For many, dental tourism sounds like a tempting way to save money on cosmetic dentistry. In fact, traveling to another country for dental treatment and other healthcare is a multi-billion-dollar industry attracting 290,000 Americans in 2020 alone.
Despite the growing popularity and the benefit of potential savings on dental costs, there are also some significant risks and downsides associated with traveling abroad for dental care. Before we look at the pros and cons of dental and medical tourism, it’s important to know exactly what it is and why it is appealing to so many people.
What Is Dental Tourism?
Dental tourism refers to visiting another country for dental work including tooth veneers, implants, dental crown work, and other procedures. Some dental services are more affordable abroad than they would be in someone’s home country. This is especially true if they do not have dental insurance.
While any country can be a destination for a medical tourist, there are some that are well-known due to their affordable healthcare costs, sight-seeing opportunities, English-speaking staff, up-to-date facilities, and relative closeness to affluent countries that produce the tourists themselves.
Some of the most common countries that promote medical tourism include:
- Costa Rica
Pros and Cons of Traveling Abroad For Veneers
Before you decide to save money by going to another country for porcelain veneers or other dental work, it’s a good idea to weigh those benefits with potential risks and adverse outcomes.
- Low-Cost Dental Procedure: This is the most obvious reason for a dental tourist. People are always looking to save a little money and dental healthcare in the United States and other affluent countries can certainly be expensive. While the dental work itself can cost significantly less, even up to 50 to 75% less in some cases, you also need to consider the cost of travel, potential follow-up appointments, and the long-term cost of subpar dental treatment.
- Excuse for a Vacation (A Dental Vacation): Going abroad for medical tourism is, after all, an excuse to go abroad in the first place. You can go sightseeing, visit historic sights, and get away from your regular life for a little while. While that sounds great, we suggest keeping your vacation and dental treatment separate.
- Dental Standards: In the United States and other first-world countries, there are regulatory organizations like the American Dental Association, CDC, and other professional dental boards. That means less risk of tooth infection, permanent damage, and unnecessary dental procedures. If something goes wrong in another country, you don’t have the rights that you have with a qualified dentist in your own country.
- Lower Quality Dental Care: While it’s certainly possible to go to another country for porcelain veneer treatment, dental implants, or other types of cosmetic dentistry, you may end up with poor-quality work that doesn’t last or looks unnatural. You could even end up like TikTok user aida_azizii who told her awful story about getting atrocious, “piano-key” veneers as well as a marriage proposal from the dentist himself.
- More Expensive Long-Term Costs: While the dental costs themselves may be significantly lower if you opt for going abroad for dental services, the long-term costs may be substantially more. That’s because shoddy work can contribute to follow-up visits, surgical repair, serious complications, and the need to repair mistakes. Not only that, but overseas dentists won’t take any insurance that you might have.
- Language Barrier: Communicating with your dentist is an important part of the process. If you go to a dental office abroad, there could be serious consequences if explanations or concerns are lost in translation. The outcome could be disastrous for you and your mouth.
- Unnecessary Treatment: A dentist abroad may claim that you need more work than necessary because they are trying to make as much money as possible off of your search for affordable cosmetic dentistry. For example, Natalie Guerrero was persuaded into having unnecessary veneers that left her in agony and forced her to spend thousands of dollars to repair the damage from procedures she didn’t need in the first place.
photo: Tiktok – aida_azizii
The Risks Involved With Dental Tourism
There are lots of risks associated with dental tourism. You may receive haphazard treatment that looks fake. You may even get different treatments than you expected like a dental crown instead of veneers.
Furthermore, the work could be permanent, but the material may be low-quality. Once finished, it may be impossible to get your old teeth back, so you’re stuck with a regrettable mistake for the rest of your life.
In addition, a dental tourist has a higher likelihood of tooth infection, pain, and future complications, which means additional work and higher costs. In fact, 85% of British Dental Association (BDA) dentists treated complications caused by low-cost dental tourism. We suspect the numbers are similar in the United States.
Plus, these additional treatments can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, making the entire process more expensive than it would have been if you had originally visited a qualified dental professional in your own country.
Some dentists in the United States will even refuse to treat patients who have had work done abroad because of the liability risks.
How To Reduce Risks When Traveling Abroad For Dental Care
Despite the risks, some people will still choose to have dental work done in another country. There are steps you can take to minimize your risks:
1. Do your research: Check out the dentist’s reviews, licensing, and experience. Make sure that they have malpractice insurance as well. You can even contact their local dental association to see if there have been any complaints lodged against the dentist.
2. Communicate your expectations: Before you go, make sure that you and the dentist are on the same page about what procedure you want to have done, how much it will cost, and what the results will look like. It’s important that you understand everything that will be done so that there are no surprises.
3. Get a second opinion: Once you’ve decided on the best cosmetic dentist for you, get a second opinion from another professional to make sure that the work is actually necessary and that the proposed treatment plan is appropriate.
4. Check if your insurance will cover the dental procedure: Many insurance companies will not cover dental work done abroad, so you may be responsible for the entire bill. Make sure you understand your policy before you go.
5. Consider using a dentist in your own country: There are affordable dental options available in the United States. You can search for a dentist in your area that offers payment plans or discounts for cash payers.
Traveling overseas for any medical care can be a risky proposition. There are many dangers associated with having dental work done in another country, including haphazard treatment, language barriers, unnecessary treatment, and infection.
You must understand what you are getting into before you make the decision to travel abroad for dental care. Consider all of your options and speak with a local dental professional before you make a final decision.
The Current State Of Dentistry Abroad
The current state of dentistry abroad is such that many people are getting sub-standard care. In addition, there are many cases of people being scammed by fly-by-night operations. As a result, many licensed dentists and other medical professionals do not recommend traveling abroad for dental work.
If you are considering dental work in another country, it is important to do your research and understand the risks involved.
Traveling abroad for dental care can be a huge gamble, with many people left dissatisfied with the results, botched procedures, and even permanent damage.
Is Dental Tourism Safe?
Traveling abroad for dental work may sound like a great option to save money, but it is not as safe as some people would like you to believe.
Many people regret their decision to get porcelain veneers and other dental work done in another country because it causes them years of pain, unattractive veneers or implants, surgical repairs, and outrageous anxiety. It may end up costing more money as well as your happiness, confidence, and well-being.
We don’t recommend that anyone travel abroad as a way to save money on their smile makeover. The risks are just too high. Your smile is something you’ll have to look at every day for the rest of your life.
It’s not worth the gamble to try and save a few hundred or thousand dollars by going to another country. The long-term effects are just too great.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to improve your smile, there are other options available. You can talk to your local dentist about financing options, and payment plans or look into dental insurance plans that can help you save money on the procedures you need.
If you live in Nolensville, TN, or the surrounding areas, request an appointment with Definition Dental Studio to receive the highest quality care. Even if you are concerned about money, we have options and will do everything we can to ensure you get the confident smile you desire.
No matter what route you decide to take, just make sure you do your research and visit a reputable dentist that you trust. Your smile is worth it!