Jetting off to a tropical paradise and staying in a nice hotel for a few weeks, all while saving money, sounds like a dream! Getting your dental treatment sorted for a fraction of the cost (compared to New Zealand) in between lying by a pool and having massages. How can there be a downside?
Dental tourism is a tricky topic for us as dentists. Choosing who, how and where you get your dental treatment from is completely your choice. One of our roles as dentists is to provide you with the best clinical advice to help you make informed decisions. Dental tourism can be an attractive option for some people, but the risks can be greater than people realise.
Along with the ability to take a holiday at the same time, dental tourism is appealing to some people due to price of the treatments offered. Some of the more expensive components of dentistry such as crowns, bridges and fillings are offered at a fraction of the cost in New Zealand. However, the quality and the products, training of the dentists and health and safety practices are where risks may lay.
We have seen full mouth crowns that the patient wanted replacing immediately upon return from overseas. We have also seen crowns received overseas with large gaps in the margins where decay and gum disease can start. We have had to re-do the crowns for the patient to ensure their oral health is not adversely impacted. We are always happy to help patients get the best dental outcomes, including re-doing treatments received overseas where required. But our concern is the additional cost and stress to the patient.
Liken it a bit to ‘leaky homes’. You initially get a nice new house that looks great as far as you can tell. Then some time down the track, disaster strikes and not only do you have to replace the leaking exterior, but also the damaged internal structures. Teeth can be exactly the same and it will cost far more than the initial pre trip quote.
There are two treatment areas which are particularly troublesome if received overseas; dental implants and orthodontics.
Dental Implants are planned and executed as a team, between the dentist, oral surgeon and lab technician. There are very few dentists who would restore an implant placed overseas unless there were very detailed notes, it was placed where they would want it placed and it was of a type/brand they were familiar with. Unless the patient planned to return to the holiday country several times as the implant integrates (usually at least three months), this is particularly problematic. Also, further down the track when more treatment is needed, if the implant is not a mainstream brand, difficulties can be encountered sourcing the componentry that goes on top.
Orthodontics is a no go unless you plan to holiday for 1 – 2 years while your teeth straighten. No dentist or orthodontist will take on a braces case where the brackets have been put on by someone else with no plan. The braces will have to be removed, a plan made and new braces put on. Often the charge to put braces on in places like Thailand is actually more than what we would charge in New Zealand.
We encourage our patients or anyone thinking about taking up a dental tourism package to consider the following context:
- You are not getting the same standards of care/quality control and cross infection control as in New Zealand
- You are not getting the same quality of dental degree held by the provider or continuing education requirements that are enforced in New Zealand
- You are not getting the same level of follow-up care and ongoing maintenance – after all, you won’t even be in the same country as the treatment provider once you return home
- You are not getting treatment that is covered by ACC if there are any medical misadventure claims (as it would be in New Zealand). It is also highly unlikely that any travel insurance will cover planned overseas treatment or the consequences of that.
- You are not getting a treatment provider that stands behind their work and cares about their clinical reputation within New Zealand. Providers who treat people who live elsewhere often talk about “Geographical Success” i.e. because it is hard and costly for the patient to get in touch and return for remedial treatment, it is deemed a success, for these reasons, rather than the treatment necessarily being successful/ problem free.
Yes, good dentistry can be pricey, but in the long term, it is much more cost effective than bad dentistry done on the cheap. If you have been thinking about dental tourism, or are concerned that treatments that we provide are not within your budget, come and have a chat to us first. We are happy to talk you through the range of treatment and payment options we have available so that you can achieve the best outcomes within your budget. You can contact our friendly reception team on 04 473 7802.