High times for Albania have nothing to do with its legendary marijuana trade. It was ‘The Fringe’, the weekly newsletter on emerging markets that sounded the alert some time ago: dental tourism, it said, was thriving in Albania, on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula.
This sounded very strange. Albania has 700,000 bunkers – one for every four residents – but who knew about all those ace dentists? Or Albania’s passion for gnashers?
I had never thought that Albania’s late dictator Enver Hoxha had a thing for teeth. Or cosmetic dentistry. Why else would dental tourism be a huge selling point in this most unlikely of places?
Toothrism, some are calling it.
Anyway, ‘The Fringe’ pointed the way to a blog on dental tourism. It said that Albania-hotels.com “has a whole page dedicated to this travel niche and there is even an Albanian dental tourism Facebook page.”
And it went on to add: “…there is an abundance of dental clinics in Albania. In some areas of the city they are as numerous as car washes and cafes. Even in the most remote village, if there are more than a handful of buildings in one area, you are apt to find a dental clinic.”
A little further drilling (excuse the pun) down and I found that Albania’s dental tourism industry has been well known for a few years. In 2013, this online account said that a four-implant foundation for an eight-tooth bridge cost anywhere between £25,000 and £37,000 in the UK, €6000 in southern Greece (cash only) and was ridiculously cheap in Albania and Mexico. It offered no figures though, but one can imagine.
And in 2018, this ‘Invest in Albania’ website reported with some satisfaction that dental tourism in the country is still “flourishing.”
It said: “Based on the data provided by dentists, dental tourists make about four percent of the patients in Albanian dental clinics. On their part, dentists started to make tourism packages in order to attract more travelers. They combine the cheap prices of dental procedures with Albania’s natural beauty. Croatia used to be the main destination for this group of travelers, but dentists started to charge higher rates, thus dental tourists are now coming to Albania.”