Mamma Mia! I saved 5,000 getting my teeth fixed – by going to BudapestMusical star Jackie Clune hits out at high fees for dental work in the UKAn increasing number of Brits travel abroad to afford dentistry
22:00 GMT, 1 December 2012
Last year, two of my ageing dental crowns fell out – a front tooth and an incisor that was concealing an impacted canine. An emergency visit to the dentist revealed I needed more than 7,000 of ‘cosmetic’ dental work.
My front crown was beyond repair and I would need a dental implant if I were to avoid dentures. Plus, I would need either orthodontic braces to straighten them or extractions and a porcelain bridge to replicate evenly spaced teeth.
As an actress, braces were not practical, and with four children and a large mortgage there was no way I could access such a large amount of money.
All smiles: Musical star Jackie Clune after her surgery which saw her travel to Budapest to save money
I felt angry at the expense and lack of help available. What are your options if your teeth fail and funds are limited
While trawling the internet for answers, I realised I was far from alone. With budgets ever tighter, dental treatment is increasingly unaffordable. Some suggest going to a dental school and offering yourself up as a guinea pig, but even these are massively over-subscribed. And I won’t even begin to mention what was featured on DIY dentistry websites.
But there is another avenue. More and more Britons are travelling to Europe for dental treatment. There are no official numbers, however, a 2007 survey by Which found that dentistry is one of the most popular types of health tourism.
I had immediate reservations. Would a continental dentist work to the same high standard as those in Britain And what if something went wrong and I found myself in a foreign hospital Would there be adequate aftercare
There are numerous web forums and even an NHS site giving tips, such as asking the dentist what his qualifications are, where you can check this and what his speciality is. They also advise patients to have a consultation with a British dentist first – which I’d already done.
The General Dental Council (GDC) advises people to make their dentist aware of plans to travel for treatment in case of any complications.
After: X-ray image showing some of the work done on Jackie in Hungary
The testimonials on various websites seemed to allay my fears. Most were happy with their treatment – despite often feeling a bit baffled by the language barrier. I came across the website of a clinic called Smile Savers Hungary. There are many such Hungarian companies online and Budapest seems to be the dental tourism capital of Europe.
Smile Savers stood out because you can have a proper consultation at one of their UK clinics before travelling, so I booked in. At the first consultation they took a panoramic X-ray of my jaw and teeth and discussed what my options were. The procedure would involve at least two trips due to the recovery period needed in between the extractions and bone grafting – the site needs to recover for a few months to allow dental implants.
I was told, if I were to go ahead, the clinic would organise the work to take place over the two trips.
I was so impressed with their clinic in London’s Charlotte Street and with the quotation I received at the end of my consultation that I didn’t look elsewhere. There are many companies offering a similar service and it’s probably a good idea to shop around. But I left a three- month cooling-off period for myself before taking the plunge.
Smile Savers booked me into the
four-star Art Hotel overlooking the parliament building on the Danube
(65 a night). Travel wasn’t included so I flew with budget airline Wizz
for 100 return from Luton. Having a companion for the trip is also
advised, mainly for moral support, so I took my mum.
treatment began with a consultation between Dr Juhasz, a kind-looking
lady and Dr Kaman, the head implantologist. They spoke in Hungarian but I
could tell they were appalled by the root canal treatment I’d had back
home, and Dr Kaman could not believe that the problematic impacted
canine had never been extracted, but simply crowned over.
Stage smile: Jackie Clune on stage as Donna in hit musical Mamma Mia!
then spent two hours in the chair, and although the treatment was not
comfortable it was mostly pain-free. Dr Juhasz removed my old crowns and
replaced the leftover amalgam with safer white fillings. The
extractions were next, and Dr Kaman stroked my arm as he wielded the big
needle that was to go into the roof of my mouth.
‘I’m sorry for the pain I’m about to cause you,’ he murmured, before extracting three teeth. He showed me how black the first one was, how infected the second one was and it took him all of five seconds to extract the impacted tooth the NHS dentist had been so nervous about touching.
The bad news was the implant would have to wait – the bone had receded so much that he would have to use a bone graft to get the tooth to stay in place.
‘It will be a waste of your time and money to do it now – it would fall out,’ he said. Though disappointed – I now needed an extra crown to keep the temporary bridge in place – I was impressed with their honesty. I would need a third visit as implanting a tooth when there is insufficient bone in the jaw is a three-stage process – extraction and healing, followed two months later by the bone graft and abutment (the implanted ‘screw’ to take the tooth) and finally, four or five months later, the porcelain tooth itself.
After two days of pain-free sightseeing, Dr Juhasz fitted me with the long-term temporary bridge, and I returned two months later for a one-night stay when Dr Kaman implanted the abutment.
A five-month healing period followed before the last stage. On my final visit over five days, the Budapest clinic perfected the colour, shape, bite and fit of my permanent bridge.
When she handed me the mirror at the end I was so happy I burst into tears.
Throughout my eight-month treatment the quality of service was impeccable. Payment is made in two instalments, the first being due at the end of the first visit, the second on completion. The work is insured for three years, although if there are problems the client has to finance their return trip.
The quotation is based on what can be seen on the X-rays, so costs could be more. In the end I paid 2,300 – a saving of about 5,000. So far I have had no problems and am loving my new smile.
Perhaps if more were brave enough to try dental tourism, our own dentists would have to stop bleeding us dry.