Daily Star: Trip to the Dentist in Sunny Bulgaria
As someone on his first health holiday that was when my smile started to fade.
“It’s very close to the nerve – you may feel a little pain.”
That was when my smile packed its bag and headed for the airport.
But I needn’t have worried.
Ninety minutes later in the steady hands of oral surgeon Dr Radostin Lezunov I was pain – and rotten tooth – free.
An hour later – with seven stitches in my jaw – I was on a walking tour of Bulgarian capital Sofia.
Another 60 minutes down the line and I was sipping an ice cold glass of Burgas 63 – a fruit brandy popular in eastern Europe.
Granted, a trip to the dentist in Bulgaria may not rank highly on the dream holiday list.
But health tourism is rocketing among Brits with 150,000 people a year taking trips abroad for low cost medical treatment while topping up their tans.
And Bulgaria is fast-emerging as a front-runner of sun and surgery destinations.
The former communist state gets more sunshine a year than most of Italy, Croatia and Turkey and boasts a string of top beach resorts along its Black Sea coast.
At the same time its high mountains and cold winters make it a skiing and snowboarding hotspot.
It is also home to some of Europe’s finest surgeons in dentistry and orthopaedics.
So when I was left with a wobbly lower molar after a blow in the kisser from a microphone boom stand – don’t ask – I decided to price the relative cost of having an implant in the UK and Bulgaria. It was a no-brainer.
Various dentists in the UK quoted me up to £4,500 to replace my tooth.
They also warned that the treatment could take months and involve extensive bone-grafting.
Dr Noori, an implant specialist in Sofia, does them for £660 within a week using hi-tech basal designs that avoid the need for any grafting.
Extra reassurance came from Hollywood superstar Sylvester Stallone who has publicly declared his love of Bulgarian dentistry.
In 2012 he broke a tooth while filming Expendables 2 there and was so impressed with the work he got that he returned to have all 24 of his gnashers replaced.
Armed with Rocky’s endorsement I put myself in the very capable hands of ex-university professor Vesselina Dimova, a former oil industry scientist who returned to her homeland to set up Bulgaria Medical Travel Partner after 27 years living and working around the world.
She has teamed up with Bulgaria’s top orthopaedic surgeon Ventsislav Dimov to offers knee and hip joint replacements using pioneering techniques involving three-inch cuts instead of the usual 13inches to reduce recovery time from seven to two weeks.
A hip replacement through Vesselina’s company costs £4,840 instead of £11,280 in the UK, while a new knee is just £6,030 compared to £12,150 in Britain.
Bulgaria Medical Travel Partner also offers health screening, keyhole surgery and radiology.
For me Vesselina secured a five-star hotel and flight package costing less than £500, appointments with Dr Noori and guided tours between dental treatments.
She even went along with me to the surgery to translate.
The next day I was up for a tour of the stunning Rila monastery – a 10th Century religious site tucked away in the mountains and boasting spectacular frescos which once wowed Pope John Paul II.
Then it was on to Plovdiv – Bulgaria’s second city and the oldest in Europe that has been continually inhabited.
Built on seven hills, like Rome, it is older – dating back to 4,000BC – and features an amphitheatre which now hosts operas.
Vesselina teamed me up with guide Mihail Partovski on both tours.
By the time we hit the Villa Yustina vineyard in nearby Ustina after two days on the road together we were fi rm pals.
The gold medal-winning wine was less than £4 a bottle and after a tantalising tasting session by host Maria Spasova I stocked up on the stuff.
When I returned to Dr Noori for a final check-up I had fallen a little in love with Bulgaria.
“You must come back for implants in three months,” he said. For the first time in my life I’m looking forward to going to the dentist.
GETTING THERE: Flights from Heathrow to Sofia with Bulgaria Air from £130 return. See Bulgaria-air.co.uk.
WHERE TO STAY: Double rooms at the five-star Hotel Anel, Sofia, with breakfast, from £78 per night. See hotelanel.com
GUIDED TOURS: From £22 per day.
DENTAL WORK PRICES: Single immediate basal dental implant with crown, £660, three-four days required. One jaw with 8-10 immediate basal dental implants and 14 crowns, £6,600, three-four days required.
Surgery prices: Knee replacement, £6,030, hip replacement from £4,840. Both require seven days in hospital. For information about health holidays, call 020 3778 0379, visit Bulgaria Medical Travel Partner’s website at bmtpartner.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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