Need a cheap dental crown or other work? Turkey can’t be beat
While Turkey isn't among the cheapest countries in the world, especially since Istanbul itself has gotten quite expensive, there is probably no better place to combine dental work with a holiday. As I'll discuss below, prices are shockingly cheap while standards are at Western professional levels.
I've traveled through most of the main tourist areas of the country, and I recently wrote about reasons everyone should visit Turkey, after having lived in the Mediterranean town of Kas for over a year. Some things (like beer) are weirdly expensive in Turkey, but most things are quite cheap, and dental work is astonishingly cheap.
Skipping to the bottom line first
I had a broken crown that I needed replaced while I was living in the touristy town of Kas, Turkey. I went in for a first appointment on a Tuesday, and by Friday I had a new porcelain crown installed for a bit under US$200 including everything. The service and equipment were very professional and friendly and I'm confident it was very good work since most of my expat friends there have been going to this dentist (or a nearby one) for years with rave reviews.
Crowns are expensive almost everywhere
When I was living in the US I paid over US$600 for crowns even with “dental insurance” back in the 1990s, and it seems prices have gone up a few hundred dollars since then. For that reason I thought I'd get a missing crown (different from the broken one I had fixed later) replaced when I was in Southeast Asia in 2010.
I checked prices of crowns at foreigner-friendly dental clinics in Vietnam, and they were charging around US$500 and up, so I waited until I got to Bangkok where I'd live for a while so I could shop around. After a lot of research I found that most dental clinics in Bangkok were also charging close to US$600 for a porcelain crown, and I ended up finding one for around US$470 in the end.
The clinic was professional looking and they probably charged lower prices because they were not close to Sukhumvit or other touristy areas, but the female dentist did seem to rush through the work. Still, the crown was replaced and I'm happy with it.
Dentists in Turkey are insanely cheap
So with the missing crown replaced I eventually developed another problem when another old crown broke in two places. There was no pain so I didn't have to rush to a dentist and I wish I'd gone sooner. All my expat friends in town said the two local (both female) dentists were really good and were quite cheap so eventually I went in for an appointment.
The office has one very modern chair and a big computer screen on the wall facing it. The equipment and the way I was treated gave me great confidence, and as you know from above, the whole thing only cost US$200. To be more specific, the crown itself was 300TL and the fitting and temporary crown cost 60TL; 360TL is around US$200.
A good friend of mine had two wisdom teeth pulled at the other dentist, and he had a few other minor things done that required about 6 total visits and the total bill was 300TL, or about US$170. My crown was relatively expensive because most of that money went for the crown itself to be made.
What makes Turkish dentists so cheap?
First off, I'd bet that in Istanbul the prices are much higher, and they might be much higher in Antalya and Bodrum as well. Kas is a town of about 7,000, and for about 7 months a year there are only a couple hundred expats living there, so a dentist has to charge prices that locals can afford. Since most locals make only €200 or €300 per month, they have to be cheap or no one would have any teeth left.
Also, there was literally no paperwork, and probably limited liability insurance coverage. When I made my appointment I was asked to write my name in their schedule book, and that was it. There is a dental assistant during the procedures, but no army of billing people and receptionists. That alone cuts down costs a lot, as does the very affordable rent I'm sure they pay at the upstairs office near the center of town.
By the way, both dentists in Kas speak fluent English and were trained in Europe, so communication was no problem at all, even though the assistant spoke only a bit of English.
If you go to a dentist in the US or Europe then you could potentially sue them if something goes horribly wrong, but in dental work that is a miniscule chance that I was willing to take. Also, as mentioned, most of my expat friends had been going to this dentist for years, so confidence was high.
Finding your own dental bargain in Turkey
I didn't do much research on this topic because I lived in this town for a year and there are only two dentists there, but I'd guess that my experience is typical as long as you are in a city where local salaries are low and most tourism is only seasonal.
Neither of the dentists in Kas has a website yet so it won't be easy to research them online, but perhaps dentists in nearby Fethiye or Antalya have websites and contact information.
If you need dental work done and are going to spend at least a week in Turkey you should definitely research what you can before you go and then visit as soon as you arrive. For anyone needing a mouthful of work done it would be worth staying for at least a month because you'll save a fortune and have a really nice time between appointments.