Studies have shown that citizens of Australia spend up to $300-million dollars each year taking care of their healthcare needs outside of their home country. As part of the procedures performed on these patients, there is close to 15,000 Australians travelling overseas to have cosmetic dental procedures. Some of the treatments they travel out of the country for include dental implants, teeth whitening, veneers, bridges and crowns to improve the aesthetic appearance of the mouth as well as the functional use of their teeth.
In Australia, dental care is not subsidized for the majority of the population and about half of the country does not have private dental insurance. In addition, three in ten people in Australia have avoided going to the dentist due to the cost of the treatment. All of these factors add up to the fact that dental tourism is a very popular idea.
There are some companies that offer all-inclusive packages for dental tourism patients and this means that the dental treatment is just one part of a trip. These companies include airplane flights as well as luxury hotel accommodations as part of their travel package.
For Australians, the most popular destinations are countries located in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. The patients that travel the most for dental tourism tend to be people with more modest incomes.
According to Dr. Dustin Cohen, from Beverly Hills, California, “Dental tourism is mainly popular due to the belief that you can spend less on having your teeth fixed in another country than you would in your home country. To many people, a lower price tag for what is claimed to be equal work definitely sounds appealing.
Dr. Cohen added “dentists in many other countries do not practice under the same set of standards as the United States, therefore the clinical expertise and infection control protocols can be in question. However, there are quite a few patients that decide to travel outside of the United States for dental procedures. Some of the most common destinations are Mexico, Asia and Europe. The reviews have been mixed. I have heard some horror stories and seen less than desirable results. To be fair, I have also seen some high quality work but that is less common.”
Even though the idea of travelling abroad to get a mouth that is more aesthetically pleasing is very appealing to patients, the Australian Dental Association says there are some risks that patients need to aware of before having a procedure.
The association says that the standards for dental care in some countries are not as good as the standards in Australia. For example, there could be some issues with the risk of infection as well as the overall cleanliness of the facility. Many countries also have a lack of accountability for doctors and little to no regulation when it comes to the standards normally associated with doctors. If any complications arise, the patient might be out of luck holding their doctor accountable for the work provided on their mouth.
In addition, the level of education and training might be different for dentists in other countries. Dental education systems in other countries often face challenges in quality level, regulation and experienced teachers.
Here are a few things to consider before travelling abroad in the name of dental tourism:
Before undergoing any kind of dental tourism trip, patients need to weigh their options and make sure that the care they want to receive is best achieved outside of their home country as opposed to getting “at home care” in their country. There are pros and cons to dental tourism and patients need to make sure they understand the risks and benefits of dental tourism before committing to a trip. Once the patient has done the proper research about planning a trip for cosmetic dental work, he or she can feel confident that the trip will be successful with an improved aesthetic appearance and functional improvements with the teeth.