Cosmetic dental treatments are generally not considered to be essential for health reasons, meaning they are not available on the NHS in the UK. Patients may need to pursue these procedures privately, which can be expensive – cosmetic procedures like veneers or implants can cost up to thousands of pounds.
Dental tourism refers to when patients travel abroad for dental treatment1, often as part of a holiday and usually for the purpose of keeping costs down. The cost of treatment in certain countries may be significantly lower than in the UK, and the combined cost of flights, accommodation and the treatment itself can still work out to be cheaper. However, whilst this option may sound tempting, there are dangers to leaving the country for dental treatment. The government even issued a warning2 to patients looking to undergo treatment abroad, stating the 18 British nationals have died since January 2019 following medical tourism visits to Turkey. Although it may cut costs, it is important to consider the following downsides to dental tourism:
Standard of care
In the UK, all dental professionals must be registered with the General Dental Council, and therefore adhere to their high standards. There is no guarantee that the standards, qualifications or regulations of your dentist or dental practice abroad will be of a similar level to that of the UK3 – or that there are any regulations or safeguards in place at all.
Treatment in the UK will begin with a consultation with a qualified dentist that will take into account your full medical history. Pursuing treatment abroad may mean that this is not fully considered, or that your consultation will be with a salesperson that is not a qualified clinician and cannot recommend what is best for you medically3.
Before undergoing any type of dental procedure, it is important to understand the process as much as possible in the case that things do not go to plan, or you require follow-up treatment. Language barriers can impact your dentist’s ability to communicate clearly with you regarding the treatment and aftercare4, and you should be confident that they understand exactly what you want.
The Oral Health Foundation referred to a report conducted by Which?, that found more than a quarter of patients travelling abroad for medical treatment did not feel like they received the follow-up care they needed, while a further 18% reported complications4. Many patients seeking to go abroad for cosmetic treatments want more expensive procedures that can be more likely to go wrong. Similarly, procedures such as crowns, bridges, veneers or implants could require multiple visits or adjustments that are difficult to accommodate when the treatment is carried out abroad.
In the case that you dental treatment abroad does result in complications, or you are unhappy with the standard of your treatment, you may not be able to make a compensation claim in the UK. Travelling outside of the country can impact the legal protections you have in the case that something goes wrong.
It is also possible that you will have to pay for restorative treatment either abroad or in the UK. This can be expensive and either use up, or exceed, the amount of the money you saved by going abroad in the first place.
Before considering dental treatment outside of the UK, it is essential to be aware of the risks. If you have suffered negligent treatment in England and Wales, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact us now for a free assessment of your case.