You may have recently heard the term ‘turkey teeth’. This is not to be confused with the gnashers of a large flightless bird but moreover a term synonymous with dental tourism.
This has become the umbrella term for travelling abroad for cut price dental treatment.
It would be undeniably unfair to ascribe such over-treatment to one country alone when there will be many excellent clinicians in Turkey operating with a strong moral code. Dental tourism in reality extends all across the globe.
In recent years, we’ve seen a growing trend for dental patients to visit countries away from the UK in sight of smile makeovers at seemingly knock down prices. Such dental tourism can involve a range of treatments often more complex than routine restorative care that includes but is not limited to crowns, bridges, dental implants, cosmetic (or composite) bonding and porcelain veneers. Dental tourism is popular in Vienna, Budapest, Prague and many of the continents most appealing destinations as well as further afield in the Americas and Far East. It is an attractive proposition to combine what seems like good value treatment with a holiday to an exotic or prestigious location.
A swift search online will soon present you with a plethora of dental toursim clinics vying for your attention showcasing their services as specialists in such treatments with the enticement of apparent discounts and package deals that include flights, transfers and accommodation as well as the all important new smile.
There are some fabulous clinicians all across the globe many sharing their passion for clinical and technical excellence on their clinic websites, Instagram feeds, Facebook and even their own YouTube and TikTok channels.
However, it is important to be confident that what you see advertised is a reflection of the treating clinicians actual work and experience and not generic or plagiarised case presentations. Here at Holmes Dental Care, we showcase our transformations (with patients clear written consent which can be withdrawn at any time of the patient’s choosing) – what you see is what has been delivered by the team at the clinic. We’re very proud of the positive changes we have made to our patients smiles and continue to make no matter how subtle or striking and this is reflected in the strong and consistent feedback we receive.
So why is dental tourism even an issue?
Well, as the principal dentist at a private dental clinic in Cardiff, we are receiving enquiries from an ever increasing number of patients wishing to have dental xrays in preparation for advanced dental procedures at these clinics. More worringly, we are seeing a commensurate number of patients returning with a myriad of problems: some minor; some severe, irreversible and requiring additional work for which there will inevitably be more expense – other patients for whom results have been frankly disfiguring.
Dental tourism often results in excessive invasive procedures for a promised quicker fix and perceived better value. Its always advised to meet your dentist before you make any commitments. There is time to reflect on treatment options and evaluate your prospects as well build a rapport and understanding with your treating clinician.
In the UK, dentists must train for at least 5 years at undergraduate level then complete foundation training for up to 2 years before they can practice general dentistry on the NHS. Provision of more specialised treatments, often delivered on a private basis, requires extensive self-funded postgraduate study to certificate, diploma or masters level and involves considerable time management and financial investment whilst juggling work and family commitments. UK dentists must also work under a wide variety of nationally enforced regulations and to a strict code of conduct with mandatory indemnity subscriptions and compliance requirements as well as a lifelong continuation of professional development. This has been and will continue to be the norm in UK dentistry. As such, many dentists here have become accustomed to the high intensities required to deliver premium dental care to their patients and will always strive to improve and enhance their services and patient experience. Not all countries enforce such rigid systems and standards and so if you are considering travelling abroad for extensive treatment it is important to appreciate the framework that governs the countries dental clinicians and not only compare on price alone.
Private dentistry in the UK is expensive. However, it is important to appreciate that private dentistry is not simply a more costly version of NHS treatment but a very different way of delivering dental care.
Here at the Holmes Dental Care, we listen intently to your dental concerns, seek to understand your situation and your aspirations and expectations for treatment. Often this requires considerable time and multiple visits over several weeks to develop a professional relationship with the clinician and the team. This allows you to gravitate towards a treatment plan that is bespoke and tailored to you and for you. With dental tourism clinics, this is hard to condense into a short visit of a few days and can become a process that is more coercive and expectant with little if any period of reflection and review. We have heard stories of patients for whom such issues were played down with false reassurance. It is hard to have reflection and seek a second opinion when these clinics very mission and brief is to perform your treatment within a short space of time often with little recourse for management of the complications if and often when they occur.
Some treatments require a staged and nuanced approach that is impossible to treat in such a short time frame. If you are set on travelling abroad for treatment, it would be prudent to recalibrate your expectations on the final cosmetic outcome accordingly.
Equally important is the consent process and the evaluation of your current dental health. All too often we see patients whose treatment may seem cosmetically transformational initially but for whom the underlying issues that caused presenting dental complaint in the first place have not been addressed. A little akin to painting over the cracks in a wall when a rebuild, replastering and refined approach is what is needed. This is particularly relevant in patients with active gum disease. This cannot possibly be resolved in days or even weeks but often requires months of healing as this is the biological pace at which our bodies resolve inflammation and rebuild vital foundations. It would be like expecting to walk on a broken leg merely days after it has been fixed.
If you are set on travelling abroad for dental treatment, it is really important to thoroughly examine the credentials of the clinic and clinician well in advance and to be mindful of the importance of continuity of care and liability. Many patients are understandably excited at their prospects of realising the smile they’ve always dreamed of; many are not aware of the fact that no dentist in the UK is obliged to pick up the pieces if things go wrong.
What seems like a great deal can often prove to be a false economy when the problems arise as you may need to return to the clinic for remedial treatment incurring costs for additional travel and accommodation as well as suffering from pain and embarrassment in the interim.
Beware – the cost of fixing what was an advanced problem to begin with can rapidly escalate into a life changing process for all the wrong reasons.
- Base your decision on price alone
- Necessarily believe that a quicker fix is a better fix or a more durable solution – your teeth need to last you for many, many years if not a lifetime
- Research the clinic and clinician
- Ensure there is robust insurance in place to address all risks
- Check the clinics policy on repeat and remedial treatment as well as guarantees and their duration
- Perform a cost-benefit comparison taking into account a worse case scenario situation (we’ve seen it happen to many patients who later confess to regretting their decision had they been in possession of all the facts and risks)
- Examine which systems and materials will be used. Are they utilising premium manufacturers with UK customer service and support or cheaper derivatives with poorer quality science and evidence base to support them?
- Seek an opinion from a local trusted advisor first and if their passion, knowledge, experience, qualifications and customer driven ethos is well placed consider your investment with a team led like this who will back you up in case of any eventuality.