Dental Tourism: Should You Get Dental Care Abroad?
With healthcare costs on the rise and an estimated 120 million people in America without dental insurance, an increasing number of Americans are choosing to travel to other countries to have dental procedures performed to that they can’t afford in the US. Websites like Dental Vacation Center and Dental Departures devoted to so-called “dental tourism” are popping up everywhere, eager to help desperate patients connect with affordable dentists in foreign countries.
Dental procedures are the most popular within the larger trend of “medical tourism,” in part because so few people (only around 50% in the US) actually have dental insurance coverage. Amongst the favorite destinations for Americans seeking dental care abroad are Central America (Mexico, Costa Rica), Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary) and Asia (India, Thailand), but is this drastic step worth the risks? Consider the pros and cons.
Price: Patients can save anywhere from around 30% to up to 90% by venturing outside of the US for dental procedures. Even with foreign care, though, it’s important to remember that the more prestigious, best-regarded medical practices will cost the most.
Increasing Quality: Thanks to increasing demand, the quality and accessibility of foreign dental care made available to Americans has increased tremendously in recent years. The influx of income has helped not only in the acquisition of new medical technology and building of new medical facilities, but also in the development of transportation, communications and water and power systems to support the medical infrastructure.
Patient First: Competition for American dollars has helped lead to better customer service focusing on convenience, safety and putting the patient at ease, including: US-trained medical personnel, certification and accreditation of dentists, affiliations with prestigious American facilities and coordination of pre- and post-procedure care.
Overall Quality: Although conditions are improving significantly abroad, the typical dental tourist spots are still not generally as high in quality, from the facilities to the medical professionals themselves to the infrastructure to the standards of health and safety.
Liability: A major concern with receiving dental care in another country is if something goes wrong, the patient is far away from their family and the American legal system. Some foreign dentists might be especially inexpensive because they don’t have to pay for malpractice insurance. And any aid that American patients seek from their insurance companies might be in vain, because many insurance providers are wary of the risks of medical tourism.
Follow-Up Care: Returning to the dentist for follow-up care isn’t such a big deal when they’re across town; it’s a much bigger deal when they’re halfway across the globe.
So, there you have. If you’re considering dental tourism, weigh your options, do your research and decide for yourself whether it’s right for you.
(Sources: Medical Tourism Association, Compendium, San Francisco Chronicle, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, The Huffington Post)