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Principal cosmetic dentist Dr Nidhi Berera weighs in on the pitfalls of dental tourism.

For many, spending thousands of dollars on extensive work is hard to justify. Dental implants, crowns, root canals and cosmetic dentistry are, to part of the Australian population, unaffordable. And yes, there are good and bad professionals in everywhere – across any industry – however, there are many reasons why having dental treatment done overseas can be risky in the long term.

There has been an increase in number of people travelling overseas for dental treatment in order to “save” money. Some countries even offer “packages” offering accommodation, sight-seeing and accommodation. It’s an attractive prospect.

Of course, the more complicated the treatment, the higher the likelihood of something going wrong. Unfortunately, many Australians return with problems that are difficult to address. Patients come home with what they think are good results in the short term, only to find problems begin to surface within six months to a year.

Ultimately these damages end up costing even more to repair. Replacing poorly placed, cheaper implants can be much more expensive; fixing bad dentistry is a lot of work involving higher costs. In some instances, the damage may be irreparable.

One of the main issues we see with treatment carried out overseas or on holiday is the short treatment time involved. Patients who may not have even met their dentist before have large, complex treatments done in a one to two-week period. This can mean the dentist may cut corners to ensure the dental work is completed by the end of the “holiday”.

All extensive dental work requires regular follow-ups and maintenance. Having a regular dentist is important for charting purposes – your dentist knows your teeth, and when something doesn’t look right. Lack of follow-up and ongoing care is a big problem for people choosing to have their dental work done overseas. This alone gives them a higher chance of their dental work failing in the long term.

What people don’t realise is that many overseas clinics offer cheap dental treatment thanks to cheap materials. The implant systems used may not even be approved for use in Australia. Similarly, overseas dental practitioners are not under the control of Australian Dental rules and regulations. Potentially less than one in three dentists in foreign countries have passed the stringent tests or come close to adhering to the high standards required of Australian dentists.

When it comes to infection control, Australia has one of the highest standards in the world. Infection control requirements in overseas countries are less rigid. This is especially important for dental implants. Each stage of a dental-impact treatment needs to settle before moving on to the next – not something that can be done professionally over a seven-day holiday period.

Another thing to consider is that patients treated within Australia can seek alternatives if they face any problems with their dental treatment. Most importantly, they will have an easy access to their dentist to resolve issues, and their rights are protected.

If you still decide to seek treatment overseas after doing your research, you’ll be going it alone. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get travel insurance, and there are no clear avenues to complain if you aren’t happy with the work. There are definite risks, so we strongly advise you to choose your dentist carefully to avoid the risk of consequences of overseas dental treatment.

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