What is Dental Tourism? Here’s What You Should Know
Planning your next vacation? Thinking about what activities to do and sights to see? Is dental work on your travel itinerary? Dental work!? Yes, that’s right.
Dental tourism is very much a thing. And while it could be an option whether you’re visiting Miami or traveling abroad, it’s just like any other important health decision you make. You need to do your homework. It may be appealing to travel to an exotic destination while saving money on a dental procedure, but doing your research first before you hop on that plane is a must. Knowing that 37 million individuals in the U.S. don’t have dental insurance, it’s understandable that dental travel surfaces as an appealing option, especially if your bill may be more than you want to pay for some new veneers, whitening, or implants. It’s a tempting proposition.
This blog will highlight some key considerations if a dental-based vacation is on your list, uncover what you should know and considerations for dental travel.
What is Dental Tourism?
In short, it’s the process of an individual traveling outside of his or her country where they reside to another with the goal of saving costs on dental work. Dental tourism is prevalent in numerous countries including booming dental tourism businesses in Mexico and in Costa Rica, for instance.
Some Considerations to Think About Before Dental Travel
Regulations and Sanitation Standards Vary
In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) governs sterilization rules and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates materials. Plus, dentists are required to maintain their medical knowledge with continuing education and have malpractice insurance. These sorts of standards vary from place to place. Be sure you understand what regulations must be met and where they could be more lax. The complications that can arise from an infection are not fun, especially when you aren’t near home.
Know the Facts
Marketing can sometimes get the best of us. We’ve all been there. If you see a dentist advertising that they trained in the U.S., ask questions. It’s not to undermine their credentials but to better understand whether it was a few day workshop, or a dental degree from an accredited university. It’s not rude to ask detailed questions about any healthcare provider’s credentials and schooling. As a patient you have every right to better understand who may be performing your dental work. The American Dental Association (ADA) credentials those outside of the U.S., so ask about their status with the ADA.
Chances are if you are traveling outside of the U.S. you may not speak the native language of the country you travel to. Communication is key for any relationship and this includes knowing and understanding what exactly will and won’t be done. You certainly don’t want things getting lost in translation. Make sure the dentist, dental assistant, and others in the practice are fluent in your native language and all parties can clearly understand one another.
Limited Visibility Into Medical and Dental History
Your health and well-being are very personal, and if you’re like most, you probably take comfort in the rapport you’ve built with physicians over the years. More important than rapport is knowledge and insights into your medical history. If you travel outside of the county for dental work, the information that the dentist knows about you will likely be quite limited. Having someone poke around in your mouth isn’t a highlight for most, but having a near stranger do it would probably make an already uncomfortable experience a bit more stressful.
Use Trustworthy Sources to Find a Potential Dentist
If you decide to take part in the dental travel trend, do your due diligence. Just like you would research a trustworthy dental professional in the states, you should do the same elsewhere. Organizations like World Dental Federation, or the Academy of Dentistry International, and Patients Beyond Borders are all reputable sources when looking abroad. Plus, ask if you can speak with the dentist you are considering ahead of booking your ticket.
Be Cautious of Hidden Costs
It’s true. Crowns in one country may be cheaper than in the U.S., but what other costs will you need to pay? Think airfare, lodging, food, etc. And some dental procedures aren’t a one and done situation. Implants, for instance, require several office visits to complete the procedure. Trips back and forth or an extended stay can add up, and in the end, the savings you thought you were capitalizing on may not be quite what you thought. Plus, if something goes wrong or you need a repair down the road, the truth is your dentist is much longer than a car ride away, adding to the cost and logistical complications.
If you want to know more, the Organization for Safety Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) has a great guide and checklist when considering dental tourism.
Potential Cost Savings Still Having You Consider Dental Tourism?
If finances and costs are the driving factor leading you to consider dental work outside the U.S., there are options. Your dental practice may be able to accommodate a payment plan to ease the financial burden, there are often charitable organizations that you could be eligible for, and sometimes a nearby dental school could be an option. Putting off dental work has its risks, as does having a procedure performed by a dentist without the right background. Sometimes a good deal, especially when it comes to your health, may just be too good to be true.
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