Apr 22nd, 2010,

Bulgaria plans to put some teeth in its dental tourism sector by implementing a national policy for the fast-growing market as the global economic crisis increases demand for inexpensive treatment.

Bulgaria now attracts only three percent of the dental tourists in the world, said Ventsislav Stoev, a dentist and head of the Bulgarian Association for Health Tourism. “It is a very small part in this fast-growing market especially having in mind Bulgaria’s potential for health tourism,” Stoev told Xinhua.

Bulgaria in the past did not have a national policy for health and dental tourism and each clinic worked on its own without any coordination with the others, Stoev said. That situation is changing, the doctor said. “After some discussions with authorities in our Parliament, we have a national policy to organize dental tourism all over the country, and to include more and more highly qualified dentists in it,” Stoev said. Bulgaria has clear advantages to develop dental tourism because of the country’s beautiful nature, relatively large number of dentists and low labor costs, he continued. There are about 7,800 well-educated dentists in Bulgaria who own clinics with good equipment and laboratories.

Stoev, who owns his own clinic, said there are two types of dental tourism in Bulgaria. The old type only provided dental treatment for foreigners, he said. Foreign patients came to Eastern Europe where the quality of the dental treatment was the same as in the developed countries but at significantly lower prices, he added.

The second type is the real dental tourism, which combines dental treatment with tourism, Stoev said. The dentist said dental tourism has been organized in two ways. The first is organized by the clinics, which offer dental treatment and tourism in different regions of Bulgaria. The second, Stoev said, is the biggest.

“This kind of tourism is organized by different tour operators abroad who bring patients from different countries like Germany and Italy here, and at the same time they organize different tourist trips throughout Bulgaria, depending on the wishes of these patients,” he said.

Some of the dental clinics are located in the mountains or near the Black Sea, which is attractive to the patients.

“The most important and the great privilege of our dental tourism, is the combination between the high quality dental treatment and our unique nature, and the prices which are very compatible to other countries,” Stoev said.

The global economic crisis provides an opportunity for Bulgaria to develop its dental tourism because the crisis increased demand for lower prices, he said.

Bulgaria’s unique nature, professional treatment and low prices attract many patients, he said.

In addition, Stoev said Bulgaria has three advantages to develop its dental tourism: highly qualified dentists who speak foreign languages, high level clinics located in nice areas, and a sound medical system that guarantees the treatment of foreign patients.

The clinics participating in dental tourism have a system to guarantee treatment and if some complications appear later, there are dentists-partners based in the countries where the patients come from, Stoev said.

He said some new patients come to Bulgaria for the dental tourism after hearing nice stories from friends or relatives about their experiences in the country.