The bad side of dental tourism

The high cost of dental care has forced many people to seek dental treatment elsewhere. This explains the growing popularity of dental tourism that is sweeping many parts of the world today.

Basically, dental tourism involves traveling to another country for affordable dental care, treatment and surgery. This is a common practice among many Americans, Canadians and Europeans who are looking for ways to save money on expensive dental treatments that are normally expensive in their respective countries.

“Although the exact statistics on dental tourism are not available, it is estimated that more than one million people from all over the world travel abroad for dental treatments such as cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, crowns and root canals. There are a number of countries such as India, Thailand, Costa Rica, Hungary, Panama, South Africa and Mexico marketing low-cost, high-quality dental services to medical tourists,” revealed Placid Way, a health and wellness tourism company.

The popularity of dental tourism in the United States alone is due to the fact that more than 108 million Americans and 25 million American children do not have dental insurance. These people will have to pay through the nose for even the simplest of procedures. Unfortunately, even those who are covered will find that dental insurance will not pay for expensive dental implants or dental cosmetic procedures that are sometimes required.

The same goes for Britain, where an estimated 35,000 Britons travel abroad each year to find dental treatment they can afford. Frustrated with the shortage of dentists who can provide reasonable dental care, consumers see dental tourism as the answer to their prayers. The thought of getting a new smile without a lot of money and traveling to an exotic country is hard to resist. Bargains, a dentist that sticks to your schedule, and exciting travel options can indeed make dental tourism a tempting offer.

“Many Britons travel for purely cosmetic reasons – the country previously indifferent to the snaggle-tooth reputation has suddenly become obsessed with the perfect smile. Indeed, a recent survey by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) found a staggering one in two adults approaching middle age would consider cosmetic dental surgery,” Alison Smith-Squire reported in the Daily Mail.

But behind this silver lining is a dark cloud. As the popularity of dental tourism increases, the BDHF said it has received a significant number of calls to its helpline from people who have had bad experiences abroad.

Take the case of Lisa Hewer, a 38-year-old mother of five who traveled all the way to Hungary to get her teeth fixed. Hewer, who lost her two front teeth in an accident 20 years ago, was always conscious of her smile and didn’t feel confident with dentures. She was so ashamed of her teeth that it took four months after she met her husband Mark Beggs before she admitted she wore dentures.

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“I used to wait until he was asleep before taking them off,” she admitted.

Beggs, 34, understood the pain Hewer was feeling and surprised her one day by offering to pay for her bridge work as an early birthday present. Hewer was thrilled. Little did she know that her nightmare was about to begin.

“She wanted the work done by a British dentist, but quotes ranged from £18,000 to £48,000. She then read an article in a women’s magazine about dental treatment in Hungary and decided to look into it. It was a decision she now regrets of.’ Smith-Squire said.

What happened to Hewer after she traveled to Hungary? Can the same happen to you? Find out in the second part of this series.