May 13, 2021

The Hidden Dangers of Dental Tourism

How far are you willing to travel for beautiful, natural-looking, new teeth? Would you be willing to fly to another country in order to save a few thousand dollars? If this idea is bewildering to you, you might be surprised just how many Australians chose to travel overseas for dental treatments each year. 

But what seems like a good deal at first, also bears a great amount of danger and uncertainty, from questionable accreditations and substandard education to a lack of regulation and language barriers. We're going to uncover the truth about dental tourism and discuss alternatives that suit any budget. 

What is Dental Tourism?

Dental tourism refers to people travelling overseas to undergo dental procedures such as root canal treatments or to have dental implants and dentures fitted.

Medical tourism has been booming over the last decade. Even the Australian Dental Association (ADA) acknowledges that dental tourism is on the rise. Specialised medical tourism agencies are doing a terrific job advertising cheap dental treatments in popular destinations such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. 

One in five Australians is unable to afford treatment recommended by their local dentist. Who could blame them for seeking alternatives abroad? The promise of all-in-one package deals that not only include dental treatments but an exotic holiday, flights and luxury hotel accommodation, sounds just too good to be true. But what if it is?

It’s Not All Sun, Sea And Smiles

The local dental industry is not the only one losing patients to cheap overseas providers. Cosmetic enhancement surgeries are also becoming more and more popular for overseas travel. 

Most people seek treatment abroad when they require complex dental procedures such as full- arch restorations. With out-of-pocket costs of up to several tens of thousands of dollars, these are a lot more expensive in Australia, which is only made worse by the fact that they are not subsidised by the government. 

Considering that about half of Australians also don't have private dental insurance, the allure and convenience of dental tourism become undeniable. 

risks associated

What Are The Risks Associated with Dental Tourism? 

If you are considering travelling abroad for a much needed dental treatment, you should be aware of the involved risks.

  • A Lower Standard of Dentistry

Australia is continuously ranked in the top 10 countries with the highest medical standards. Local dentists are trained to the highest standard, have to complete a Bachelor of Dental Surgery or Bachelor of Dental Science, be registered with the Dental Board of Australia and renew their registration annually with a minimum of 60 hours of Continuing Professional Development to be met every three years. 

With overseas dental treatments, however, it’s unsure what you’re buying into. Overseas dentists may not be working to the same standards or use the same quality of materials. In most cases, it’ll be very difficult to verify accreditations and the actual quality of treatment - and don’t let charming medical tourism agents tell you otherwise. 

  • A Lack of Accountability and Regulation

Australia has systems and regulations put in place to control the quality of dental treatments and give you peace of mind. These include state and federal legislation, state and federal dental boards and the Australian Dental Association (ADA). 

When you choose a Next Smile™ dentist to perform your All-on-4® procedures, you’re also covered under our full and transparent warranty, as we hold ourselves to the highest standards of excellence, integrity and trust. So if things don’t go as planned or you’re not happy with the results, you know you can fall back on warranty. 

Dr Carmelo Bonanno, a dentist and member of the ADA  explained in an interview with Choice: "If you see me you know where I've been trained and that I'm registered, and if you're not happy with the work there are avenues to complain." Overseas, you might not only face unexpected costs but might have to fight for yourself in cases of medical malpractice. 

  • No Insurance Support Overseas

In saying that, the more complicated the procedure, the more things can go wrong and being stuck abroad when the unexpected does happen, can quickly become very expensive. 

If you can't pay for your urgent medical care and don't have travel insurance that covers emergency situations, you might need to contact your family and friends back home for financial assistance.

  • Unforeseeable Outcomes

Whilst the Next Smile™ All-on-4® approach is backed up by 25 years of clinical research and development expertise and has a 98 per cent success rate, there has been very little documentation regarding the long-term success of similar overseas dental treatments. 

The case studies that do exist, point out a general lack of accountability and regulation, particularly when complications arise.

The ADA has published a summary of the risks associated with dental tourism

Dental Tourism - Things to Consider 

seek treatment overseas

If you still decide to seek treatment overseas, here are some considerations to keep in mind!

  • You’re not booking a vacation

You shouldn’t regard your trip as an overseas holiday. The truth is, it’ll be anything but. Holidays come and go, but bad dental treatments can affect you for the rest of your life. It won’t be a one-stop-shop, so don’t rush it. 

Procedures such as All-on-4® are complex and require time for the surgeon to carefully plan your surgery. Your new teeth will be ‘made-to-measure’ and after the procedure, you won’t be able to just hop on a flight and go back home right away either - even if you’ve been promised new teeth in a day. 

If you’re flying right after you’ve had surgery, you’re greatly increasing your risk for blood clots. You need to allow up to three weeks for postoperative checkups and for it to be safe to fly. If you have a tight schedule, be wary about committing to treatments overseas. If you decide to take the risk, make plenty of time and choose flexible airfares in case you need to stay longer than expected.

  • Be wary of dentist’ credentials

Doing your homework and researching both the clinic and dental surgeons of your choice is incredibly important. Be wary if a clinic’s online presence appears very sparse and no one seems to have heard of it. Overseas dental clinics usually do not have the same level of clinical research backing their treatments. For that reason, we do not recommend choosing the alternate route, and rather trusting a local provider. 

Next Smile™ prides itself on having years of clinical research and experience backing their procedures and techniques. When choosing the All-on-4® treatment, you have peace of mind knowing Next Smile™ has already done all the research for you so you know you’re in good hands. Our professional and skilled dentists have been specially trained to perform the All-on-4® treatment and can best guide you on your dental procedure. 

It is important to note that if you are seeking dental implant work overseas, you should be aware of the quality of implants being used there; as often the implants used are not available in Australia due to not being TGA approved. This means if there are any problems, reputable dental clinics in Australia like Next Smile™ cannot fix them as we do not have the tools that are required for the unusual (often cheap and inferior) implants or technique. You would therefore need to go back to where you originally had the implant procedure done or start again here in Australia which results in spending more time, money and having to increase the length of your recovery. 

get in touch with the dentist

If considering a dentist overseas, get in touch with the dentist or clinic directly and ask for a full treatment plan, the time frame and total costs. If you feel like they’re not being transparent, hesitate to answer your questions or their answers aren’t satisfying, don’t be afraid to get another opinion and or continue your search locally. Typically, overseas dental clinics may be unable to give you proper answers or avoid discussing certain topics. 

Treatments like dental implant surgeries and All-on-4® are meant to last a lifetime. If your surgeon is not offering extensive warranties or a lifetime guarantee, you should reconsider. 

At Next Smile™, we go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable with your decision and answer any questions you might have so that your procedure goes as smoothly as possible. Trusting your dental provider is incredibly important as dental implants are life-long decisions.

  • Are You Willing to Accept A Different Level Of Treatment And Care?

Australia has one of the best medical systems in the world, with extremely high standards for hygiene, and procedural routine. No matter where you decide to travel for your dental treatment, you’ll want to make sure that they are able to match the Australian standards to a level that you are comfortable with and used to receiving at home. 

  • Be Prepared To Pay More Money When Things Go Wrong

If complications do arise or you have to return for a second treatment half a year later, you may very well lose the savings you made initially by opting to get treated overseas. Accept that you might need to go back for more work or have to see your local dentist in order to fix problems that arise from the procedure. In the end, you do often get what you pay for.

The fact is, no matter how carefully planned or executed a surgery is, things sometimes simply don’t go as planned. Even though it won’t pay for your surgery, ensure you have travel insurance that covers you on your journey. If anything goes wrong, you could save thousands of dollars in additional medical expenses and avoid being stuck in a foreign country with no immediate help. 

Have You Decided Against An Overseas Dental Treatment?

If you do decide to stay at home and seek treatment in Australia instead but are still concerned about the costs involved in the dental treatments you require, there may be payment and financing options you’re unaware of. 

Here are some alternative solutions:

  • Start with extras insurance: Extras cover will help pay for some of your dental costs, but won't pay for everything. It’s always best for you to check with the dental insurance company on what the rebate would be for their work; often treatment plans will have the item numbers for the treatment being performed. Major dental work categorised by the insurance company is usually capped per annum. Check the fine print because serious dental surgery may fall under your hospital insurance.
  • Payment plans tailored to your needs: Many dental clinics, Next Smile™ included, offer flexible payment plans to help anyone afford the quality care they need. Chat to your dentist and their team about financial assistance. They will be happy to help you.
  • Early release of your Super: You can apply for the early release of your Superannuation to pay for certain dental treatments in particular if you have a failing dentition. Contact your super provider to find out how to access your funds.

At Next Smile™, we know that you can’t possibly put a price on happiness and comfort. We’re also aware that pricing can be a significant barrier to many Australians who seek treatment. 

We believe that everyone deserves a smile to be proud of and provide a range of flexible payment options to make this dream a reality. The friendly Next Smile™ smile team is happy to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call or schedule an obligation-free consultation with your local Next Smile™ clinic today.