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11 June 2018

Is dental tourism really worth it?

There are arguments for and against combining dentistry work with a holiday, otherwise known as dental tourism. But either way, it’s crucial to be informed and understand how everything works.

Generally speaking, a lot of the work that people get done overseas is usually quite extensive. While the smaller procedures are done here in Australia, patients will travel overseas to get the bigger, more expensive work done, usually combining the work with an overseas holiday.

The main problem is that a lot of dental systems that are used in other countries aren’t used here. This means if the work, for whatever reason, fails or needs repairing, dentists in Australia can’t fix it. Especially because dentists here aren’t familiar with the work that has been done. For example, when it comes to dental implants, there are hundreds of different brands used. The brand a particular dentist uses overseas may not be available here which means we won’t have the correct resources to fix it in Australia.

Checking credentials for dental tourism

When it comes to dental tourism, it’s also important to check on the practices and methods used. As a general rule in Australia, any equipment that is put in your mouth during a dental procedure has to be checked and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. There are very strict guidelines here as to what can be used in a client’s mouth and the sterilisation procedures are rigorous.

I don’t know what the guidelines are in other countries; I don’t know what sterilisation procedures have been used. In some countries, the procedures and health regulation bodies are a lot less stringent.

You also don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. How well are the instruments cleaned?

Getting problems fixed

Another question worth asking about the practice you visit overseas is, will the practice exist if I need to go back?

I recently heard of a case where someone went to a dentist in Thailand for some implants. The patient emailed back and forth before coming up with a dental plan with the dentist. The dental tourism job was all booked. The patient flew to Thailand, had the job done, and then, when she came back to Australia, she started having problems with her teeth. But when she emailed them back, there was no response. Eventually she found out that the surgery had closed and the dentist had moved away.

If that sounds unlikely, remember, poor dental procedures don’t always collapse the day afterwards. It’s possible that while the procedure will be fine on day one or day two, after a few days, the procedure may fail. When it comes to implants, a lot of the time the failure occurs when the implant doesn’t integrate; they become loose and then they need to be surgically removed. This actually leads to more work because there is bone to remove and grafts to deal with. Down the line, having work done overseas may lead to even more extensive work in Australia. So was that dental tourism trip even worth it?

Good today, but how about tomorrow?

And while this is just one example, remember, the results may be fantastic now, but will they still be fantastic in five or ten years’ time? And when the results of your dental trip fail, will those dentists still be there? If not, can it be fixed in Australia?

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