It all began in the UK
British dental patients are flocking abroad to avoid long queues for access to dentists back home. Cheap flights and bargain prices for treatment are additional incentives.
Some dentists in
As a result, in that year alone more than two million Britons were unable to get dental treatment, so it is no surprise some are resorting to extreme measures to care for their teeth.
Many dental tourism agencies have mushroomed in the
Flocking to Poland and Hungary
To do the same dental treatment in a private dental practice in
The Americans join in
Now, a small but growing number of Americans, prompted by soaring medical costs and dwindling insurance benefits at home, are following suit of the Austrians, Germans and British. They're contributing to the rising popularity of dental tourism, a relatively young trend, but part of a fast-growing global phenomenon in which travelers, typically from wealthier countries, visit less-developed nations for dental care mixed with vacation — all at cut-rate prices.
The price factor
One 52-year-old patient’s dilemma was that her teeth were falling out due to a hereditary gum disease and she did not want dentures. She was told the alternative was to have dental implants done privately which would have cost her £52,000 in the
"No way could I afford £52,000," she lamented. Eventually she found she could get the same treatment for £16,500 in
Another patient was quoted £17,000 by a private practice in
Most of British patients who go abroad for dental treatment need extensive work done: bridges and implants, which are not usually available on the NHS. However, with NHS dentists becoming increasingly scarce - just four for every 10,000 people in
A single dental implant - a metal screw placed into the jaw bone to hold a replacement tooth or bridge - costs £1,000 - £2,000 at a dentist's in north
How can they keep costs down? “One reason: the manpower is very cheap,” says a dentist who moved his practice to
A word of caution
The British Dental Association (BDA) urged those thinking of traveling abroad for treatment to be cautious. They warned that if any complications develop when patients are home they may find local dental surgeons reluctant to take on responsibility for extensive treatment that was done another dentist, particularly one overseas.
As for calibre of care, the American Dental Association similarly offers caution. The concerns are not for the quality of dentistry received... but for the patient when it comes to long-term follow-up and possible complications. The term 'buyer beware' is very much in play here, as you may have fewer options after treatment if you feel it has not gone well.
That is one of the potential problems, finding aftercare in the home country for treatment that was done abroad. However, many patients are not worried about that as they are confident in the quality of the work they have received and believe the effort involved in traveling abroad is less stressful than the inconvenience of waiting for treatment in the
All's well that ends well
Dentistry and tourism seem an ideal match. Patients are delighted, for example, to get all of their work done in one fell swoop. And once the major part was out of the way, stopping back for brief fittings left ample time for sightseeing.