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OPINION: Dental tourism as a perspective

Namik Čolaković

The arrival of diaspora in the summer months to Bosnia and Herzegovina, among other things, intensified their contacts with domestic dental practices, as prices of dental services are significantly lower than those in the countries from which they come from, and they are not qualitatively lagging behind. The relationship between quality and price, as well as other benefits in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is testament to the fact that these services have been used for many years by foreign citizens who have resided in our country as representatives of various world and regional institutions and members of international missions.

In fact, the price disproportion is triggered by the whole process, which within the medical tourism generated creation of one of its subspecies – dental tourism.

Namely, in all known theories of tourism, its health function is emphasized, and health is one of the oldest, lasting and strongest motives of tourist movement, so tourism always and in all its forms has a health function, to a smaller or larger extent. By perceiving health tourism as a cooperation in the field of health and tourism, three forms of health tourism can be identified: wellness, health and medical tourism.

Wellness tourism entails achieving physical and spiritual balance and takes place mainly in spas, health resorts and hotels. Another form of health resort tourism, which involves professional and controlled use of natural therapeutic factors and physical therapy procedures for the preservation and improvement of health, occurs predominantly in spa and climatic centers and specialized hospitals. The third form, medical tourism, includes surgical procedures, dental, cosmetic, psychiatric and alternative treatments and is usually performed in medical clinics and special hospitals.

The focus of this column is medical tourism, where high growth rates and high demand growth are statistically recorded. Estimates are that this is the result of a change in the health systems of developed countries and the abolition of free health insurance, long waiting lists, high prices of health services, and reduction in birth rates and general aging of the population. As part of medical tourism, users are offered a wide range of medical services such as aesthetic surgery, physical therapy, dental medicine and dentistry, all the way to wellness and spa services, which are needed for recovery after more difficult and more complex operations. The main factors for selecting destination are lower prices of medical services, standard of medical services, expertise of the staff, equipment of hospitals and accommodation capacities, as well as attractiveness of location and content in a tourist sense.

One of the subspecies of medical tourism is dental tourism, which is experiencing increasing expansion and is extremely rapidly developing. In this development, intense activity of the countries of the region is noticeable, where tourists from the EU, USA, Australia are directed for treatment and aesthetics of teeth, stimulated by the most affordable prices… One of these clinics in the neighborhood on an annual basis provides services for almost 30,000 of patients, of which 85 percent comes from abroad, with an average flow of 140 to 200 patients during weekends. Interestingly, it can be mentioned that in Hungary a dental tourism trade, worth almost 300 million euros, was recorded a few years ago.

Given that dental procedures can be completed within one week, it is also an opportunity for all families to organize a vacation in which some of them will eliminate health and aesthetic problems. Apart from affordable prices, as a significant reason for these trips, the quality of services provided at an exceptional level does not lag behind world standards, which implies a very high degree of professionalism of dentists, as well as the use of state-of-the-art technologies and materials.

It must be acknowledged that at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no extensive research on this issue was organized, although some ten years ago, one research was noticed, within which a scientific paper on development of dental tourism was published. The conclusions of this paper indicate that there is potential for development of dental tourism, but it is suggested that connection of well-equipped clinics into a cluster should be encouraged and a joint approach to tourist agencies and clients, with a special role in the quality of the Dental Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Managed by the fact that tourism consumption is specific and produces multiplicative positive economic effects on the economy, with significant financial resources flowing into the receptive country, either through tourism or other activities indirectly participating in it, then this is the reason for more efficient regulation of this areas and support for development of dental tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, even at the level that is regulated in the countries of the environment. Dentists and tourist agencies and hotels, as well as the state, are interested in this.

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