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Dental Tourism The Facts, The Risks, The Benefits

dental treatment and negligence
Dental Claim for foreign dental cosmetic treatments

Dental Tourism

It is, frankly,  an undeniable fact that “Dental tourism”, particularly for dental implants. And other expensive cosmetic dental treatments, is a trend that is rapidly growing.  The increasing expense of dental treatment in the UK is a driving factor here. A growing number of people in the UK are, therefore, thinking with their wallets and opting to get cosmetic dental work done abroad for a fraction of the price that it would cost in England. Sometimes this treatment comes with a “free” holiday at the same time. By 2019 ( you can guess the reason why 2020 is an exception) over 50,000 people a year in the UK travel overseas for medical treatment and 40% of these did so entirely for dental cosmetic treatment.

The pioneers and probably the experts of so called “Dental Tourism” are the Hungarians. The phenomenon of dental treatment abroad probably started in the 1980’s with, predominantly Germans seeking cheaper dental clinics outside of Germany, Hungary was already high on the list.  Travelling for dental treatments popularity surged, however,  with the advent of the budget airlines in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This trend led to a boom in the industry.  Once Hungary joined the EU, Budapest became the market leader & most popular destination for Germans, Scandinavians and Brits. 

Why are Dental Implants Cheaper Abroad?

Without this article, resolving into a diatribe on comparative economics, it’s both fair and simple to say that some countries developing economies will probably and at least for sometime lag behind the leading countries and the difference can show as both cheaper products and services for the consumer.   So, because of this, dentists overheads are much less, wages are lower and the result is the services offered are typically much cheaper.

The most popular destinations of Hungary, Poland & Turkey have unique economic circumstances which enable these prices, partly determined by their own currency exchange rates.  Whilst Hungary & Poland became members of the EU in 2004, they are yet to join the Euro & these factors helped their dental tourism industry.

What is the Quality of Dental Treatments Abroad?

As with all professional clinical services, there are good and bad examples of dentists abroad. There are many examples of successful clinics who have invested in the latest technology, they have access to the best expertise in their country and they have cutting edge treatments to offer.  They are aware of the impact of social media and the last thing they want or need is poor reviews.  Overall the quality is as good or better than what can be found on an English High Street.

Dental Implants and Claims

Teeth in a day’ with All-on-4 implants

A popular option for patients wanting full mouth dental implants abroad is All-on-4 implants. This solution suits people who have lost all their teeth (endontelous). The name comes from the idea that all the new teeth are supported on just four implants in the lower jaw, and six in the upper. This makes the process quicker and cheaper than traditional treatments which require 8-10 implants in each jaw.  

Whereas some types of implant have to be fitted during surgery and then left for 4-6 months to fuse with the bone before abutments and crowns are fitted, immediate implant treatment allows patients to walk away the same day with teeth fitted to their implants.

A temporary fixed bridge or denture is attached to each arch as part of the initial treatment, and after 6-9 months this is replaced with a permanent prosthesis. This means that patients needn’t suffer the embarrassment and inconvenience of living with no teeth for several months.

What do All-on-4 implants cost abroad?

It’s difficult to give an exact price because the cost of this treatment can vary so much depending on the current condition of your mouth and jaw bone. Knowing that a new set of teeth can easily cost £10,000 per jaw with a dentist in the UK, it’s safe to say you can save thousands of pounds by getting All-on-4 implants abroad.

Hungary, Poland and Turkey are some of the cheapest countries for dental implants, including implant dentures.

Dental Negligence and Dental cosmetic treatments abroad

Getting Dental Veneers abroad

These are thin plates and are-made to measure and are applied to each tooth individually to improve the aesthetic appearance. If you’re getting traditional porcelain veneers abroad you’ll probably have to stay for around a week while they’re made – but it may take up to two weeks if you’re having a large number of veneers fitted. However, newer technologies make it possible for veneers and crowns to be created while you wait.  Composite veneers are moulded by the dentist as they are applied and can be done in a day, but the downside is that this material doesn’t last as long.

Potential risks of visiting a dentist abroad

Getting dental work abroad is a big decision, and there are many things to consider when deciding if it’s right for you.

Communication

Should you experience any complications during your treatment, the last thing you want is to have trouble understanding what’s going on. But communication problems can run deeper than just the language. When you have a complex procedure like implants or veneers there is a lot of information that you need to process and choices you have to make.

Aftercare

The problem with flying medical treatments is, there is very little intermediate or long term care. You pay, you leave, you keep your fingers crossed.  The best advice is to Research the treatment your having. Try and figure out

  • Will I need to stay overnight in a clinic or hospital?
  • What will I experience after the procedure, and how long does it usually last?
  • Will I be able to care for myself during my recovery?
  • How long after the procedure will I be fit to travel home?
  • What if I’m unhappy with the results?

Dealing with complications

Consider taking somebody with you on your trip – not only to help look after you immediately after your treatment, but to step in and help if there are any complications. Although relatively rare, possible complications with treatments like implants and veneers include: 

  1. Infection in the area treated
  2. Damage to other teeth
  3. Nerve damage, causing tingling or numbness in your mouth
  4. Sinus problems (from implants in the upper jaw)
  5. Increased sensitivity in teeth (from the enamel removed to fit veneers)

Speak to your clinic or agency to find out what support they would offer in such a situation. Also check what would happen if you experience problems after returning home. How long is your treatment guaranteed for? Would you have to travel back to the dental clinic abroad to receive further treatment, or does the company have a clinic in the UK that you could use? Would the cost of this be covered by your package or would you have to foot the bill?

Ongoing care

Treatments like implants will require regular follow-up care for the rest of your life. Because there are so many different systems used for implants it can be difficult for a UK dentist to provide this care without having access to all of the documentation related to your treatment. That should be a concern for you.

When choosing an overseas dentist, ask what systems and materials they use for treatment and what documentation they provide. If they use a brand available in the UK, that should make your follow-up care more straightforward. Also ask whether they can provide your medical notes in English so your dentist back home has a full record of your procedure.

If there is certain scheduled work required after your treatment, see first of all if this can be done in the uk at your regular dentist, the costs of travel here operate in reverse and it is usually more expensive for routine work to be done abroad when factoring in the costs of travel and hotel accommodation etc.

Insurance

Most travel insurance policies only cover you for emergency dental care – not procedures you choose to have (known as “elective treatment”). Guess what, that means if something goes wrong your likely to be not covered for anything. Make sure this angle is covered first before anyone even touches your teeth.

Finding a reputable dental clinic abroad

To minimise the risk of any of the above problems, you’ll need to do plenty of research before visiting a dentist abroad. This should include:

  1. Verifying the qualifications and certification of the dentist(s) you’re considering
  2. Checking online forums to find dental tourism reviews and feedback from other patients who have used the same clinic and dentist

If possible, arrange to speak directly to your chosen dentist before you commit to getting dental implants abroad, or any other dental work. This will let you gauge their level of English and will also give you a chance to ask any questions you have.

You might want to ask how many times they have carried out this particular procedure, what their success rates are, and what risks are associated with the work. Don’t be afraid to ask to see samples of their work; they may even be able to put you in touch with a past patient who has undergone the same work that you’re planning. Of course they will pick a customer that they like and who is going to give a glowing review, however, be canny ask the right questions and hear the things you are not being told.

Dental clinicians will always wear masks and sterile gloves, even before C-19, and all equipment should come from sterile packaging. There should be a clean instrument tray and dirty instrument tray available to them when operating on you.  You may even ask to see how they sterilise their equipment. If the clinic is ISO 9001 certified, this shows they operate to a certain level of quality management standards.

Is it all worth it?

The differences in dental charges are quite apparent – a filling can start from as little as £6 in Hungary, compared with £51.30 on the NHS and £100+ when done privately. Implants are available in some destinations for under £500. Crowns can be fitted for under £200.00  In the UK, the surgical removal of a wisdom tooth could cost up to £500 and then £1,000 per crown. Some practices would be cheaper; London dentists tend to be even more expensive. Cosmetic Dental implants would cost £2,000-£2,500 per tooth.

Most Popular Dental Tourism Destinations

Hungary

The savings are  great and the city of Budapest is well known to uk travellers, with cheaply available budget airlines offering regular trips.  Hungary stole a March on European travel destinations for medical treatment and the city of Budapest continues to build on that early reputation.

Poland

A short low-cost flight from the UK, dentists in Poland train for five years and are required to pass further exams every five years to continue practicing. Most major cities, including the capital Warsaw, offer care for visitors from overseas and prices can be up to 50% cheaper than in the UK. English is widely spoken in the larger cities and the Country is among the most beautiful and unspoilt in the EU.

Costa Rica

It’s already very very  popular with Americans seeking dental treatment as many materials are approved by US agencies and imported from the United States. Costs can be around 25-33% cheaper than in the UK and the standard of dentistry is very very high indeed.

Czech Republic

Prague is an emerging centre for dental tourism owing to high standards of clinical treatment and prices around 15% lower than the UK. Easily assessable from the UK by budget airlines and with first class tourist facilities. All dentists in the Czech Republic must be registered with the Ministry of Health and the Czech Dental Chamber.

Thailand

Prices are around 50% cheaper than the UK. The Thai government’s Ministry of Health is actively trying to make Thailand a leading spot for health tourism and as such English-speaking dentists and modern clinics can be found easily.

Conclusions

On the whole it could be said that regardless of where you have medical or dental treatment there is a risk. It is not made worse or better by being abroad. This is true, however, it is the aftercare and routes to resolution that differ. Ultimately, treatments in UK can be subject to UK law and the dentist involved can be brought to discipline under the rules set by thier professional associations.

Bad dentists in the uk can also be sued for dental negligence and compensation can be found via a compulsory insurance organisation. This is not a fact for foriegn dentists, many of whom do not have a professional organisation that is mandatory and do not have compulsory insurance products. For them it means that the EU dentists and lawers are the only and best hope for a UK consumer and that means legal charges and problems with service and foreign courts. The whole thing essentially is fine if it all goes well and a nightmare if it doesnt.

That is the key and the catch to such treatment – its cheaper and its fine, but if it goes wrong you will wish to your last penny that you had never bothered.

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