Dental tourism: more costly than it may seem

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Your work colleague or old friend comes back from Thailand or Vietnam with a glowing white smile and photos of the poolside hotel they stayed at. They say it cost a third of what their regular dentist quoted them.  Suddenly going overseas to get those veneers or that whitening treatment seems like an excellent idea.  Is it really?  While dental tourism is on the rise for cosmetic dentistry there are serious risks that mean any Australian will want to think twice before booking that plane ticket.  The Australian media has had multiple stories about dental tourism going wrong and the Australian Dental Association advises against it.  Here are four reasons why it's best to think seriously about staying home.

Not all dentists are trained equally

Australia has stringent licensing requirements for all health professionals, including dentists.  The Dental Board of Australia is a division of the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency which ensures that every dentist in Australia meets strict criteria for training and is continuing to update their skills and knowledge on a regular basis.  Dentists have to adhere to standards to continue working.  Different countries have different criteria for registration, so many dentists who can work overseas would be unable to work in Australia without obtaining extra skills.  If you go overseas for cosmetic dentistry you are taking a risk over who is performing the work and what standards they are held to.

Too much work, too little time

Dental tourism tends to pack in multiple treatments in a short time so that patients can get the most out of a short holiday.  While this may seem efficient there are reasons the same cosmetic dentistry may take weeks at home.  Your Australian dentist will be allowing for adequate healing time, the production of materials such as veneers which are custom made and for any adjustments to be made as necessary.  By rushing these procedures you may end up with a poorer result and higher chance of complications in both the short and long term.

Complications are costly

You're very unlikely to be covered by travel insurance if you have any complications, with very few insurers covering medical or dental tourism.  This means that you'll be fitting the bill for any unexpected hospital stays as a result of anaesthesia gone wrong as well as the new ticket home if you're unable to fly due to an infection acquired from the work.  It may end up costing more than what it would have cost at home and leaving you in a vulnerable position should you not have the funds to pay for care for complications.

There's no follow up from afar

A huge part of cosmetic dentistry is making sure you're happy with the result and that there's a good technical and cosmetic finish.  Unfortunately, you won't get that if you go overseas.  If it turns out that your veneers are loose or that your bridge is causing pain then you're going to either have to head back overseas for another costly trip to finish it or go to a dentist at home to fix the problem.  The fix is often more complicated and expensive than having the initial work at home would have been.