While most people may not associate combining their vacation time with a dental visit, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reports that the concept of dental tourism is becoming increasingly popular with Americans looking for lower-priced dental care.
According to the March 2006 issue of
AGD Impact, the AGD's monthly newsmagazine, popular destinations for individuals seeking dental care (primarily due to the low cost of care) include India, Africa, Mexico, Thailand, Hungary, and Costa Rica.
Many Americans will travel to faraway destinations for dental services because their health insurance plans do not include dental coverage. Other people may not have any insurance and may not be able to afford dental care.
"I have several patients who have traveled overseas in order to have dental care—always with the reason of saving money," says Engene Antenucci, DDS, AGD spokesperson. "Unfortunately, none of the work that I have personally dealt with when they return has met accepted standards of care."
The biggest danger associated with dental tourism is that there is no guarantee, according to Dr. Antenucci. Patients who undergo dental procedures in foreign countries may have to pay much more to fix problems upon their return to the United States.
"Who will continue the patient's care over time? Who maintains the responsibility for a case that is completed elsewhere?" asks Dr. Antenucci. "Many U.S. dentists are reluctant to take ownership of dental cases that were performed outside of the United States because they are unaware of which systems were involved and do not have the opportunity to consult with the dentist who performed the work. While dental tourism may sound like a cost-effective way to relax and receive dental care, it will most likely only hurt your smile in the end."
The AGD recently took a stand on this issue by passing a resolution that states that potential problems may arise when dental carriers encourage a patient's dental treatment outside of the United States and Canada because the standard of dental care may be compromised and there is an absence of legal recourse.
Problems with dental tourism:
•A large amount of dental work is done within a short time frame.
•Dental work might be completed by a foreign dentist who does not speak your language.
•Many insurance companies only pay benefits for services rendered outside the country during emergency situations.
•Foreign-based dentists do not need to comply with the same high standards that are found in the United States.
•There may be no state and federal laws regulating the foreign dentist's practice and review committees.
Reviewed: January 2012