Dental tourism has grown immensely over the last decade, due to increased affordability of complex dental procedures. Dental tourism refers to people travelling abroad to undergo major dental procedures such as: implants, crowns and bridges fitting, root canal treatment, fillings, veneers and teeth whitening. However, the issue with going abroad for dentistry is the standards, training and regulations of practitioners overseas.
Australian dentists are trained to an extremely high standard, must be registered, and are required to operate in a strictly-regulated environment, not all countries have the same requirements. So if you go abroad, the dentist you’ve selected may not be as qualified as Australian dentists and may not be working with the same quality materials as those routinely used here.
At Freedom Dental we care about your oral health and can’t stress enough how dangerous it is going abroad for your procedures. So, we have decided to highlight all the risks of having complex dentistry work completed outside of home.
What are the risks?
While the Australian Dental Association (ADA) acknowledges that dental tourism is on the rise, they want people to be aware of the risks with complex dentist procedures overseas.
1. Lack of Regulation
The ADA says the standards of dentistry overseas is not compatible with Australia and there could be issues with cleanliness. A lack of regulation means you can’t guarantee hygiene and sterilisation of dental instruments and overall safety, therefore your gambling with your health by choosing to complete a procedure overseas. There are no strong population-based studies that prove overseas treatment leads to poor outcomes, however there are case studies that exist. These studies outline that lack of accountability and regulation of overseas dentistry, particularly when complications arise.
2. Germs, Bacteria and Infections
When travelling to other countries, you expose yourself to bacteria that your body may not have had contact with before. Therefore conducting in a dental procedure in another country will leave you at an increased risk of picking up a disease. Infection and spread of disease in dental practises overseas are a very real concern. In Australia, dental practices adhere to strict infection control protocols imposed by the Australian Dental Association, the National Health & Medical Research Council, and the Dental Board of Australia. Strict guidelines exist to prevent cross-infection of disease-producing micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Without these guidelines you can be exposing yourself to some very harmful infections, the most common include: Hepatitis viruses, Herpes viruses, HIV and respiratory viruses. It doesn’t matter what procedure you are undertaking, if the clinic overseas doesn’t have a regulated infection protocol you’re exposing yourself to some long term health issues.
3. Materials Could be cheap or damaged:
In Australia, Australian therapeutic goods and dental materials are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure they are of a quality suitable for the public. People who seek dental treatment overseas commonly undergo procedures that require dental material such as crowns, bridges or implants. The issue is, other countries may not have their materials regulated and therefore use something cheap or damaged that could affect your overall health in the future. If you return home from your overseas treatment and there’s a problem with the work, it’ll create a huge issue as your dentist will try and fix the work that was conducted.
4. Recovery Issues
Traveling for dental care increases your risk for recovery issues, particularly if you’re choosing to travel while still recovering. Complex dental procedures need to be conducted over a number of visits as the teeth and gums need sufficient time to recover between procedures. If you’re going in for a treatment such as root canal surgery, you are looking at numerous visits with at least one week apart for recovery. Squeezing in a number of complex procedures into a typical holidays means you’re risking all kinds of complications, even if the work is performed at a high standard.
When travelling overseas, there is cover if you need to go to a dentist for emergency dental treatment to relieve sudden and acute pain from your teeth. However, overseas medical cover on travel insurance policies will not cover cosmetic or elective surgery. This is worth noting as most insurance policies will not cover you for: dental treatment that can be completed at home, major dental work such as crowns, dentures, bridges and implants, and any dental expenses while at home. In addition, travel insurance will not cover damage to or the loss of dental bridges, dentures, mouth guards or braces. Therefore a policy will not cover you for something that can be completed at a higher standard in Australia, if any complications arise from an overseas treatment all the costs will be at your expense, which causes more harm from you and your health.
Evaluating The Risks
While the costs look enticing at first, there’s more to consider when seeking dental treatments abroad. You should never make the decision to travel for a dental procedure solely based on costs, your health and wellbeing is always on the line with these plans.
Surgery is a risky proposition regardless of where it’s done and one of the biggest issues with having treatment done overseas is complications arising after returning home. Revisions and corrections will add significant costs to your original bill, and added expense of returning overseas to see your surgeon. Consequently that low cost isn’t so low anymore and more stress will be put on your teeth and gums trying to correct the wrongs.
The bottom line is, travelling for complex procedures may not be worth it, there’s all sorts of complications that will put your health and wellbeing in danger.
While the procedures in Australia may be costly, there’s a good reason for it. Our dentists have extensive training, regulation for infection control and regulation for dental materials to ensure that all procedures are completed at a quality standard that won’t put your health at risk.
- Australian Dental Association: https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Younger-Adults-18-30/Dental-Tourism
- Dental Guide Australia: https://www.dentalguideaustralia.com/guide-to-dental-tourism/
- The University of Sydney: https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2018/11/06/dental-tourism–things-to-consider-before-going-that-extra-mile-.html
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia-2015/contents/cost-of-dental-care