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Europe » Hungary » Central Hungary » Budapest » Pest 14 November 2007

snow 10 °C

How can I say this without offending my regular dentist? Oh, to hell with it... You're ripping me off! There, I've said it. Now I can tell you what I'm doing in Budapest, Queen of the Danube and capital of Hungary.

Over the past year or so, I've had problems on more than one occasion, with crowns on two of my upper front teeth - you know, they're the ones right at the front which everyone sees when you smile - except these crowns kept coming off at the most inopportune moments because the core of the teeth had disintegrated. So, sometimes no smiles! My usual dentist could only add some pins and cement. Another crown next to these (a post-crown this time) had a history of root problems and was now wobbly.

Call me vain, but I couldn't bear the thought of false teeth like my mum and dad had in their day - a plate for scraps of food to get under, soaking in a glass of something by the bed at night, and stuff to stick the plate into your mouth by day. Ugh! So I was referred to a specialist. He wanted over GBP 6,000 to replace two of the teeth with implants and one with a bridge. It turned out that this would have been unworkable and what I actually needed were three implants, so call it nearer GBP 9,000!

Prompted by newspaper and tv articles about medical tourism, I trawled the Internet and discovered the Batorfi clinic here in Budapest. A consultation at their twice-weekly clinic in London's Harley Street revealed their expertise in implant dentistry. Well, the Hungarians have been doing dental work on nearby Europeans' gnashers for many years because the cost of living is so much lower here than it is in Austria, Germany, Italy and the rest. Their dentists' fees are a fraction in comparison. They've built up an enviable reputation for their knowledge and experience in all the latest technology and techniques, particularly in implantation.

The implants that Dr Batorfi offered included state-of-the-art Straumann SLActive ones. They've had 100 per cent success with these specially constructed implants, which are guaranteed for ten years and only take a month or so to fuse with the bone of the jaw. Oh, did I forget to mention that these things have to be screwed into the jaw after the teeth themselves have been extracted? More of this later. The ones that my UK specialist wanted to charge me a second mortgage for would have been of the dinosaur variety, which take six months to a year to heal. Plus, the good news was that my Hungarian specialist only wanted a third of the price. Yes, that's right, a third of the price for similar (but infinitely better) treatment to that in the UK.

Well, you've never seen your dentist on a bike, have you? Now you know why!

So, on Monday morning, I flew from Luton to Budapest on the early two-hour Easyjet flight. Flight cost was GBP 53 return. The taxi for the 25-minute journey from home to Luton was GBP 35. Cheap carbon footprints! On arrival, I was met by the clinic's driver and driven to the surgery - free, all part of the service. Within an hour or so, I was gowned and capped in Dr Batorfi's high-tech operating chair. The only painful bit came next - the anaesthetic needle into my gums and palette. The thought of it still hurts! However, the rest of the hour or so was totally painless. While he sang along to the strains of James Blunt, out came three teeth, in went a precision drill into my upper jawbone (grinding sounds and head-banging vibrations), then the three Straumann implants, aided by a ratchet device of some sort, followed by sutures.

Sorry I can't be more descriptive about the operation, but it was truly painless - and I had my eyes closed all the time. Of course, there was a lot of blood too - but my mind was distracted by the proximity of the doctor's buxom assistant leaning over me with her suction device!

After a short recovery period, came payment of the bill - GBP 2,400. I settled with a credit card but, if I'd been brave enough to carry the cash, they'd have given me a 5 per cent discount. As it was, I was charged in Hungarian Forints at a ridiculous exchange rate, which in effect represented a 5 per cent surcharge and a bit of sharp practice. When the charges appeared on my credit card statement, the inter-bank rate had been used to convert the Forints back to GBP, which lost me a further 2 per cent. The amount of money involved wasn't life-threatening, but it does leave a bad taste in the mouth. Perhaps ripping-off of patients is in the dentists' training manual. Anyhow, moral of the story: pay in cash and save yourself 12 per cent.

Equipped with painkillers and antibiotics, I was whisked off by car (free again) to my hotel. I stayed at the Domina Inn Fiesta, right in the heart of Pest but within walking distance of the river and the bridges over to Buda. It's one of a big chain with properties throughout Europe and Egypt, and with big expansion plans in other parts of the world. It can best be described as functional. It's a bit reminiscent of my days of working for the Russians - long bare corridors with rooms leading off them, all well-equipped and comfortable, but stark and somewhat lacking in joy. Anyway, it wasn't the most expensive hotel in town, it was very convenient and adequate for my needs.

Monday night was a bit bloody (I'm glad I didn't have to wash the pillows!) and occupied with generous use of an ice pack also supplied by the clinic. By lunchtime Tuesday, the bleeding had stopped and I ventured out onto the streets of Budapest on a sunny but bitterly cold day.

Amid the occasional snow flurries, I searched in vain for the city's character. There were lots of shops, wide avenues, trams and trolleybuses, the Danube (blue or otherwise, I'm not sure), groups of down-and-outs on many of the street corners in juxtaposition with some classy stores, McDonalds, C&A, M&S, and even a Tesco. Perhaps I'll find that elusive character on my next visit.

Yes, I have to come back in about a month for eight days to have the healing caps on the implants exposed from beneath the gums, to have further impressions taken and the permanent teeth made and fitted. Hopefully, there won't be quite so much blood next time - and maybe more opportunity to see the sights. Watch this space...

Posted by Keep Smiling 07:57 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest hungary europe dentist

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