Dental care in Australia is not subsided by the government, and about half the population doesn’t have private dental insurance. As a result, according to the ABC, three in ten Australians have avoided visiting a dentist due to the cost, while one in five were unable to afford the treatment recommended by their dentist. So, it’s no surprise that more and more people are traveling abroad for their dental work. While accidental dental issues that occur while travelling might be covered by your travel insurance, dental tourism exposes your mouth, health and wallet to all sorts of risks.
What is dental tourism?
Would you fly to another country if it meant cheaper dental work? Dental tourism refers to travel to overseas countries in the search for dental work. Some countries report costs up to 75 per cent cheaper than dentists in Australia. Cheap dental work and a holiday sounds too good to be true, right? That’s probably because it can be. The Australian Dental Association acknowledges a rise in dental tourism, especially to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. However, they also warn against the risks.
The risks involved with overseas dental work
Ever heard the saying ‘you get what you pay for’? While it might seem cheaper to seek dental work overseas, there are some risks you should be aware of before you say “ahhhh” for an overseas dentist.
Standards are different
Australian dentists are held to high standards and must be registered to operate as a dentist. They’re required to operate in a strictly-regulated environment to prevent the spread of infection or disease. Unfortunately, not all countries have the same requirements. The overseas dentist you see may also not be as qualified as their Australian peers and therefore may not be working to the same quality or with the same quality of materials.
No insurance support
While you may be covered for accidental dental with your travel insurance, if you decide to seek treatment overseas, you’ll be going it alone. According to consumer advocacy group Choice, you’ll find it highly unlikely to get travel insurance. And, with no support if you’re unhappy with the work, there’s a chance you might end up losing money.
You may need to return
While you might be saving money on the initial dental work you receive, if you need to go back, you’ll have to fork out extra money on return flights. You should also consider the fact that travel too soon following surgery isn’t recommended as it increases the risk of blood clots when flying. If things go wrong, you may also end up spending more money on fixing the mistakes in the long run, whether you return to that dentist or not.
Germs and bacteria
When you travel overseas, you’re exposed to germs and bacteria that your body may have never been exposed to before. While you can help to keep yourself safe from these pathogens by washing your hands and being vigilant about what you eat and drink, something as simple as the water used in dental procedures can make you sick if you don’t have immunity to the bacteria in it. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also warns that receiving treatments overseas can increase your chances of picking up nasty antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Medical and dental history
Your dentist here in Australia keeps a detailed record of your medical and dental history which they use to inform their decisions about your care. Your dental history can provide important information about your mouth, dictating what procedures and treatments are safe and healthy for you. Without access to these records, you may be exposed to a harmful, painful or pointless procedure or treatment.
Do you have the time?
Not all dental procedures can take place in the space of a couple of hours. Something like root canal therapy actually requires multiple return visits over the course of weeks to allow your teeth and gums time to heal. There’s also a risk that your mouth will heal slower than that. That’s a lot of money spent on accommodation or return flights!
Don’t risk the extra mile for your smile
While the prices may be tempting overseas, is your smile worth protecting? Don’t take the risk and end up costing yourself more in the long run. Australian dentists are held to stringent requirements and must maintain strict standards to maintain safe and healthy practices. Speak to Gosford Family Dentist about making your dental health a more affordable priority.