stewart Dental. She telephoned to discuss her needs, liked what she heard and headed north.

Her initial consultation, including x-rays cost £50. The dentist talked through everything with her and even consulted with a second dentist on site. Caoimhe says "the consultation was very thorough and gave me peace of mind. They were also very upfront about the prices". She got her crown for £300 and also required a filling that hadn't been spotted by her Dublin dentist. This cost a further £80. She also decided to get her teeth whitened for £300.

Caoimhe says that as the dental work was being carried out she was talked through what was happening and showed photos from the x-rays. "This level of transparency", she says, "gave me trust and to be honest it's a lot less frightening if you know exactly what's going on".

After her crown Caoimhe suffered slight pain but understands this to be normal. She contacted her dentist who said she could come back to him for a check-up free of charge and could come in the evening if it suited her better as they are open late on Wednesdays. In the end Caoimhe didn't need to as the pain went away.

"My teeth are perfect now", says a delighted Caoimhe. "I will get all my check-ups done there in the future. The quality, service and price is amazing and I would recommend them to anyone.

Phyllis Monaghan's experience of going to Budapest for dental treatment
Mother Phylis Monaghan and her actress daughter Sinead both had trouble with their teeth and both resolved everything by going to Budapest.

Phylis suffered from a hereditary problem of receding gums that left some bottom teeth loose. An old accident also left some teeth on top uneven. Her Irish dentist advised wearing a brace and mentioned expensive work for around €40,000. But even that, she was told, couldn't guarantee anything.

Phylis had given up all hope when she heard someone talking of getting their teeth done in Hungary. Interested she did a search online and found a dental company based in Sandyford in Dublin.

She had flights to Budapest booked before she even knew she could get a consultation done at home, but she decided she'd have a holiday anyway. Phylis wasn't expecting anything but she says the trip ended up changing her life.

After a consultation and detailed discussion, the Hungarian dentist told her he could fix her teeth at a cost of just over €10,000. Phylis took a half an hour to talk it over with her partner and then started treatment then and there.

In all she got two implants, six crowns on top, five root canals, nine bridges and a clean and polish. As she had an under-bite the dentist also re-contoured her teeth to form an over-bite. Her first treatment lasted four days. Three weeks later she went back for one day to have extra root canal work done and four months later she made her final trip to complete her treatment.

That was last April and Phylis now says that she would prefer to go to Hungary for any dental work. "My dentist had a vision for my teeth and mouth", she says. "He was a miracle worker".

Phylis is so enthusiastic about her experience that her daughter Sinead followed her there recently. Having had bad experience with dentists here, when Sinead was quoted €9,000 for crowns and root canal treatment she contacted the same company and off she went.

In Budapest, the work cost Sinead €4,000 including the removal of a wisdom tooth that was on it's side and a bone removal. The trip took five days and a dentist here later admitted it was an excellent job. Sinead now needs more root canal work and is planning a trip back where she reckons she will save around €600.

Phylis says you can get flights for as little as €50 if you go at the right time and accommodation can be had for €50 a night also. When she travelled with Sinead they stayed in a four star hotel for five nights including breakfast and taxes which cost them just €226.

Both Phylis and Sinead are very positive about their Hungarian experience. Phylis had to sell her six-month old car to fund her treatment but has no regrets. She points out " here you'd have to re-mortgage your house for the same treatment, but in Budapest you don't have to. And when someone says 'you look great' you know you've done the right thing".

Tina's Tips

Are prices higher here?

Dentists in the North are allowed to advertise their prices, unlike their counterparts here, so it is much easier to compare cost. The Irish Dental Association say there are no plans to change that here although dentists are obliged to display prices within their surgeries. It is also easy to get prices for treatment in Hungary, the most popular dental tourism destination further afield.

Average dental costs*

Northern Ireland
Veneer €247 - €405
Crown €393 - €474
Bridge €408 / unit
Filling €49 - €96

Republic of Ireland
Veneer €683
Crown €817
Bridge €1,000 / unit
Filling €87 - €115

Veneer €336
Crown €256 - €528
Bridge €253 / unit
Filling from €93

*Prices are an average of costs quoted for treatment in dentists in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Newry, Banbridge and Belfast and three Hungarian clinics.

Why are dental costs dearer here?

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) say that there can be a difference in the quality of materials used between Irish dentists and those abroad and that the costs of materials is very high here. They point out that value and cost is not the same thing and that significant work is often carried out in too short a time-span, if travelling to Hungary, for example, and this has resulted in problems in some cases.

In addition higher wage, insurance, rates and rental or mortgage costs are cited as reasons for higher prices here.

How can you save on your dental bill?

If you want to save, dentists in the North are closest and from the dentists I spoke to it is clear that we are heading there in our droves. Northern dentists often open at evenings and even weekends to give patients more choice, at least one dentist I know of in Belfast will collect you from the train, and the good thing is that their prices are transparent.

If travelling further afield, it is going to be most cost effective if you need a lot of work carried out. You may need more than one trip and the many Irish based companies specialising in dental trips abroad can assist with booking accommodation at prices from €30 a night.

Are the dentists as good as Irish ones?

There are good and bad dentists everywhere so whether in Ireland or further afield you need to do your research and feel comfortable with your dentist.
Dentists here have seem some cases of botched work in patients who were treated abroad, so always be careful. Having said that, the same could happen here!

Hungarian dentists are renowned for their expertise and in order to retain their license most update their training each year. UK/NI dentists are also obliged to engage in further training annually. Dentists here are not but will have to do so from 2010.


. If you've paid enough PRSI you can claim some costs back whether you are treated here or in another EU country.
. Don't forget your MED 2 form for claiming tax back at the standard rate.
. Get a quote from your own dentist, then get recommendations for dentists further afield to get more quotes.
. Remember to ask what materials are used as they can vary.
. Ask about follow-up treatment, especially if you are heading abroad.
. Don't get too much treatment in one trip.
. Take into account travel and accommodation costs to see if travelling for treatment is worth your while.