It’s no secret that dental care can be expensive and this results in many patients avoiding dental visits altogether. There is, however, a trend where individuals choose to leave their home country to travel abroad to have work done on their teeth for a cheaper cost. Certainly, no country has a monopoly on good medical care however, it’s important to realize that there are pros and cons to this kind of traveling. So what are the concerns?
- Dentist credentials and experience
There is the worry that dentists abroad don’t have the same level of experience and training as they do in the United States, causing a higher risk of complications. People who seek cheap dental care in some foreign countries are falling victims to unsafe dental practices and under-qualified practitioners. In order to practice dentistry in the United States, a dentist has to have at least eight years of college and pass many rigorous tests to be licensed as well as continuing education thereafter. While the training and experience of the dentist is paramount, so is the environment in which he or she practices.
One big concern is that patients travelling abroad for dental treatment will not be met with the same infection control, patient care and health and safety guidelines found here, where strategies are in place to protect the patient in the event of complications. For example, in many second and third world countries, root canal files are simply autoclaved and reused. Yet, even after being autoclaved, these used files can still contain infectious microorganisms and should be discarded. Dental instruments in the US are disposed or sterilized after use. Injection needles are never reused and surgery instruments are cleaned with heat-sterilization. In the United States, it is a requirement for dental practices to maintain a strict evident-based infection control to prevent the spread of infection and diseases. At Smile Sarasota, our autoclaves are tested and regulated and a strict record is kept. Overseas, these rules are often more relaxed, and sometimes a high standard of infection control is not practical because of the cost needed to maintain such standard, making it enviable for business due to the low standard of living. A foreign country may not have the same dental regulations as dentists do in the U.S. The Organization for the Safety and Asepsis Procedures (OSAP) says that “Countries differ in their standards for infection control and safety. The use of fresh gloves, sterile instruments and safe water is not standard practice in all countries.” Some areas of the world do not have clean drinking water readily accessible. That alone is scary, not to mention that fact that dentists and staff may not wear face masks and gloves, wash their hands or clean the work surfaces!
- Quality of margins
“I had a friend who had work done in Mexico and it looked really good! Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it IS good! There is the potentially serious problem if the veneer or crown is not fitted properly it may look good but could trap plaque and cause gum inflammation. And if the tooth is not drilled correctly there is a real risk of damaging the nerve. And often, the treatments recommended abroad are not appropriate, for example if the patient has a gum problem. Dr. Still would not advise veneers or crowns until that was treated. Otherwise the patient would end up with more problems and could even lose all their teeth. So some of the work might look good in the short term, patients were likely to have trouble in the future. It can be six months, 12 months after the treatment has been done, long after the patient has left the facilities and then things flare up.
- Materials used
In many countries, there are no governing bodies such as the American Dental Association to maintain the high quality of dental care provided by the practitioners. In order to provide cheap dentistry, many overseas dentists use low quality material to make their business viable. Good quality dental products are often not cheap; sometimes the cost of a single component can be more than the average monthly wage in those countries. Many of these materials have not undergone rigorous testing and research, and do not have proper long-term studies in their safety and effectiveness. Also, remember many dental treatments are hand-made and/or involve laboratory items that are hand-made too, whose materials and specifications have to meet very strict rules and regulations. At least if you buy cheap jewelry and it turns out to contain base metals instead like Nickel, Iron or Beryllium etc, you can easily remove it and throw it away if it irritates your skin or you get allergic to it, but when it is glued into your mouth, you will be exposed to its effects for years and it’s NOT so easily removed, is it? In some countries abroad they often use “cheaper” laboratory work which isn’t always subject to the US’s strict controls and high health standards. Some foreign-sourced crowns even contain not just cheap substitutes for gold and other precious metals, but even waste products or lead! So you before succumbing to foreign dentistry, ask yourself these questions: What kind of gold alloy is going to be used in that crown about to be cemented in your mouth? Will it cause metal poisoning down the road? Is it high in nickel content? Is it a high noble, noble, or base metal? Please be assured that ALL of Dr. Still’s laboratory work at Smile Sarasota, is made in the US under the strictest health guidelines and follow Dr. Still’s very demanding standards for quality, content and aesthetics
- Lost in Translation
Another challenge for the ‘dental tourist’ is difficulty in communication. Language barriers can make it harder to know exactly what to expect during and after a procedure, or whether any questions you ask are understood. This can lead to misunderstandings about treatment, or problems with your care. It may be difficult for foreign health care providers to access and comprehend a patient’s complete medical history; likewise, complete documentation of the treatment provided abroad is often lacking — which can create problems when you get back home. Patient confidentiality and privacy may also be compromised and this issue is handled differently from country to country.
So…don’t prioritize money over health! Traveling abroad to get cheaper treatment could mean that you’re prioritizing your budget over your health, and this could result in spending even more money repairing damage from treatment that has gone wrong. However, having a dentist like Dr. Still who has your interest in heart, who cares enough to make a difference in the longevity of his work, and having such a dentist to guide you in achieving your goal of a lifelong optimal health, is what good dentistry is all about.
Sources and Credits: askthedentist.com, who.int.com, wikpedia.org, deardoctor.com, OSAP.org