Dental Tourism

Dental Tourism

President of the BDA, Dr Amarjit Gill addresses dental tourism... 


The increase in numbers of patients seeking treatment abroad has been widely reported in the media over the past few years. It has also given the profession great cause for concern that many of those patients return to find they subsequently need remedial work to rectify post-treatment complications.
In 2008, a BDA survey revealed that half of the respondents knew at least one patient that had travelled overseas for dental treatment. Just over 29 per cent had treated patients with complications resulting from work carried out abroad. The Irish Dental Association carried out its own survey this year, revealing that three out of four of its members have seen patients following overseas treatment.

It seems clear that despite the warnings, many patients are still willing to go the distance for healthcare if it promises to save them money. Advertisements inviting people to visit countries where they can get treatments “for less” are appearing in the newspapers on a regular basis and encouraging patients to combine their holiday with treatment. Bearing in mind the obvious appeal, how can we ensure our patients avoid taking any undue risks?

The BDA survey revealed that 60 per cent of the complications patients were facing following treatment received abroad were due to poor quality work. If we, as a profession, know we provide a high standard of care in the UK, shouldn’t we be reminding our patients of that at every opportunity? However, considering we only see half the population, this presents a problem – even with 100 per cent compliance of the profession.
It is important that we communicate the value of continuity of care and how it provides us with an enhanced understanding of patients’ needs. This in turn allows for the best possible outcomes in terms of their dental health. Furthermore, we must emphasise the importance of having access to effective follow-up care and from practitioners who know an individual’s treatment history. As well, we should talk proudly about the investments we make in our practices to deliver modern, cutting-edge treatments and technologies.

In my practice, for instance, we can offer patients almost all the dentistry they might want. This delivers a real benefit – efficient, effective, safe treatment that may not be found in an overseas surgery and, of course, we’re regulated by UK authorities.

Patient choice has opened up on a global scale and while it’s easy to understand why people are exploring these options, it is important that patients have all the information they need to help them make a decision. That’s where we come in.

There are some real benefits for patients who receive treatment locally. They can be reassured that the provision of care is regulated and that a full complaints process is in place for the rare occasions when things do go wrong. It’s up to us to get this message across to our patients (hopefully before they start booking flights) lest they find that in trying to save money, they may end up paying in more ways than one.