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My parents are visiting from England.  My father arrived with a loose molar which had to be removed.  We do not know good dentists in the area and my father does not have American dental insurance.  We settled on TUFTS Medical School’s Emergency Dental Center for the extraction.  Three and a half hours later we were out of there, leaving one molar and $180 dollars in our wake.

My father thinks he now needs an implant so I quickly checked out options:

1. A New York Times ad offered an implant for $1000 (not including the crown).

2. In the U.K. it costs about the same.

3. Given the high prices in the U.K. and U.S., an attractive option is to go to Hungary.  A quick search suggested  a price of $700 for an implant.  So, you can go to Budapest for a bit of a holiday and get your grotty teeth dealt with at the same time.

Why is Hungary so cheap? One nice thing about trade in dentists services is that it largely must be one way: Hungarians aren’t going to Britain to go to dentists!  This makes it different from other products like cars which countries export and import simultaneously.  This is hard to explain with traditional trade theory.  The traditional theory should be adequate for trade in dental services though.  Ricardian trade theory suggests differences in technology drive trade patterns.  Is that the explanation? Heckscher-Olin’s theory of trade instead assumes technology is the same across countries and differences in endowments drive trade patterns.  Is the endowment of dentists large in Hungary?  At this point, I’m stuck.

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