Dental tourism: What risks are involved?

A boarding pass and an Australian passport

Read time: 2 mins

Complex dental treatment can sometimes come at a high cost. Depending on the circumstances some Australians consider getting their treatment overseas to get a ‘free’ holiday out of their dental treatment instead of having it done at home. But what are the risks? What is the real ‘cost’ you are being asked to pay? Is there a reason dental treatment is significantly cheaper in the developing world? And is it worth the risk?

While you may know someone who has successfully undergone dental work overseas, or you’re enticed by the potential savings, you should know that there are some very serious risks.

Something might go wrong… very wrong.

Things can go wrong in the dental chair. If you’re overseas receiving treatment and are the subject of an emergency dental or medical situation, you may not have the luxury of expert emergency care, support from family and friends, or even the ability to communicate to health care professional in your spoken language. Australian dentists are appropriately trained to deal with dental emergencies.

The materials used might be cheap, damaged or faulty.

Aussies seeing medical treatment overseas commonly undergo procedures that require dental materials such as crowns, bridges or dental implants. If you return from your overseas treatment and after a short time you discover a fault in the work, who will repair it? Who will you complain to and how will you pay for the subsequent treatment to fix the work? The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration ensures that products used in Australia are of a quality suitable for the Australian public.

Is the dentist qualified to perform the treatment?

Do you know that the dentist you are seeing overseas is appropriately trained and qualified to perform the treatment they have promised? Some countries accept a standard of education and training that would be considered sub-standard here and often the result of your treatment reflects this training.

In Australia, dentists and dental specialists undergo extensive training at university, are registered to practise under the conditions of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, and undergo mandatory continuing professional development.

It is also worth considering if this treatment needs to be re-done, the solutions may be complex and costly to repair and at times a compromised result may be all that is possible as irreversible damage may have been done.

Infection and Spread of Disease

Infection and spread of disease in hospitals and dental practices in some other countries are a very real concern. In Australia, dental practices adhere to strict infection control protocols imposed by the Australian Dental Association, and the Dental Board of Australia. Your oral health is very important. Whether you need a simple filling or complex dental work you should always be aware and informed of the benefits and risks associated with treatment.

While the financial cost of treatment may appear high, your health is very important. Before you seriously consider dental treatment overseas, consult a local dentist to weigh up your options. If you’ve already made up your mind to receive your dental treatment overseas, do your research. Just remember, it’s your money, your teeth and your health.

This article first appeared on the Australian Dental Association website.


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