Affordable dental care?

A growing number of Australians are opting to travel overseas for a ‘dental tourism’ holiday.

Affordable dental care?

A growing number of Australians are opting to travel overseas for a ‘dental tourism’ holiday, in search of affordable dental care. But just how safe is this practice?

Hundreds of thousands of Australians are on public dental waiting lists, and of those in private care many struggle to pay the high costs of dental work. Travelling overseas to have your teeth worked on for a fraction of the cost, without the long wait times and with the added bonus of an overseas holiday sounds almost too good to be true. So what’s the catch?

Earlier this month the Australian Public Affairs office released a statement warning Australians to “get the facts” on overseas dental tourism.

Dr Markijan Hupalo, a board-certified prosthodontist in Sydney, regularly treats patients who have experienced complications with overseas dental surgery. He says of the practice of travelling overseas for dental work, “There is generally only one reason for receiving treatment overseas, and that is cost. Many patients today consider treatment in Australia to be too expensive and are choosing to travel overseas instead.

What they often don’t realise is that their desire to save money could be putting them at risk of long term damage. I regularly see and help patients who have had overseas dental treatments that have gone very wrong.”

Dr Hupalo went on to explain that, while an implant in Australia usually costs around $5000, a significant portion of this cost incorporates using high quality components in the implant itself. He suggests that it is likely those offering implants overseas for a fraction of the cost are also using lower quality components, which cannot be used in Australia as they don’t meet basic standards.

He suggests that, as a preventative measure, anyone having dental treatment done overseas should consider visiting a board certified prosthodontist on their return, just to check that nothing has gone wrong.

The Australian Public Affairs office has urged anyone considering overseas dental treatment, especially if they are considering having the work done in a developing country, to undertake extensive research. Talk to several providers, get several opinions and check out their qualifications and board certifications.

What do you think? Is overseas dental work worth the risk because of the significantly lower cost? Do you think you can protect yourself by doing extensive research, or is the potential for disaster just not worth it?

And if you have gone overseas for dental work, why not share your experience in the comments below?


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    22nd Apr 2014
    I would suggest that it is very important to follow the recommendations made by Dr Hupalo. Before thinking of taking a dental treatment overseas there should be a clear understanding of what dental treatment is required, this should be obtained by obtaining a written treatment plan in Australia.
    Thoroughly research where you plan to have dental treatment overseas, not all countries are equal and not all dentists are equal. Check qualifications. Also check the time required to complete the treatment, if not enough time has been allowed the treatment will be rushed and runs the danger of a poor result.
    I and my family have had a significant amount of dental treatment overseas and have been very happy with the results. We have also made very significant savings after what we would;d of had to pay in Australia after top table private health cover refunds.
    I have been fortunate to find an excellent dentist in China.He trained in China but also has qualifications in USA. His surgery is modern and is better equipped than most in Australia. I was able to to find him through my wife who is a Chinese registered doctor and she did the research for us.
    I went for a checkup a couple of months ago at his surgery, they didn't find any problems, I went to pay and they said no cost we didn't do any work.
    22nd Apr 2014
    If people wants to save money and have their mouth destroy, just book an appointment at the Dental Westmead Hospital, it's just lihe going overseas !!!!
    Polly Esther
    22nd Apr 2014
    Confucius say, "Person who needs dental treatment only rings to make appointment at 2.30"
    22nd Apr 2014
    Is that 2.30am ????
    24th Apr 2014
    Confucius was using a sun dial....another saying is... ' Person who disobeys Emperor no longer needs dentist'
    A. N. Onymous
    22nd Apr 2014
    Yes, do your research beforehand and have a checkup of what has been done on returning to Australia.

    However, let’s go into this a bit further.

    Dr. Hupalo’s comment: “I regularly see and help patients who have had overseas dental treatments that have gone very wrong.”

    When I read this, I thought back to a work experience I had decades ago. I had worked as a secretary in many types of offices for many years, but it was only after I married that I had a job working for solicitors.

    Occasionally I had to take notes while my boss was interviewing men or women seeking a divorce. (This was when grounds for a divorce were required, before the Family Law Act 1975 which established no-fault divorce.) Often the stories they told were depressing, sometimes even horrifying. Even if I didn’t sit in on an interview, I still wound up typing my boss’ dictated notes, letters and court documents.

    I remember thinking to myself, “It’s a good thing I didn’t do this before I was married. These people must have loved each other before they married. What happened to them?”

    Then one day I said to myself, “Yes, these are people who once loved each other wanting divorces. Some of their stories are dreadful. BUT, nobody who DOESN’T want a divorce is going to come into this office and say, ‘Open a file on me – I have a happy marriage’.”

    The “patients who have had overseas dental treatments that have gone very wrong” are the ones who will go to Dr. Hupalo. The ones with successful treatments won’t.

    Unless research is done into how many go, to which country they go, what treatments they are having, how many are successful and how many aren’t, etc., etc., etc., we can’t quantify their success.

    And the same research should be done regarding dental treatments in Australia – after all, there are ones here that go wrong as well, aren’t there?

    Perhaps the statistics would show that overseas treatment is not only cheaper, but safer and more successful than domestic.

    Has such research already been done? Perhaps YOURLifeChoices could find out for us.
    22nd Apr 2014
    I have capped my teeth in India Goa at one tenth the cost here. That was six years ago..I went back for a holiday and did a check up and they where happy with my teeth.
    The place I did my teeth had the latest German equipment and wonderful service. I know friend who went to cheaper places and had trouble when they came back.
    I have full Medical cover but still have to pay from my pocket, I never claim my oversea care it not worth it. The real problem is the cost of leaving and the dentist here want to make up thier cost for the studies in a year. Good luck to them. I am 72 and have to save every cent.
    22nd Apr 2014
    Who did you see in Goa? I need implants, but at $5000 a pop I cannot have this work done here.
    22nd Apr 2014
    I have also been to Goa and had teeth capped in 2008, 5 caps at a cost of around $1700 aud, less than the cost of one done here. I have had no problems and the clinic was up to date with all modern equipment and technicians on site making the caps. The dentist was recommended by a friend who had treatment from him previously with no problems.

    24th Apr 2014
    My dental care only costs $12 every couple months, but POLIDENT does go up, at Coles it is certainly not....... 'down down prices are down'.....LOL
    25th Apr 2014
    It's no wonder people try to get their dental work done overseas as I was told by my doctor I would be ligible fpr free dntal care because of a health problem so I went to the dental place by appointment & everything was fine for a start then about six weeks into the "free service" I was given a huge bill to pay, thousands of dollars I took the bill to Medicare & because I had been having lots of treatment over the past few months They gave me a special payment. Just as well otherwise I would still be paying for it much to my disgust because my dentures are still ill fitting & I have trouble eating the softest of foods..
    1st May 2014
    Delighted to comment, because my experience of dental work in Thailand was so good. It is true that my motivation for going overseas was purely financial. Of course! If I had been reliant on Australian treatment, I would be a dental disaster. I could not afford dental treatment in Australia, for dental costs here are just too high! And don't give me any baloney about fair returns for years of study! Australian dentists need to appreciate that we they are competing in a global world. I paid $9000 for 13 crowns, a bottom plate, root canals and much other work that would have cost me twice as much in Australia. It is important to exercise common sense. Do your research, verify the qualifications of your dentist. Two warnings based on my experience: One: Your have to be able to communicate clearly with your dentist. Therefore, insist that they speak English well enough for YOU to understand. (I did have a problem here). Two. Be aware also that if your dental holiday is of a standard length (say 10 days), and if your work is extensive, you can expect agonisingly long appointments. Like 2-3 hours in the chair!
    1st May 2014
    ph. Investigate Smile Dentists in Phuket Thailand. This is where I had my work done, and I was very pleased. I did not have implants, though.

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