How far would you for a better smile. The answer in some cases is many thousands of miles. An article in yesterday’s Sunday Times on the rise in tooth tourism shows that there are patients prepared to travel abroad to save money on their cosmetic dentistry. As a dentist in the UK you might imagine that I would be dead against this sort of behavior but in fact I can see how it is inevitable and would offer only a few words of caution.
1) The figures quoted in the article reflect (inevitably) extreme cases and should not be considered average.
2) The costs for a single tooth implant once travel, hotels, time of work etc are costed in make any savings now very minimal. (The rising cost of travel and a strengthening Euro will further balance these costs).
3) The choice of the right dentist for the job should be based on several visits and discussions to ensure that you are both in agreement to how the work should be carried out and that you feel comfortable and can trust the clinician involved. (Clearly, as the distance and inconvenience of travel increases the number of visits are likely to decrease making it increasingly difficult to build a good working relationship with the dentist).
4) Complex cases involving the reconstruction of a full jaw of teeth can often require 6-9 visits, spread over many months to complete. The cost of this many visits (travel, hotels, time of work) needs to be considered. If the number of visits is reduced then the risk of complication increases.
5) Complications in treatment are common and the likelihood increases with the complexity of the case. The ability to “pop” back in and check if everything is OK or to make minor adjustments is lost, which can at best be frustrating, at worst can jeopardize the success of a case.
6) The long term maintenance of the case will, more than likely, involve your regular UK dentist and there will be fees associated with this. (These will usually be higher than if the UK dentist had done the work as it is harder to maintain other peoples work than your own).
7) Notes, radiographs, photographs etc relating to the case need to be transfered from the treating dentist in a form that the UK dentist can understand if he/she is to have any chance of maintaining the work adequately.
8) Finally I suppose we should consider our carbon foot print. Clocking up thousands of miles of air travel is probably not the greenest way of building our smiles.
You may notice that I have not commented on the level of care provided abroad. I have no direct knowledge of any of the dentists involved in over seas clinics, much as I do not have direct knowledge of thousands of dentists who provide care in this country. My view is that there is a vast range in the level of training, clinical competence, ethical approach and communication skills in all dentists and I would not stroll into any dental clinic in the world and ask for any restorative dentistry without first getting to know the team involved and making sure that they were the right team for me.