Have you noticed your Austrian friends heading over the border for a root canal? Dental tourism is well-established among the Viennese and others in this part of Austria because health insurance doesn’t cover many of the services people these days consider essential. For instance, the Austrian health insurance company for employees ÖGK doesn’t contribute to fixed dentures, oral hygiene, cosmetic services, and fixed braces for adults at all.
Although procedures such as dental treatment, removable dentures, and removable braces are covered, in 2018 citizens had to pay more than half of the dental treatments privately. The extent of dental care coverage was agreed on in 1956; though minor updates happened in 1972 and 1992, basic rules have remained largely the same. Advice and prevention consultations are minimal, and some technical developments in the dental industry have not been incorporated. Despite recommendations from the World Health Organization and other health reforms, health goals for the dental sector are still largely lacking. In 2012, when the health reform was negotiated, instead of a comprehensive reorganization, politicians decided to employ a “policy of small steps” regarding dental care.
Thus, the not-so-secret tip for dental treatments is to cross the borders.
According to the tourism department of the Hungarian government, 80,000 Austrians visit the country per year for medical treatments, mostly dental care.
One main reason is price. Dental care can cost up to 70% less in Hungary. For someone living on the edge of Austria, choosing a Hungarian dentist – many of whose practices are strategically located near the border – is a no-brainer.
Although price and location are important factors to consider quality is also a concern. Based on their ratings, Hungarian dentists can show off big white smiles – and the availability of a doctor’s Google ratings makes life easier.
An extra plus is that many clinics offer free-of-charge shuttle services. Among others, 5Dent, a clinic in Mosonmagyarvár, picks up people from the central train station of Vienna, Preßburg, Hegyeshalom, or Mosonmagyaróvár, or also at the airport and takes them directly to the clinic. That clinic has partnered with a local hotel to offer clients wellness while they’re waiting for their dental appointments. Indeed, Hungarian clinics usually help their foreign clients when it comes to hotel reservations, 5dent confirmed. People from abroad can also enjoy a wellness weekend in thermal spas where they can relax or sign up for beauty and wellness treatments.
Görgényi Szilvia, clinic manager at 5dent told Metropole that, during the pandemic, some 60-70% of their clients came from Austria. Although their target audience has always been foreigners, this percentage was still exceptional.
And until the Austrian government is able to rethink what health insurance can and should cover when it comes to dental care, Hungarian dentists in the border areas are sure to continue to thrive.