Beware the potential pain in dental tourism

Combining sun, surf and smiles sounds alluring, but consider the risks.

Dental tourism can be painful

When the average cost of a visit to the dentist for a simple check and clean generally costing in excess of $200, it’s perhaps understandable that an ever-growing number of Australians are choosing to travel overseas for various dental procedures.

Despite taking excellent care of our teeth, there will always be wear from the tear as we age. Fillings may loosen, cracks may appear, enamel may wear thin, teeth will discolour, crowns and implants may be required.

Even for those with private health insurance, the costs are likely to mount up.

According to the Consumer Health Forum, Australians are spending up to $300 million annually for medical treatment in overseas countries, while a recent report on ABC radio indicated that more than 15,000 Australians travel abroad each year just for cosmetic surgery, including dental procedures. Dental implants, crowns and bridges, veneers and teeth whitening top the list of most popular treatments.

In Australia, three in 10 people have avoided visiting a dentist due to cost, while one in five were unable to afford treatment recommended by a dentist, according to a report on the Conversation. “Dental care in Australia is not subsidised for the majority of Australians, and about half don’t have any private dental insurance, which makes the allure of dental tourism clear,” it says.

It also makes those all-inclusive packages for sun, sea and beautiful smiles alluring for many. But what are the risks? The Australian Dental Association offers the following warnings:

Things can go wrong
Let’s be honest – things can go wrong in the dental chair. The difference is that when the work is done in Australia, you’re close to highly trained dentists who can perform corrective procedures. But if the work’s done overseas, you may be cut off from the expert emergency care you need.

Standards are not as stringent
While Australian dentists must be registered and are required to operate in a strictly regulated environment, not all countries have the same requirements.

Infection and antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are an increasing concern for health professionals. Previously rare in Australia, they are appearing more and more as people return from treatment in overseas hospitals and clinics that do not have the highest grade infection control standards.

Too many procedures, too little time
Many dental treatments, such as root canal surgery, need to be conducted over several visits at least a week apart to give the teeth and gums sufficient time to recover. Trying to squeeze  complex procedures into a typical holiday heightens the risk of complications.

Questions to ask yourself
Before you head off on a dental holiday, check if your overseas dentist was trained at a reputable university and whether the health standards in that country are as rigorous as those in Australia. Also, will you be able to have any complications rectified and at what expense and time commitment?

Finally, the Conversation says: “In this era of globalisation, overseas travel for dental care seems unavoidable. On a positive note, increased international flows of patients are likely to stimulate debate and develop solutions to enable more effective and cheaper access to dental care in Australia.”

Have you, or would you, consider taking a dental vacation? Do you put off dental treatment because of the cost?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Nov 2018
    im supposed to qualify for govt dental but have been waiting 5 years so far for a check up because ( I reckon ) I complained to the govt about the lack of dentists etc ( id like to know what the govt told the local office
    30th Nov 2018
    I have watched a tv series on package deals to Thailand for dental and plastic surgery procedures. The patients are from all over the world, the doctors very professional, the hospitals are much cleaner than in Australia and the patients are all happy with their outcomes.

    If Australia and Australians can't look after other Australians then I can't blame Australians going overseas instead of getting ripped off here with second rates services.

    Australian hospitals are filthy and many Australians die in them due to infections, bad procedures and staff mistakes.

    Many people from around the world go to Thailand and Singapore for life threatening procedures because they are affordable and would be dead waiting in their country. up for Thailand get your teeth done and the lovely ladies will look after you there very cheaply too. Life is too short.
    30th Nov 2018
    tisme, check with your local office. The gov't has cut back on dental services under medicare and some clinics are no longer open so check with wherever you were expecting to go for the check up.

    30th Nov 2018
    Funny that - I always go to the dentist (same one for 11 years) right here in Australia before going overseas. Had a look at some of the dental practices in Indonesia and Thailand for a mate of mine; it is possible to get good dentists but the money is always quoted in US$ or British pounds, depending where the dentists come from. Never looked at the cheap local ones though. Being in private dental has saved me some money over the years.
    30th Nov 2018
    Private dental? Wow Jim you must be a zillionaire. I wish. Chuckle......
    30th Nov 2018
    Just an add-on to the Medibank Insurance package, Mick. Nothing elaborate, but are right the insurance has gone to $85 a week; too old to give it away. If younger I would leave.
    30th Nov 2018
    I went to the same dentist for over 20 years and never needed a filling. He was honest He just gave me a clean.

    Before I went to him another dentist told me I need 7 fillings which were never needed. I have a brown mark on one off my teeth which dentist told me is a birthmark. My dentist sadly retired he was Canadian trained.

    When I went to a recent dentist I was told I needed 6 fillings including the birthmark. I walked out and will never go to a dentist unless my teeth get pulled.

    I see no sense in getting fillings that last 3 years if your are lucky, most root canals don't work, capped teeth don't last and costly implants aren't permanent too. Hang on to what you've got and take care of them by cleaning, flossing and a good diet. They have a better chance of lasting till you drop.

    If teeth were meant to be white and perfectly even with age they would have been. It all looks fake and unnatural. Dentures can do the same trick too.
    Nan Norma
    30th Nov 2018
    Dentists are some of the biggest ripoffs.
    30th Nov 2018
    Be fair Norma....the Mercedes has to paid for somehow. Just being facetious.
    I'd hate looking into somebody's mouth all day long. Just imagine the odour and what you would see in there.
    My dentist has always been fair but I certainly understand there are some businessmen out there.
    30th Nov 2018
    Been thinking about eye surgery but the risks sit heavily on my mind. Maybe. Maybe not.
    30th Nov 2018
    A friend of ours just had eye surgery, cancer behind one eye. Really concerned but everything went well on Medicare, a bit of a wait on the list. Good luck whatever you decide.
    30th Nov 2018
    MICK....I was advised by an expert that eye surgery lasts 5 years than your eyes go back to the way their were. Further surgeries can ruin your eyes permanently. It's all just a business racket. Optometrists make more money than dentists these days. Glass frames cost 20 cents from China and Australians get charged $200 plus for them.
    30th Nov 2018
    Jackie I have been using the same frames for over 20 years. Need new lenses? Fine put them in these frames.
    30th Nov 2018
    jackie - I've heard that too. We have a doctor living near us who has had the surgery so I'll ask him how his eyes are doing when we see him again.

    casey - been considering ordering frames with lenses online but worries they will not fit. Will give it a go next time around.
    The frames today a crap unless you pay over $300 for them. Even then not good quality. None of mine ever last ore than 3 years. Ever.
    9th Jan 2019
    My last pair of prescription sunglasses cost me $35 (delivered, plus I waited until I had a code to get 20% off), I use online store called Zenni (sign up for discount offers), you need your prescription and the site is easy to use, yes they are posted from Asia but the business is US owned. I also got another pair of glasses a year ago from them too. Saved me a heap of money.

    30th Nov 2018
    Had a friend of mine go to Thailand for some dental work came back got an infection as a result of the dental work was dead within six weeks at fifty years of age.
    30th Nov 2018
    Sounds like fiction Robbo. Can you give some details?
    30th Nov 2018
    Not so Mick I went to his funeral although it was some time ago he was perfectly healthy before he went as far as I knew and whatever infection he picked up it could not be cured here.
    30th Nov 2018
    Cost of living up wages down a disaster in the making.The clever country just try the greedy country.
    30th Nov 2018
    Been heading that way for a couple of decades and not just in Australia. What we are all feeling is the reallocation of money to the top end where the 0.1% expect to live like movie stars. Rich is simply not enough for them anymore.
    That's why it is important to decifer news from propaganda and work out where the money trail is leading. With the current government it has always been to the top end. That tells the complete story and the rest is BS meant to deceive those who cannot see the trail. We do of course all feel the results.
    30th Nov 2018
    I have a friend who has been to Bali twice for treatment. The second treament involved some sort of pain that wouldn't go away. His dentist here said all up he was up for $7000. And what he did to fix the pain didn't work. He went to Bali, got all the work done and the dentist fixed the problem that was causing him pain for about $1200.
    Recently I went to my GP (an Irish guy) He told me he had three hours of excellent work done by a dentist in the Ukraine. Cost $80. He gave him a $100 and told him to keep the change. He also told me about heart surgery and said that India has the highest rate of success with heart surgery. Same procedure $150000 in the US, $30000 in Australia and $8000 in India. He said that is where he would go if he needed heart surgery.
    As for dentists here. Some years ago I went to my dentist have some crowns. He wascharging me $1500 each. I rang a dentist in the next suburb and they were $1000 each. I moved dentists and never had any trouble with the crowns I had fitted.
    Personally, I think a lot of dentists are total rip offs. $200 for 20 minutes work, no wonder people can't afford them but the stupid thing is that so many people are admitted to hospital with problems related to bad teeth that if the government subsidised dental care they would save money. But then it will never happen under a LIberal government, a government with no social conscience whatsoever. Then again it won't happen with Labour. We have a lot of greedy professionals in this country. Shame really.
    30th Nov 2018
    In Britain doctors employed by the National Health earn good money but nowhere near the money American and Australian doctors earn.
    Australia should train heaps of doctors on the condition they work in hospitals for 10 years and charge patients $20 a visit. The cost to all of us would be significantly less than we pay now. Having said that we have been lucky and also look after ourselves so visits to the doctor are rare. Touch wood.
    Old Geezer
    30th Nov 2018
    Mick dentists in the UK don't get enough time to do a good job so cut corners.
    1st Dec 2018
    Snowflake....was charged $1,500 each for 2 necessary root canals (3 grand's a lot for an OAP) & my then long term dentist insisted I needed a tooth cleaning even tho' do the usual twice daily & charged me $250 for that 10mins. Since then, as the cleaning is usually done by a tiny circling "sand paper like" instrument...the enamel was only nice & clean for a couple of mths as the red wine/coffee discolours it even more now that has been "scratched." I still brush twice daily but now need to use a teeth whitener + gargle with an oral whitener thereafter. I'll no longer go to any dentist 'til have a painful tooth ache as my teeth are looking far whiter now than prior to the my dentist's cleaning (enamel scratching).
    30th Nov 2018
    Australian dentists are outrageously expensive and it's no wonder that so many people go around with really bad teeth or great gaps in their mouths.

    I recently paid a dentist $180 for sticking a crown back in for me - no work done except a dab of antiseptic and a dab of glue.

    The funny thing is that there is no shortage of dentists where I live and if you ring for an appointment you are asked if you want it today or tomorrow in most cases, so they are not that busy.
    30th Nov 2018
    Live in a ""third world country"" had internal surgery recently local hospital with no problems I know many expats that have had dental work some had problems some didnt I think you have to do your homework & then make your desion.PS.cost of surgery $950usd in australia between $3000 & $5000 aud
    1st Dec 2018
    I had quite a few dental treatments overseas, implants and crowns. First time in India I went on recommendation and didn't have a good experience. Then I came across a website, where client feedback features prominently and dentist's fees are listed as well as the quality based on feedback is rated. Since then I have had treatments in Vietnam with a five star dental clinic and so far everything has been excellent, indeed 5 star! I don't buy the argument of lack of hygiene, found hygiene actually better overseas than at the local dentists, as well as patient care which is superb in Asia. Whilst I wouldn't go back to India for dental work, I certainly can recommend Vietnam. It's a little more expensive but you get a much better result.
    1st Dec 2018
    Have been having dental work done in Bangkok over the past 7 years with absolutely no complaints. Originally quoted in Australia $45,000 which of course I could not afford. Did not do anything until my teeth were in such a state i had to look for a cheaper solution. My friend suggested I go to Bangkok where it is much cheaper. Did so and not only was I very satisfied with the work done It was done at one third the cost. Have been going back ever since. Unfortunately with someone like me with a lot of work to be done private health insurance is of no great benefit.
    9th Jan 2019
    I cannot afford to fly overseas, so no good to me. I stopped going to the dentist years ago, the dentist in the dental clinic (if you can wait long enough on the waiting list) are not that good. If I get a pain I use clove oil. My teeth were wrecked by an overzealous dentist when I was a teenager, filled every little hole with mercury and it makes your teeth decay quicker.
    20th Mar 2019
    Myself and a friend had cosmetic as well as remedial dental surgery done in a Bangkok suburb Thong Lor.
    In comparison any Australian dentist I have been to over 50+ years falls way short in terms of hygiene, cleanliness, technology, knowledge, empathy, results and follow up.
    Also much less expensive and considering the airfare as well you have a nice little holiday too.
    Bah! to the nay sayers.

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