Dental Week: Dental tourism a ‘gamble’

Don’t gamble with your wallet, or your dental health, is the message from the Australian Dental Association, which has warned about the risks of so-called "dental tourism".
Don’t gamble with your wallet, or your dental health, is the message from the Australian Dental Association, which has warned about the risks of so-called "dental tourism".

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Australians are being warned about the possible risks of so-called “dental tourism” – undertaking dental procedures overseas.

Complex dental procedures that need follow-up work and time to settle, not to mention the risk of complications that need corrective action, means undertaking dental tourism on the back of a cheap holiday risks costing more than the purported savings – and possibly more pain, according to Australian Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson Dr Michael Foley.

“The decision to become a dental tourist usually comes to down to one simple thing – saving money. And while it’s true you may save some money in the short term, the reality is that things can go wrong and all those expected savings can quickly disappear and end up costing more than the holiday itself,” he said.

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Dr Foley recommended prospective travellers consider the following before undergoing treatment overseas.

Too many procedures, too little time: Many dental treatments, such as root canal surgery, need to be conducted over a number of visits at least a week apart to give teeth and gums sufficient time to recover between procedures. Trying to squeeze several complex procedures into a short holiday means people risk all kinds of complications.

Things can go wrong: Returning overseas to attend the original practitioner for any corrective work means savings gained from that first ‘cheap flight’ ticket are likely to be lost. Also, there may be extra costs with seeking an Australian qualified dentist to attend to the dental issue ‘mid-stream’ which is not recommended.

Standards may not be as stringent: Australian dentists are trained to a very high standard, must be registered and are required to operate in a strictly-regulated environment with quality materials. Not all countries have the same requirements.

Infection and antibiotic resistance: Previously rare in Australia, antibiotic-resistant superbugs are appearing more and more as people return from treatment in overseas hospitals and clinics that do not adhere to Australia’s infection control standards.

Dr Foley said complex procedures – medical or dental – should not be done over the course of a holiday.

“If you have the need for a complex medical treatment or procedure, it is best done in Australia where you can be assured of the safety and quality standards in place, and of the certainty of follow up,” he said.

“Don’t risk the ‘cheap health holiday away’ only to have a ‘big health bill’ after you come back.”

Consider the risks.

Consider the risks.