I’ve always had small teeth. But in the 40-odd years that I’ve had my adult teeth, I’ve managed to wear them out a bit. Well. Quite a bit. And my dentist referred me to a restorative dentist in 2011. After much examination and photography, I was presented with a report (and a £150 bill) which told me that I needed to have four crowns on my lower incisors fairly urgently and six further crowns on my top incisors at some point after that.
Hang on, you’re wondering. Have I stumbled upon the wrong site? I thought this blog was about travel? Well, of course, you’re right. But after a quote for £4,000 to crown the lower incisors, I looked to take my business elsewhere … a flight away to be precise.
I originally contacted Dental Holiday in Slovakia soon after I received my UK quote. Their estimate was closer to £1,500, with only flights and accommodation to pay for. It seemed appealing, but there always seemed something better to spend that sort of money on. But a visit to my regular dentist and a warning that if I didn’t have the work done soon, the next stop would be implants, I renewed my discussion with Dental Holiday in November 2016. Their practice had grown significantly in the meantime and the new quote was even cheaper – about £1,300.
The treatment required two appointments, three days apart, so Jane and I decided to make a break of it, neither of us having been to Slovakia before. We booked Easyjet flights to Vienna for £51 each and put together an itinerary of four days in Piestany, home to the dental clinic, with a final 24 hours in Vienna.
Piestany is a spa town, hugely popular for the mud and hot mineral water treatments. It’s big business and the hotel where we stayed was attached to a medical centre, manned by doctors and nurses, which could administer over 1,000 treatments a day to the eastern Europeans and (surprisingly?) Arabs guests. And our hotel was one of many in the town with similar offerings. We felt good for having massage, hydrotherapy and hot mud treatments whilst we were there. So I guess it’s common sense that the dental clinic had this backdrop.
Our first touchpoint with the clinic was Daniel picking us up from Vienna airport. Smiling and warm, he guided us to his Skoda estate. He knows the route to both Vienna and Bratislava airports as well as anyone, doing daily pickups. An hour and a half and a border crossing later, we were checking into our hotel in Piestany, while Daniel waited to take me to the clinic.
The clinic was similar to its counterparts in the UK. If I noticed anything of a difference, it was the pace at which everything seemed to be taking pace. For two dentists, I would estimate that there were a supporting cast of maybe 12 … receptionists, nurses, hygienists, technicians, managers and, of course, Daniel the driver. And the place ran like clockwork. A health questionnaire was immediately followed by a 360-degree X-ray (a 3D CT scanner is also available), which was followed by an initial consultation. Next was the treatment plan, fully explained and costed. And after that little lot, and within 45 minutes of walking through the door, the treatment began.
I’ll spare you the details of the treatment, save only to say that everything was done extremely professionally and with care. Dr Robert (the only drugs required were lignocaine!) and his nurses rattled through the work and, spookily, he pressed ‘play’ on an album by my favourite band, Depeche Mode, as the session began.
Within an hour, I was heading back to the hotel. For the next couple of days, whilst the permanent crowns were being made, I could turn my attention to creaky shoulders and an aching lower back in the spa.
As I watched the middle-aged from the Middle East lining up for treatments in the spa, it gave me a chance to contemplate medical tourism. Why had I opted for this approach and how would I advise others?
In retrospect, I had been a little bit reckless. I had had a good level of communication with the clinic and had noted the impressive level of qualifications of the dentists. Their on-line recommendations also looked strong too. But I should have done more due diligence … spoken to a former patient or two at the very least. I found a great website whilst waiting for my final appointment – the Global Clinic Rating – where 200,000+ medical facilities around the world are rated, according to expertise, facilities and patient feedback. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that Dental Holiday ranked in the top 10% in the world and number one for dentistry in Slovakia.
Update: I have subsequently discovered that GCR and Dental Holiday have an overlap in management teams. So, I’ll leave it to you as to whether you take Dental Holiday’s ranking as impartial. I still think that, more broadly, GCR is a useful tool.
Cost is clearly a key factor in the decision and in my case, I ended up with a total bill of around 40% of private treatment in the UK. For those needing substantial dental work, that could result in a cost saving of many thousands of pounds. According to medical tourism broker, Medigo, waiting times and access to expertise are the other two most common reasons. And they predict that 200,000 UK citizens are going abroad for medical treatment each year, with dental work accounting for 70% of that figure (cosmetic surgery, ophthalmology, hair transplantation and fertility treatment make up the remainder). You can read the full report from Medigo here.
A little under 72 hours after my first appointment, I was back in the chair, having the temporaries removed and my permanent crowns cemented in. I’m really pleased with the results, even if having properly-sized teeth again does take some getting used to.
Would I recommend medical tourism? Definitely. But do your research. The cost savings are alluring, but take your time to pick the right clinic. Get recommendations and check out the Global Clinic Rating website.
I’ve always liked to smile. Now I like doing it just a little bit more.
Have you been abroad for medical treatment? What was you experience? Would you recommend it? Let us know!