Dental implants are an exciting potential solution for people with missing teeth. Because they look and function almost identically to natural teeth, they can be the ideal treatment for those who want to fill gaps in their smile, or those who want an alternative to dentures.
In recent years, some Australians have begun travelling to countries like Thailand, India, or the Philippines in order to save money on dental treatments like implants. Known as “dental tourism,” these trips are often a holiday and dental visit combined.
Saving money on your dental work (all while you’re on holiday) doesn’t sound too bad, right? Coupled with promises from tourism agencies who profit from these sorts of trips, the idea can start to sound pretty persuasive.
However, there are serious risks involved in dental tourism. Before considering having treatments like dental implants done overseas, you should be aware of possible consequences.
Most patients are unlikely to get travel insurance and have very little recourse if something goes wrong. If you’re unhappy with your treatment or something goes wrong, you have rights that can protect you in Australia. Overseas treatment leaves little to no recourse in these situations.
Treatments like dental implants are highly complex, which means the stakes are often higher than your average check-up and clean. Dr Shane Fryer, Federal President of the American Dental Association, has said that you can of course find high-quality treatment overseas, but that there are less guarantees than at home and that consequences can be greater1. “…Most that take advantage of these ‘holidays want fairly complex dentistry done,” Dr Fryer has stated. “The more complex the treatment, the greater likelihood that something will go wrong. And so when complex treatment fails, it fails big time”1.
Dental procedures that are more complex often require multiple visits that can span a long period of time. If you need to return for treatment (or if you need retreatment), the costs involved could cancel out initial savings.
In Australia, infection control standards are world best practice. Depending on the country, infection control requirements may be less stringent. These sorts of requirements are especially important for dentistry that involves surgery (like dental implants!).
If you decide that you would still prefer to take on the risks of overseas dental implants, your most important tool will be research. This can be difficult if you do not have in-depth clinical knowledge. It will be important to do as much research as possible and consult friends or family who can vouch for certain practitioners. It is important to keep in mind that travel agents and friends or family may not have the clinical background to fully evaluate treatment received, and that individual circumstances can differ dramatically.