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Dental Tourism : The Perils of Seeking Dental Treatment Abroad

Dental X-ray with Pressure Point

While cosmetic dental procedures correct your smile and help you look great, the cost can sometimes be a barrier to some. Due to their budgeting constraints, some patients develop the consumer’s mindset and try to find a bargain deal.

Yes, it’s perfectly normal to try to fit a cosmetic procedure in your budget, but finding the right dentist isn’t easy – and that too in a different country. While you may find several foreign dentists online, you don’t really know which one is going to be good, and this is where you might feel stuck.

On the Internet, their office pics would be shiny clean and their staff would be smiling, but you can get to know the reality only when you visit them physically, or when things start failing after your return from overseas.

It’s a gamble, and it comes with risks. What if the dentist isn’t qualified enough? While in Australia, there are several standards that all dental clinics have to follow, these standards may not be enforced in other countries.

So, what are the dangers of seeking dental treatment abroad?

Dental Complications Post-surgery

It is worth nothing that with any dental procedures, there is always risk of post-surgery complications. Complications can range from as simple as a nerve dying to as serious as a life-threatening infection. What matters most is what has been done to minimize the risk, and when they do arise, how fast they are dealt with.

In Australia, it is a requirement for dental practices to maintain a strict evident-based infection control to prevent the spread of infection and diseases. In overseas, these rules are often more relax, and sometimes high standard of infection control are not practical because of the the cost needed to maintain such standard, making it enviable for business due to the low standard of living.

Distance will also make dealing with complications almost impossible. Often patient will seek help from their local dentists for managing complications, and this can become a more complicated situation because often the work may need to be redone completely, or in the worse case, impossible to be rectified due to the used of TGA unapproved material or components that are not available in Australia. Sometimes patients have left untreated infection for far too long resulting in substantial bone loss making certain procedures like dental implants no longer possible.

No redress mechanism

Many developing countries do not have a system to properly address medical negligence. In Australia, all dentists deal with two forms of insurance: professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance. These insurances protect patients against medical negligence and provides protection against injury that patients may sustain while attending the dental practice. Many clinics in developing nations offer neither.

Also, in many of these countries, there are no governing bodies such as Australia’s AHPRA and the Dental Board to maintain the high quality of dental care provided by the practitioners.

Under-qualified Practitioners

According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), people who seek cheap dental care in Asia are falling victims to unsafe dental practices and under-qualified practitioners.

In order to practice in Australia, a dentist has to pass several rigorous tests. While many dentists in overseas countries claim to be specialists, their specialization is valid only in their country and not abroad. Some general dentists are also calling themselves ‘specialist’ to market themselves just because they have attended a short workshop on certain procedures.

A brutally honest opinion, even in Australia, you may occasionally come across a bad dentist (we don’t live in a perfect world, right?), but what are your stake in a less-regulated, lower standard of living, overseas country?

Using low-quality materials

In order to provide cheap dentistry, many overseas dentists use low quality material to make their business viable. Good quality dental products are often not cheap, sometimes the cost of a single component can be more than the average monthly wage in those countries. Many of these materials have not undergone rigorous testing and research, and do not have proper long-term studies in their safety and effectiveness.

Fake positive reviews

Many nations in Asia promote dental tourism because of the economic benefits. They spend a lot of money on marketing their services on social media. They carefully remove negative reviews and promote testimonials and positive comments for their services. In fact, many of these positive reviews are written by people employed by the dental practice itself. In Australia, it is illegal for dental practices to published reviews and testimonials in any form of advertising, even if those reviews are genuine.

Buyers Beware

Its is perfectly fine to seek for dental treatment overseas as long as you are aware of the danger and are willing to take the risks associated with it. After all it is your mouth!

Remember, nothing last forever, including any dental work that has been performed in your mouth. However, having a dentist who has your interest in heart, who cares to make a difference in the longevity of his or her work, and having such a dentist to guide you in achieving your goal of a lifelong optimal health, are what good dentistry is all about.

If you do still want to go abroad to get dental treatment, make sure you have explored all the options in Australia, and make sure you check the qualifications and other credentials of the dentist overseas. Stay safe and get a great smile!