What are the risks of having dental treatment overseas?

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General Dental Care
BDSc (Melb)

You will often hear talk, or read stories, about dental procedures carried out in developing countries such as Thailand at prices that seem too good to be true – at least by Australian standards. There is one simple reason for this: the quality of care available in these countries does not compare with what is offered in Australia – a country that leads the world in medical and dental excellence. So when dental tourism seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Let’s look at the main factors that determine quality of care no matter where you seek treatment.

First, there are the qualifications of the dental practitioner. In an industry that is becoming more and more specialised, the world’s top clinicians are studying for longer to remain at the forefront of their field. Dental specialists in the developed world have at least two tertiary degrees – the first in general dentistry (of four to five years’ duration) and the second in their particular field, such as orthodontics (of three to four years’ duration). Leading specialists also maintain membership of professional organisations so they can stay abreast of the latest developments in their field.

Secondly, a successful treatment outcome relies on the quality of materials used (for example, high-quality porcelain for fillings), the high-tech equipment utilised (including powerful microscopes) and the laboratories engaged in the manufacture of appliances and other dental fixtures and fittings.

Thirdly, and importantly, the welfare of patients depends on the regulation of dental practitioners and dental clinics, including infection control standards.

All of the above vary from country to country – and ultimately determine the fees you will be charged.

When you choose budget dentistry anywhere – whether overseas or in Australia – you take obvious risks.

The main risks of dental tourism, especially when it is marketed as budget dentistry, are as follows:

  • Most comprehensive dental producers require follow-up – to confirm that a treatment has been successful, or to take corrective action if it has failed. This follow-up is more effective when (1) carried out by the same clinician or a clinician within the same dental practice, or at least a clinician with access to your complete records, and (2) the materials used are consistent and mutually compatible. Dental materials used overseas are not necessarily compatible with those used in Australia, and vice versa.
  • You are unlikely to be covered by your private health insurance for elective dentistry carried out overseas, and you may not be covered for a medical emergency that occurs in Australia as a result of a dental procedure carried out in another country.
  • Many overseas countries have no governing body to turn to for legal remedy if you have cause for complaint about unsatisfactory or negligent dental treatment within their jurisdiction. 

In Australia, the following checks help to protect you from negligent dental treatment:

  • All genuine dental specialists in Australia are registered with the Dental Board of Australia; and you can check their accreditation on the register of practitioners of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
  • Our infection control standards, which are among the highest in the world, are governed by Dental Board guidelines and health practitioner regulation law.
  • An Act of Parliament governs the required standard of care for medical and dental professionals practicing in Australia.

At Smile Solutions we strongly recommend that you exercise caution when considering dental treatment overseas. At the very least, you should only rely on word-of-mouth, not on internet advertising or online testimonials.

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