What is Dental Tourism?
Regardless of the healthcare in different countries, basic costs and dental insurances are often capped, implants not covered, cosmetic procedures generally not considered essential for health reasons, and so patients wishing to access this type of treatment have to do so privately.
The cost of dental services, especially cosmetic procedures can quickly mount up, with treatments such as veneers or implants potentially costing thousands.
Dental care costs in Canada are growing greatly, to the point where unless you have insurance, extensive care may simply be unavailable. Even with insurance, the insurance companies will go to great lengths to disallow services to increase their own profitability. This is true in the UK, Canada and the US.
This is one of the reasons why in the UK alone, 144,000 people travelled abroad for healthcare in 2016 (a 198% rise from 2014) – which included ‘dental tourism’ – travelling to have cosmetic and other dental procedures carried out, usually in eastern European countries for the UK and Mexico and Costa Rica, for Canada and the US.
As costs increase, so does dental tourism. The combined costs of flights, hotels and the dental procedure abroad is often significantly cheaper than getting the procedure done privately in that country, so it’s no surprise that this option is tempting for many.
However, there are other considerations for dental treatment in other countries as well as the cost of procedures, some of which are outlined in this article, to help you make an informed decision about your dental care. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with obtaining medical or dental treatment abroad, nor are there guarantees that obtaining it at home is intrinsically any better.
There are differences when having dental treatment abroad.
In the UK, all dental professionals must be registered with the General Dental Council and adhere to their standards, equally so in Canada and the US where dentists are regulated.
If you are treated by a dentist abroad, there are no guarantees that the regulations, qualifications, standards or safeguards in place are of a similar level to those in the UK, Canada or US, or are even regulated at all. Therefore you must do your due diligence – as indeed you would when taking on a local dentist.
Before any treatment takes place, you should have a consultation to discuss the procedure(s) and make sure it’s the right option for you. For treatment that is carried out in your country, this consultation should always be with a qualified dentist who will ask about your full medical history.
If you have a consultation in a clinic abroad, or a consultation in your country for treatment that will be carried out abroad, sometimes they are carried out by what is essentially a salesperson, rather than a qualified dental professional, so they may not be best placed to recommend what is best for you clinically. Ensure they are qualified.
Ideally have the records and diagnosis done in the country in which you live. This provides a basis for your needs although the dentist will still make suggestions as if he or she were doing the work unless told otherwise. Some dentists may not wish to provide examination and diagnosis if they know they will not be providing the work.
If you are travelling abroad for dental treatment, it’s important to understand the process if your procedure(s). What happens if it doesn’t go according to plan, or if you require follow-up treatment. What type of aftercare or guarantees are offered by the clinic you’re chosen?
Is the work guaranteed for a set amount of time? Is there a complaints process if you are unhappy with the results or your care? Most clinics will want you to be happy and go to great lengths to ensure that any problem is resolved to your satisfaction.
“What are the cost implications if further treatment is required”, is one of the questions to ask. It is unlikely that your dentist at home (if you already have one) will be interested in repairing another dentist’s work – even if it’s in the same country.
What if I’ve had dental treatment abroad that was negligent?
If you have received negligent treatment from a dental clinic abroad then making a compensation claim through a lawyer based in your own country may not be possible. Laws are different and that’s why it is so very important to find the right clinic – they do exist and thousands of patients have had excellent and very satisfactory experiences.
“If you do travel abroad for dental treatment, you do run the risk of not having the same legal protections that you do when undergoing the same procedures in the UK, Canada or US.”
Having said this, there are many reputable clinics in other countries and due to different living costs, etc. treatment abroad, may make for a great way of saving thousands and having a great holiday too! However, ALWAYS:
Check out their credentials. look at their website. If you have friends who have been for treatment, ask them too.
Get a few testimonials and contact one of them if you can.
Check on follow-up facilities and call them before booking, just too ensure they are actually there.
Ensure you get a good, clinical assessment, from someone qualified in your country first – don’t take advantage to the point of abuse, pay for the exam and diagnosis, dentists should be paid for their time and expertise, they also become liable for what they’ve found, reported and recommended (in writing). Then exercise your rights in choosing how and where to have your treatment. You need to know what the procedure is, the benefits or disadvantages of it.
When you’ve done your work, enjoy your trip, holiday and dental work too. Enjoy your savings – just do your due diligence first.
If you have any questions about this subject please feel free to drop me a line – I’m always happy to help where I can.
Author – Stephen Bray DDS