A new chapter in one’s life can begin with a beautiful smile.
At least that’s the hope for Arturas Kadys, 57, a truck driver from the United Kingdom who came to one of Kyiv’s dental clinics for a major procedure in early April.
“I’ve had dental problems all my life,” said Kadys, who is recently divorced. “I want to have healthy teeth and to live a new life.”
For him and thousands of other dental tourists visiting Ukraine, it is an option to get dental implants, jaw prosthetics, braces or remove wisdom teeth at affordable prices.
According to Violetta Yanyshevska, chairwoman of Ukrainian Association of Medical Tourism, out of 65,000 foreign patients who annually visit Ukraine for treatment, 40% are dental tourists.
They mostly come from the UK and other Western European countries like Italy, Spain, Sweden, and France.
Others come from more distant countries — the United States, Canada and Australia.
“Even with the travel costs and monthly accommodation in Ukraine, treatment will be cheaper than in their own country,” said Yanyshevska, who also mentioned that they are often immigrants from post-Soviet countries.
For many Ukrainians, dental treatment in the country’s most prestigious clinics will break the bank. For foreigners, it’s a way to save a lot of money.
The price for one tooth implant in Ukraine’s dental clinics ranges from $500 to $1,200. In Israel, the price for the same implant just starts from $980 while in the U.S. it’s at least $3,000.
For one metal-ceramic composite crown, patients pay around $250 in Ukraine, half of what they’d pay in Israel and a tenth of what they’d pay the U.S.
Braces start at $400 in Ukraine. In Hungary, they start at $740 and in the U.S. the cost will be around $5,000-$6,000.
Treating one root canal in Ukraine costs even less than in Turkey, the country’s biggest competitor for dental tourism — $25 versus $45. In U. S. clinics, the same work goes for $400 or higher.
But the dental tourists aren’t here to fix minor issues. They come to Ukraine to get major work done.
According to Yanyshevska, nearly half of them come to get jaw prosthetics and every fifth comes to get implants.
The rest get treatments for tooth decay, get their teeth straightened or get veneers, thin tooth-colored shells applied to the front of the teeth to make them look stunning.
“No one will go for one root canal filling because you still need to pay for the ticket and to stay in Ukraine,” said Yanyshevska.
For example, the cost of “all-on‑6” dental implants procedure, referring to the number of implants that are placed in the mouth as a base for the prosthetic dental arch, will cost around £10,000 in Astra Dent, a dental chain with 12 clinics across Kyiv.
“This is a complete restoration of the upper and lower jaw with beautiful ceramic teeth,” said Kateryna Skuratovska, international patients care manager at Astra Dent. “In the U.K., it would cost £15,000 just for one jaw,” she said.
Plus, many clinics in Ukraine can offer “treatment while sleeping,” when dentists use general anesthesia for complicated cases or when a patient has a great fear, like extraction of wisdom teeth.
According to Yaroslav Pavlenko, a dental surgeon and co-founder of Ukrainian-Swiss dental clinic Porcelain, it’s hard to find a clinic in Western European countries that will allow patients to remove wisdom teeth under general anesthesia.
Only large hospitals can do it while small clinics do not have special equipment or required for the manipulation licenses. In Porcelain, up to 90% of dental surgeries are performed this way.
“Many of our patients choose ‘sleeping’ during surgery,” said Pavlenko. “It is completely safe if the doctor follows the (medical) protocol.”
Haniya Dar, 43, a consultant on commercial contracts from the UK, was one such patient.
“I was so scared that I didn’t want to do it in the UK,” Dar told the Kyiv Post.
Her dentist in London was not willing to put Dar on medical sleep for the wisdom teeth removal.
“It was an opportunity to combine it with a holiday and see my friends,” said Dar, who previously lived in Kyiv for a while.
Cheaper, but not worse
The huge difference in prices for dental services here compared to developed countries reflects the economic well-being of Ukraine but not its dentists’ skill and expertise.
Ukrainian dentists use the same methods as their foreign colleagues, they learn new skills at international congresses, undergo internships and “constantly improve their knowledge,” said Yanyshevska.
According to Pavlenko, competition among private dental clinics gave Ukrainian dentists “a very good opportunity” to improve their services.
Clinics’ profit is invested in expensive high-tech equipment or further employee training.
“The level of dentistry in Ukraine has become very high,” said Pavlenko.
The surgeon said Ukraine’s dental standards are sometimes even higher than in some Western European countries, “for sure higher than the United Kingdom, maybe France and even Germany.”
Moreover, Ukrainian dental clinics often use the same implants and drugs for anesthesia as clinics in richer countries.
In the Astradent clinic, for instance, tooth implants are produced by the South Korean MegaGen Corporation.
“It doesn’t matter whether this implant goes to Ukraine, Poland or Turkey. The implant will be the same if it’s the same brand,” said Skuratovska.
When Astra Dent launched its program for foreign dental tourists in 2018, it was a strategic move to expand the business and remove the language barrier, which the clinic previously had.
Currently, the clinic serves 120–130 dental tourists per month via its special department, twice more than three years ago. Dental tourists who want to get treated at Astra Dent, need to register on the website of the dentistry or give it a call prior to the visit.
According to Skuratovska, a manager meets such tourists in the airport, arranges a meeting with the doctor, and explains all nuances of procedures during the conversation with the doctor.
“We fully accompany the tourists during the visit,” said Skuratovska, adding that the patient pays only the cost of the treatment.
In her most memorable case she told about one tourist, who came to Ukraine to fix his “dental disaster.”
The patient — a big fan of cycling — crashed into a car during the race. His insurance covered only part of dental services related to surgical intervention.
“He knocked out his upper and lower jaw,” said Skuratovska. “We completely restored his smile, brought him back to life.”
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