ECONOMY

Dental hygiene getting too pricey for many Greeks

Spending on dental work has declined by as much as 80 percent in some categories over the past couple of years compared to the period before the onset of the crisis, while there has been a rise in the number of patients, as well as dentists, who are resorting to either getting work done or doing the job in other countries.

The number of dentists choosing to move abroad to offer their services is ever-growing, as is the number of patients seeking cheaper solutions in neighboring countries in the Balkans. An even greater number of patients choose to postpone getting dental care, putting more pressure on the sector.

?Given that dental hygiene constitutes a measure of how advanced a nation is, you can see the heavy impact of the deep economic crisis on society,? said Athanasios Devliotis, president of the Thessaloniki Dentists? Association.

Another factor that has worsened the already negative climate is that many social security funds have stopped covering dental care following their incorporation into the National Organization for Healthcare Services (EOPYY).

?According to data available today I estimate the reduction of activity in our domain in big cities at around 50 percent from previous years, while the drop is smaller in rural areas,? said Athanasios Yfantis, president of the Attica Dentists? Association. ?The biggest losses are in the category of prosthetic works, where the decline amounts to 80 percent,? he added.

The average price for a crown stands at 300 euros, a three-tooth bridge costs 1,000 euros, while an implant sets patients back by 1,200 to 1,500 euros. Foreign patients, mostly from the United States and Great Britain, consider Greece relatively cheap for dental care, and special tourism packages have been created for that purpose, combining vacations with dental work.

The overall reduction in activity at dentists? is estimated to be at least at 30 percent, with those who are new to the profession suffering the most: Yfantis said that newcomers may invest upward of 35,000 euros for a dental clinic and these are funds that may have come from borrowing and leasing, to be balanced out in the long term.

Under such circumstances, more than 500 Greek dentists have tried their chance abroad: In 2010 alone, 95 dentists in Attica had certificates issued to supply dental services abroad. Last year this figure climbed to 185 dentists and in the first few months of this year there have been 140 such licenses issued. Another 230 such certificates have been issued to Thessaloniki dentists. Their most popular destination is Britain, followed by Germany and Italy, while there is also a good deal of interest in the Middle East and North Africa as well.