Warnings over dental tourism

The British Dental Health Foundation has issued a warning against travelling abroad for dental treatment after a spate of calls to its helpline from people who have encountered problems.

The warning follows news that the number of UK people looking for information on dental tourism through the internet reached almost 60,000 last month – a rise of 50% from the month before.

The fast-growing trend has led to a number of UK-based agencies offering cut-price ‘dental holidays’ for people who want to save money on dental treatment while taking a short break.

However, the practice has been labelled ‘a massive risk’ by the Foundation, which has received calls from patients who returned home in severe pain and needed further treatment to correct poor quality dental work – at an additional cost of several thousand pounds.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the BDHF, said: ‘It is a big worry that so many people are now willing to travel abroad for dental treatment without being fully aware of the risks.

‘Not all dentists are as highly trained as those in the UK, where extensive training and strict examinations are undertaken to ensure they meet the high standards required.

‘So called ‘dental holidays’ are presented as a cheap and hassle free alternative to getting treatment in this country but we know from calls to our Dental Helpline that if things go wrong then nothing could be further from the truth.

‘It is totally unrealistic to expect that complicated procedures that can take months to complete in this country can be carried out to the same high standard while on a 10-day holiday – but unfortunately that is the myth being sold to people.’

Callers to the Dental Helpline (0845 063 1188) have complained of facing dental bills of up to £10,000 to correct poor quality dental work, while one caller had to be taken to A&E to drain an infection after her face swelled up so much that she could not open her eye.

Dr Carter added: ‘If you are going abroad it is unlikely to be for a simple procedure and, of course, complicated treatments are more likely to cause problems. After all, styles and standards of dentistry can vary a great deal from one country to another.

“The question is what will you do when something goes wrong? If something does go wrong then there are all sorts of questions that you will need to ask yourself. For example are you willing to fly back? What are your legal rights as a foreign patient? Are you prepared to go through the courts? Do you have the money required to correct the treatment in this country?

‘When you are in pain and feel distressed because treatment has gone wrong then these decisions can become even harder to make.’

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