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More about the potential drawbacks of going abroad for dental treatment

Dental Tourism
The Facts

Over the last few years the phenomenon of patients travelling abroad has become increasingly common. Magazines and newspapers now carry regular advertising for foriegn dental services and also publish feature articles and accounts of patients who have availed of these services

The attraction of so called "dental tourism" appears to be the cost advantage, speed of treatment and the combination of some treatment with a holiday package. Our concern is whether patients are presented with complete and balanced information on dental tourism so that they can make informed decisions. We (as a profession) think it is important to raise some issues about dental tourism that are not often dicussed in the media.

No comprehensive figures are available as to the number of irish people travelling abroad for treatment, or the quailtative expierence of these patients.

In a recent article in the Journal of the Irish Dental Association...


The Facts... "21 dental tourists" required corrective surgery.

New figures released by public dental consultants employed in the Dublin dental hospital, show that 21 people required corrective dental surgery having received dental treatment abroad, with 16 patients requiring extensive re-treatment at a specialist level.

A number of patients from Dublin were examined as part of the study and dentists warn that the most common problem associated with dental tourism is over treatment which can lead to the undertaking of un-necessary procedures. Only 4 of the sample group of 26 received a satisfactory level of care, from dentists abroad, with no corrective treatment required. In nine instances the patients were pleased with their treatment outcome, but of these 5 required remedial work of which 3 required extensive re-treatment.

The survey examined returned patients who had presented to IDA members for routine check ups or seeking emergency treatment from countries as near or far as Northern Ireland, Hungary, Spain, Croatia, Argentina, Thailand and Turkey. The report found that a large variation in quality was evident, with some patients receiving a high standard of care. The report suggests that the patient satisfaction is aligned to short term, aesthetic, results. However, it found that satisfaction did not generally equate to good quality of care, and remedial treatment was required in a large proportion of the cases that presented.

Worryingly, problems are generally only identified during routine dental appointments with a local dentist so there may be many more Irish dental tourists who are as yet unaware of potentially serious long term problems.

The authors of the report said, "The condensing of a large amount of complex treatment into a very short time frame is inherently risky. There must be sufficient time for planning and staging treatment, so that patients may make informed decisions. If completing extensive treatment in condensed blocks were best practice then it would be the standard of care worldwide."

The report highlighted the need for patients to have access to an adequate level of aftercare. In an emergency situation, local dentists may have problems accessing treatment records, face language barriers when studying records or be unable to contact the treating dentist at short notice.

In the long term Irish dentists may be reluctant to take responsibility for resolving problems resulting from treatment abroad as it is rarely a positive experience for the patient or dentist. The survey highlighted that in cases where corrective work is required costs can mount to several times the cost of having the original treatment carried out in Ireland. The Irish Dental Council has no responsibility in relation to dentists practicing outside the Republic of Ireland and therefore it is a matter for the patient to meet the cost of any corrective treatment or rely on the public dental system which can only offer limited treatment in such cases.


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Walkinstown Dental Care | 133 St Peter's Rd, Walkinstown, Dublin 12 | T: 01 450 6373 | F: 01 450 6395