Starting quote: “Patients considering dental treatment abroad should always check a dentist’s qualifications and experience and whether or not they are insured if things go wrong,” warns Peter Ward, chief executive of the BDA. “Regulation is not always as strict…”. It is an important caveat, although not necessarily a clinching argument.
Dental treatment abroad costs remain so much cheaper – in eastern Europe goes between 50% and 10%, typically – that companies can offer packages in which the cost of travel, accommodation and repeat visits is thrown in and the patient can still make savings running into thousands. For example, three dental crowns would cost less than $1000 in a Bucharest dental clinic and there would be no charge for consultations or X-rays and a free night’s hotel accommodation is included. The arithmetic is compelling, whichever way you look at it.
Now, on the other side of the story, why your dentist costs so much compared to any dental treatment abroad you might choose? First of all, dental care is not a commodity. It is not laundry detergent or breakfast cereal or wireless minutes. Dentistry is a professional service that is both art and a science. Then, overhead costs are huge. Anywhere from 60% to 80% of what a dental patient pays goes toward the expense of running a modern dental practice. Dentists pay for rent or mortgage payments on their office space, payroll for hygienists, office managers and receptionists, health insurance, taxes, supplies, business insurance and technology – just to name a few. Labs differ in the quality of the products they produce. We all want our dentists to be using high-quality labs for things like crowns and dentures. Should we have to ask about the labs? No. We should trust our dentists to select a good one.
Then.. Insurance isn’t really insurance. Dental insurance is nothing like health insurance or auto insurance. It’s a maintenance plan that will cover cleanings and x-rays, maybe half the cost of a crown. It will not protect you if you need a lot of work done. The maximum annual benefits, $1,000 to $1,500, haven’t changed in the 50 years since dental insurance became available. Dental insurance drives docs nuts and they wish they didn’t have to use it. The number one most complicated aspect of running a dental office, bar none, is dealing with dental insurance. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to get through to a rep, make sure the patient does have benefits or calculate a co-pay. And the largest insurance plans in the country discount most dentists’ fees by 10% to 20%. If you’re paying out of pocket, better ask directly for a discount, you might discover the dentist is giving you one already.
With this said, if you’re considering dental treatment abroad, do your research and be aware of the potential risks.
There are no official statistics on the number of people travelling for dental treatment abroad. Damien Walmsley, professor of restorative dentistry at the University of Birmingham and scientific adviser to the British Dental Association (BDA), believes that most of the dental work carried out abroad is advanced treatments such as crowns, bridges, veneers and larger reconstructions involving implants. His impression, based on talking to other dentists and patients who have been abroad, is that most people seem happy with the treatment they have received but a few encounter problems. The main difficulties are communication and aftercare. “The communication difficulties are not just because of the language difference, there are also cultural differences. You may not get all the information or reassurance that you would from your dentist at home”.
How to minimize the chance of a problem in dental treatments abroad
Do your homework: anybody traveling for dental treatment abroad needs to do some research. Check the qualifications of the dentist who will treat you and make sure he or she is properly registered.
Have a consultation with a qualified dentist: you should always be assessed by a qualified dentist before being given a detailed plan and cost estimate for a dental treatment abroad.
Speak to your own dentist: speak to your own dentist as they may be able to offer advice based on your dental history. Your dentist will also need to be aware of your plans in case of any complications.
Think of your aftercare: ensure you have proper documentation in English about your dental procedures carried out abroad in case you need follow-up treatment back home.
Don’t underestimate the communication difficulties: consider how you would deal with a potential language barrier. Dental treatment abroad can be so much cheaper, but can be also a lot more expensive in case you have to redo or fix things back home. You could find that your expectations of how a dentist should communicate with a patient are not met, and then it doesn’t really matter how good that dentist is. You may also feel more vulnerable in an environment that is unfamiliar, especially if you can’t easily ask questions, so better check with agencies that are familiar with such services – maybe you can even go in a group.
Advise of the day
Today’s recommended destination for dental clinics: Poland dentists in Lodz
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