Super common question. Some reading this may never have heard of this, so we shall break it down before we go into the pros and cons. When people travel to another country to get dental work, it is called dental tourism. It has always been done, however, it is becoming more common.
Well, to be completely honest, it’s the cost. Simply put, depending on which country you live in, it may be expensive to receive dental treatment. In the USA dental work is charged at a premium and there are several border towns on the USA Mexico border that are littered with dental practices offering cheaper treatment.
Why is it so much cheaper?
Standard of living is a major contributing factor. If you have ever gone on holiday and ever bought a beer or cocktail or jeans for a fraction of the price you pay back home. It’s the same, the people that live there will comparatively find it more expensive than those with pounds, dollars (US and Canadian), and euros.
The presence of federal or national health services may affect the cost as well. In the UK THE NHS subsides some treatments making them cheaper, however usually not cosmetic treatments (see my article on NHS vs Private in the UK). If the country provides or offers cosmetic treatments, they might subsidize it, making it cheaper. However, as a tourist, you likely won’t get the subsidy.
What is the quality of the work like?
Basically, the question is it as good as back home. All dentists are not made equal. The quality differs from person to person, practice to practice, and country to country. BUT. The standards to become a dentist and to run a dental practice in the UK is among the highest in the world. The industry is heavily regulated and all UK dentists need to do a certain amount of continuing development every year to ensure their skills are at the highest level. This is not the case everywhere.
Each country will have different standards and as such ensuring you research what they allow is paramount if you are thinking about traveling for treatment.
What if something goes wrong?
There is no guaranteed come back if you travel abroad to have treatment. You are at the mercy of the dentist/clinic. Again, it is important to research. Ask the clinic to speak to some patients from your country to find out the experience. Find people who have had issues successfully fixed and speak to them. I suspect they will be happy to tell you about their experience.
There are insurances available that can be taken in case of any issues. Each policy is different and has differing criteria some may require you to return to the country of treatment, others may reimburse up to a certain limit. There will be limitations for how long they last. For example, medical travel shield covers 12 months if there is a need to return. They will cover flights and accommodation, however, they do not cover the cost of the treatment the needs to be redone. Research research research is so important, please do research!!
What if I have an emergency here?
If you are in pain or have an infection, we (as in UK Dentists) will do everything to get you out of pain and medically safe. This can be private or on the NHS. However, any further treatment is not available on the NHS. For example, if you have a crown in Turkey, and it develops an abscess. If you live in Edinburgh and nip along to our local practice. They will drain the abscess for you (on the NHS if you are and NHS patients). The treatment you would likely need after would be a root treatment and a new crown. This would have to be completed privately.
This doesn’t change even if the treatment is more complex. We had a case of a patient who had a full mouth of implants placed abroad. After 9 months he developed an abscess and mobile teeth. He was referred to the hospital. All the offending implants and teeth were taken out. He then had to pay 2 UK surgeons a significant amount to rambo the entire procedure. This type of major issue is not common, but important to know!
Are there any advantages apart from cost?
It depends on the clinic and the dentist. There are some dentists out there who produce some truly exceptional work. If it works out to be cheaper to see them than someone in your own country, then it may be worth it.
What about aftercare?
There are 3 options here.
- Tell your dentist you are going to get work complete abroad and come up with an aftercare package that you are happy with (this will have to be private)
- Fly back to the clinic +/- country for all aftercare
- Hope that all is well and deal with any problems if they arise
For some people there it may be better to travel abroad. In most cases, it will be cheaper. The issue lies that any problems that may arise could leave you in a very tricky situation. Most people won’t have any issues, but the key before you make any decision at all is RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH.
Dr Abraham McCarthy