Over the past several years, a booming industry has emerged, promoting medical and dental care abroad. In fact, it is estimated that this is a global industry of approximately $100 billion and growing at a rate of 20-30% annually. There are a number of websites and magazines, such as Global Health and Travel (The Magazine for International Healthcare and Medical Tourism) promoting medical and dental tourism. There is even an International Society for Medical Tourism.
Given the fact that the dental schools in the United States produce the finest dentists and specialists in the world, and that thousands of foreign students seek to complete their dental training in America, it is perplexing that dental tourism is even an issue in this country. Yet, in spite of the high quality standards in American dentistry, as well as media coverage of medical and dental disasters resulting from substandard treatment in foreign countries, thousands of Americans travel south of the border each year for “more affordable” dental treatment.
But how “affordable” is the treatment if something goes wrong? Is there any quality control? Is there any recourse if the treatment fails or if complications occur? These questions loom large for the patients who have experienced dental tourism disasters and lament the fact that they didn’t do enough research before being lured into the affordability trap.
Unfortunately, dentists and specialists, particularly in California, Texas, and Arizona report numerous cases each year of patients with failed dental implant treatment that must be completely redone. The problems range from bone and gum tissue destroyed by infection and complaints of constant pain from permanent nerve damage, to broken implants and components of unknown origin that must be removed and replaced. All too often, the patients seeking affordable treatment south of the border end up paying significantly more to repair the damage caused by substandard treatment than they would have paid for quality care in the United States.
Although there are quality dentists in other countries, the bottom line is that dental tourism is a gamble. Quality control standards and accreditation are different in each country, not to mention the potential language barriers that make informed consent challenging. In addition, a significant amount of training and experience is required to provide quality dental implant treatment and there is no way for the average patient to verify the expertise of dentists in other countries. All in all, the safest place to seek treatment for tooth replacement is with experienced dentists and specialists right here at home.