Dental tourism, as the name suggests, is the concept of visiting a country for dental treatment and also experiencing a vacation in the process. It is quite similar to medical tourism, and the main reason behind people making these trips is largely a consideration of cost. Procedures such as dental implants account for the vast majority of the dental treatment received by dental tourists.
Is Foreign Dental Treatment The Answer?
The state of a nation’s economy is one of the major factors in causing the trend of people seeking dental care in other nations, where much cheaper care is often available. There are reportedly vast differences in treatment costs in the home nation and the country being visited. But there are safety issues too, and debates rage as to whether there really are sufficient cost savings involved and whether the money saved is a greater consideration than the safety of the treatment.
Insurance requirements and a high level of quality imposed on dental implants and other specialized dental treatments in the UK, Europe and USA also raise the cost. These requirements may not be enforced strictly in the countries being visited, resulting in lower costs. But the question is, can that be a valid explanation for choosing to travel abroad, particularly with potential health risks or the possible demand of multiple visits involved?
Variations in Safety Standards in Different Countries
Notable dentists do consider treatment procedures in Europe to be of high standard comparable to or American requirements. But there are doubts about safety in countries such as Mexico where safety standards are much lower than American requirements. In comparison to British or American standards enforced by the respective governing bodies, the standards in some of the East European and Central American countries are relatively poor.
Popularity of Dental Tourism from Britain
A study conducted in 2010 revealed that ‘dental tourism’ trips were becoming more and more conmen in for British citizens, fuelled partly perhaps by the recession. According to the survey, the suggested reasoning behind many such visits has been the due to the belief that expensive dental treatments will be available at a much lower price. It has been reported that in 2009 more than quarter million of UK’s citizens traveled abroad for dental treatment.
Brits mainly head to east European nations such as Hungary, Poland and Turkey and also to Germany. A few do head to India, Singapore and Malaysia. Generally, safety standards and the quality of medical professionals are higher in the Far East – while being more affordable – than in east European nations.
The Risks Involved
The following concerns have been raised by the British Dental Association:
- There are many websites that attractively display pictures of high tech facilities which they may not possess.
- Dental implants in the UK need to be of a high standard, and this requirement is enforced upon. But that isn’t the case in many other countries which probably account for the cheaper rates.
- There are other safety standards that could be compromised as well. There is the greater threat of disease infection, such as hepatitis and HIV.
Dental Tourism – Is it Less Expensive?
Even though foreign dental care providers suggest that treatment in their clinics is less costly, it is necessary for those considering dental tourism to carry out their own research enabling them to recognize whether or not it would be less or more expensive than comparable treatment in their home country.
When preparing to visit another country as a dental tourist, the expense of the treatment is not the only cost. Other expenses which must also be taken in to account include travel costs, food, accommodation rental, and any income which would be lost due to leave taken from employment.
Additionally, advanced dental treatments rarely require a single appointment, which results in additional travel costs and time off work. As an Example, a dental implant procedure requires 3 separate visits to the dental clinic on various days within a six month period. In such circumstances the extra expense of the flights, hotel fees, meals and other related expenses are significantly increased.
For any appointments which involve an oral surgical procedure – such as a sinus lift, jaw-bone augmentation or a dental implant placement – it would be necessary to remain in the country for a minimum of 3 days following surgery. This is due to airlines not allowing anyone who has recently had an operation to fly as a result of the increased blood flow which occurs due to the lower air pressure experienced in a passenger jet flying at high altitude.
Research Carried Out
University of York’s Dr Lunt and his team of professional researchers are researching if overseas trips for dental and other medical treatments do offer a cheaper alternative and maintain good standards. Medical professionals, health economists and sociologists are all part of the team that seeks to determine the impact of British citizens who choose to be health tourists on the NHS and the economy of the UK.
While the main presumed advantage of foreign dental treatment is the initial cost, the quality of care does not always match quality of treatment at home. In the event of post-operative complications, in some cases there may be little chance of original clinic redressing the problem. This presents further difficulties as many dentists in the patient’s home country would be reluctant to carry out corrective procedures due to liability issues which may arise if further complications occur.
Many foreign dental clinics offer guaranties on advanced dental procedures which covers the treatment for a number of years. Although, some guarantees include a requirement to visit the original clinic every six months to receive dental hygiene assessments.
Legal Redress in the Event of Dental Negligence
In the event of the dental treatment failing due to negligence, bringing a litigation claim against the dentist or clinic in a foreign country would be extremely difficult to do due to negotiating another countries legal system.
Planning is Paramount
Not every patient embarking on dental tourism would experience these issues, but it is always better to consult those who have undergone the treatment, make enquiries, and carry out thorough research before deciding to head abroad. It is advisable to evaluate if the fees for treatment which you will receive abroad is significantly less than in Britain; and if the resultant savings offset the extra risks involved.
Although the cost of dental implants in the UK varies greatly, many clinics in the UK now offer the treatment at a cost which competes with the total cost of treatment in eastern European countries. A number of years ago http://www.dentalcareplus.org.uk/ were the first such clinic to lower their prices with some others following suite. It is now possible to receive dental implants in many clinics throughout the UK at less than half the cost of five years ago.