Over 80 percent of our patients travel less than fifteen miles to visit our office, but a growing number of patients nationwide travel thousands of miles for dental procedures. They go outside the U.S. in an attempt to save money on their dental bills.
A Google search lists thousands of medical-tourism Web sites offering 65–75 percent savings over U.S. prices. These companies advertise medical “vacations” that include airfare; hotel accommodations, excursions, and medical care—at a fraction of the cost for the same care in the United States. Is this smart?
Choosing to entrust your mouth to a dental-tourism caregiver is a big decision. Here are some things you need to consider:
- Training: Although there may be a number of providers with training comparable to U.S. dentists’ (and many are even members of the American Dental Association), most dentists and patients nevertheless agree that no other country in the world has such stringent dental regulations as the United States. Dentists trained in the U.S. graduate from a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), and must pass national examinations and meet state requirements before they earn a license to practice. (Even dental-lab technicians in the U.S. are likely to have received a higher degree of training in their specialties than they might receive elsewhere.)
- Infection: In the U.S., infection control is governed by strict CDC (Center of Disease Control) guidelines. Dental materials, drugs, and instruments used in the U.S. are regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. Do you know what the regulations are in dental-tourism destinations?
- Records: The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends seeing a dentist on a regular basis, to ensure preventive services and continuity of care. Your U.S. dental office is your “dental home,” and your own dentist is the one who knows your case and has records of your dental history. Consider talking to your dentist in the U.S., both prior to your visit and afterward, to ensure continuity of care. Be sure to arrange a safe and secure transfer of records from your U.S. dentist to the outside provider—and back again.
- Extra costs: Be aware of the potential costs of corrective procedures to your non-U.S. dentistry, in the event that your dentist in the U.S. needs to make any adjustments to it after you get home.
- Insurance coverage: Find out if your employer or insurance-company dental plan covers the U.S. follow-up treatment and potential repairs or replacements of prosthetics or appliances fabricated outside of the U. S.
- Recovery: Consider that many elective procedures, such as extractions and dental implant placements, are surgical in nature. Surgery carries post-treatment risks of swelling, pain, and infection. You might not feel up to that post-treatment vacation you’re planning. Consider also that, after your recent oral-surgical procedure, changes in airplane-cabin pressure on the flight home can sometimes cause pain or discomfort.
The most important thing, of course, is the standard of care. Most patients who travel overseas do so for particularly expensive elective procedures, like dental implants or full-mouth rehabilitation. Months and years of special training and a lot of experience are required to master the skills to perform these procedures. Do you know what training and skills your dental-tourism dentist has?
After you have done your homework and considered all the items listed above, if you still want to go to a dental-tourism caregiver, and then talk to your “home dentist.” To ensure the best possible outcome, make him or her part of your team.