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Polish dentists make a fortune out of cross border fillings

13 April 2004, 03:57 CET

When he came across an internet site offering low cost dental treatment in Poland, Dane Tommy Hansen was a bit sceptical.

Do Poles really know how to take care of teeth? he wondered. After a visit to one of Poland's low-cost dental clinics he is converted.

"To say that Eastern Europe has bad dentists is an old cliche," Hansen told AFP during a visit to this dentist in Szczecin, north western Poland, near the German border.

"It is like saying that the French eat garlic all the time, or that Italy is chaotic."

After an initial appointment he jumped in with both feet and opted to have a bridge for 540 euros, a whopping one fifth of the 3,000 euros he would have paid in Copenhagen.

He says he is happy with the quality and value for money.

"Here the standard is higher than the dentist I went to in Denmark, and I am saving a lot of money," said Hansen, 49, who runs in the Danish capital a subsidiary of a German air conditioning company.

His claim backs up the blurb of the clinic's internet set, which boasts "European quality at Polish prices."

The road to the Zbigniew Hahs clinic might be a bit muddy, but the eight surgeries are ultra-modern, with a television screen on the wall allowing patients to see what the dentist is doing.

In the corridor detailed brochures name the clinic's different suppliers for crowns, implants, reconstructions.

"Almost all our material and our supplies come from Germany, Switzerland or the United States," Marcin Gaborski, the clinic's young manager and the son in law of the owner, said.

To prove their dentists' credentials, dozens of certificates line the walls of the stairs, attesting to the eight dentists' overseas training.

Martin Behling, 33, German, another satisfied customer, said competence was his precondition.

"I have gum disease. I want to be treated by someone who knows his job," he told AFP.

He too fell on the clinic by surfing on the internet, and took the leap after a lot of hesitation.

"Europe is in the process of unifying. I said to myself: you can go to a dentist in Poland," Behling, a German who lives on the Baltic island of Ruegen, said.

With Berlin only 140 kilometres (85 miles) away, most of the clinic's clients come from other countries. For even if the prices are unbeatable for clients from western Europe, they are beyond the reach of the majority of Poles, Gaborski said.

Most of the clients come for major repair work on their dentures.

Aware that their clients have travelled a long way, the dentists, who speak English and German, give clients a flexible service, working from Monday to Saturday, usually to 9:00 pm, even seeing people on Sunday if need be.

However, the cut-price competition on the other side of the border is causing concern for dentists in the German border region of Mecklenburg, where people can not afford expensive treatment and are badly covered by insurance companies.

"They will go to see what the east has to offer," Gerald Flemming, of the board of the chamber of dentists' management, said.

Because the Zbigniew Hahs clinic is not the only denstist surgery offering cheap dental services. Dozens of similar services are springing up in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

In the most complicated cases, the savings can come to thousands of euros.

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