Search ‘dentistry vacation’ online and you will get thousands of hits. This big business is not just for plastic surgery anymore. International dentists give people with little or no dental insurance a chance to do elective procedures they cannot afford back at home. Services are much cheaper. Why? These dentists have lower operational costs, lower insurance rates and education costs, and fewer government requirements.
Our world is opening up, with limitless connections via the Internet. Why not have treatments done elsewhere? You can find many websites where happy consumers discuss fantastic deals. They describe full mouth reconstruction — dentures, crowns, bridges and dental implants, all done at bargain-basement prices. It seems like these people get better treatment at a fraction of the price, and have a great holiday as part of the deal.
In many cases, the results are good. However, they do not always match North American expectations or standards. Extensive and expensive follow-up care and treatment may be required once you return home.
Still, from a distance these deals may seem amazing and impossible to pass up. Keep a few simple guidelines in mind as you decide whether the dentist and treatment plan you are considering is a good idea.
Be sure you can communicate with the dentist – if not in English, in a language you both understand. Another option is to have someone you trust translate for you.
The possibility of infection is a real concern for foreign travellers having invasive treatments. If you could get a disease from the local water or from a spa procedure, then you should be worried about disease transmission with dentistry. Infection control practices help prevent the transmission of organisms that cause disease. They include:
If you are unsure about the dentist’s infection control practices, ask. Still not certain? Take a look around the office. You should see a sterilization unit and the above measures in use.
A wise patient realizes that there are both fixed and variable costs with any treatment. Short and long-term costs exist as well. Be sure you know all comprehensive costs before committing to treatment. Ask for a written cost estimate with the possibility of a pre-authorization from your insurance company. Will your insurance company pay for treatment abroad? Ask for approval in writing first. If they say no, you must pay out of your own pocket.
Make sure that the deal you think you are getting is really a deal. Did you get a written treatment plan and cost estimate from your local dentist first? Do not depend on online ‘comparative cost’ calculators.
What if something goes wrong? Imagine that your restorations crumble and fall apart, or metal copings under the crowns leak so that cavities develop. Who will fix the problem? Who is financially responsible for correcting the damage?
The bottom line is that you are personally responsible for paying for any repairs or revisions resulting from treatment you received out of country. This is very different compared to a relationship with a local dentist to whom you can easily return. In other countries, different dental governing bodies monitor the dentist’s work. Ignorance of the law will not protect you from fraud or shoddy work. It is both your right and your responsibility to be fully aware of local governing bodies and guidelines.
Canadian Dental Association
Alberta Dental Association and College
Organization for Safety,
Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP)
College of Dental Surgeons
of British Columbia
College of Dental Surgeons
Manitoba Dental Association
Royal College of Dental
Surgeons of Ontario
If you have problems after you return home, visit your local family dentist. Together you can discuss what happened and explore your options. Can your dentist help with repairs, or do you need to see a specialist? If necessary, a board-certified prosthodontist can help you with a thorough treatment plan, and outline the options and best path for you to follow.
Supporting your local economy
Consider the local impact of working with a dentist in your community versus a foreign one. The economic benefits of spending your dollars within your local community are more significant than you may realize.
Whether you receive elective or emergency treatment in a foreign location, always be sure you feel comfortable with the environment and people involved. Your personal safety and health come first. You make the decisions about where to have treatment done. By staying well-informed and aware, you are more likely to be happy with the results.