It may surprise you to learn that every year, approximately 15,000 Australians leave the country for medical treatment, spending $300 million in the process! A significant percentage of these trips are for dental holidays, but before you rush to book your flights, nipping overseas to get your dental work done might not be worth the risk.
What is a dental holiday?
Dental holidays, or dental tourism as it’s also known, is a trip abroad with the specific and primary purpose of having dental problems fixed.
As recently as a few years ago, dental practices abroad had to rely on word of mouth or internet forums for patients, but lately, dental holidays have become big business.
Some travel agents here are even offering all-inclusive packages for sun, sea and smiles, meaning that dental care is part of the holiday.
Why are dental holidays becoming more popular?
For most people, the answer is simple; money.
Around half of all Australians don’t have dental insurance, and because dental care here isn’t subsidised, many people struggle to pay for treatment.
A recent survey discovered that around 1-in-3 Australian adults didn’t go for treatment recommended by their dentist because they couldn’t afford it.
Dental treatment abroad is considerably less expensive, and even with flights, accommodation and food, it often still works out cheaper.
Even if the total costs amount to the same as you would pay here, you still get a holiday out of it, so for many people, it’s a “no-brainer”.
The most common treatments
To make the trip worthwhile, most people only take dental holidays when they need either a lot of work done or a procedure which is at the higher end of the scale.
Dental implants are designed to look and act just like natural teeth and can be fitted individually, or as a complete set. A step up from false teeth, they are fixed permanently to the jawbone and if looked after properly, should last a lifetime.
Crowns and Veneers
While dental implants replace the whole tooth, root and all, crowns and veneers only replace the top half, leaving the root to support it. Usually made from porcelain, crowns and veneers give a natural appearance, and can be used to solve a variety of mouth issues including broken, crooked or discoloured teeth.
A root canal is what’s needed when a tooth gets infected. Like any infection, if left untreated, it can spread, in this case into your gums and jaw. A root canal will clear out all infection and seal the tooth up, preventing further damage.
For many people, if they are going abroad on a dental holiday, then they may as well make the most of it and get as much done as possible. This can include all of the above treatments, as well as teeth whitening, straightening and fillings.
What are the risks of dental holidays?
If the thought of cheaper dental treatment and a free holiday thrown in sounds like it’s too good to be true, sometimes it is…
The obvious warning is the standard of dental treatment in lesser developed countries is not as good as here in Australia.
The education, training and practice philosophies of foreign dentists might be different from those trained in Australia, resulting in a different set of expectations for dental tourists.
We have exacting Health & Safety practices in Australia which need to be strictly adhered to, along with rigorous sterilisation and cleanliness guidelines.
The risk of infection is higher, and there may be problems with communication if English isn’t spoken fluently.
And of course, if something does go wrong, and there are many nightmare stories about that happening, then you’re in real trouble.
The treatment might go okay, but once you get home problems start to arise. If that happens, then you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
You can’t go back overseas to get the issue fixed (and why would you want to go back to the same dentist that caused the problem in the first place?) so you’ll have to pay here in Australia to have the problem sorted, thus defeating the point of going abroad.
Even if you’re still in the country and return the next day with an issue, you might just find that they’re suddenly not as friendly as they were yesterday. Good luck trying to get your money back!
Stay safe, stay at home
Dental holidays may seem appealing, especially for those without dental insurance, but do the risks outweigh the reward?
Although there will be legitimate businesses offering dental treatments overseas, there are so many pitfalls it is often simply not worth the risk.
With a lack of accountability abroad, if something does go wrong, just know that you may not have any options other than returning home with more treatment ahead of you.
If you need dental treatment and find the cost prohibitive, we have a range of treatment plans and financing options to help you.
We would rather see you safe here than risk treatment overseas, so come in and have a chat with one of our friendly staff members about what we can do to help.
If you can’t pop in, just give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll be happy to help answer any questions you may have.