Your teeth will take care of you as long as you take care of them. However, some people have different standards when it comes to the term, “taking care.” For example, many people are resorting to dental tourism to escape the high costs of dentistry in a developed country. Getting a dental implant can cost as much as $4,500 after all. But what are the risks of dental procedures abroad?
One of the biggest risks of dental procedures abroad is the risk of fraud. When you travel abroad you become a foreigner – chances are good that you won’t understand how dental certification processes abroad work.
To better illustrate this point, let’s briefly examine the certification process to become a dentist in the United States. Becoming a dentist is considered the second-best kind of career one can attain. The average American dentist makes $155,000.
And those are hard-earned dollars. A dentist is a doctor and to attain that title a dentist must enroll in at least four years of dental school. Before enrolling in dental school, a dental student must pass the Dental Admissions Test.
And most dental students must apprentice under a licensed dentist to graduate from medical school. Most dental school curriculum programs are at least four-year programs but could be longer.
After graduating, an American dentist can become either a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). And even after graduating, a dentist must still take a series of exams to gain a dental license to legal practice.
After all of that education and training, many American dentists undergo even more training to become dental specialists. Over 20% of American dentists are specialists.
The point is that most of the American dentists you encounter will be licensed, certified, and well-educated.
What will you know about the dentist you encounter abroad?
I am not implying that the dentists that you encounter abroad will be uneducated and unqualified. What I will say is that if you are considering getting dental work abroad, your number one priority is probably finding the cheapest dentist who performs the procedure you require.
So, that means you may not be picky in this circumstance. It also means that you are probably considering going to a developing country to get your dental procedure performed.
Most developing countries are still struggling to develop an internal infrastructure to adequately serve their citizens. And many developing countries grapple with widespread fraud and corruption in many industries.
One of your biggest risks of dental procedure abroad will be fraud. You won’t know if the dentist performing your procedure is an educated, licensed, and professional doctor.
Your ability to research a foreign dentist could be limited depending on the country you travel to for the procedure. The foreign dentist you visit could be a student in training, unlicensed, not a doctor, or an impostor that is just learning on the job to make money.
Consider the role of a cruise ship doctor. To dodge taxes and federal regulations, most American cruise ships are registered and operated by companies in foreign countries.
So, if you were on a cruise before the pandemic, your cruise doctor probably was not licensed to perform in the United States if they were licensed at all.
Also, the country you travel to may not have any specific regulations on who can or can’t become a dentist. Or such regulations may not be very strict.
In other words, your foreign dentist may be a licensed professional and doctor in their country. However, their skills and training probably can’t compare to the dental training available in the United States.
And dental clinics in developing countries most certainly do not have the latest in state-of-art dental equipment. Even if they do, such innovations will be limited to urban centers. It will depend on the country you visit.
Botched Dental Procedures
One of the biggest risks of dental procedures abroad is your chances of getting injured in a botched procedure.
If your dentist doesn’t know what they are doing they could injure doing the procedure and make a simple dental procedure much worse. Now, what will you do? Stay in a foreign country longer or come back home and pay a lot more money to get the cheap procedure you sought remedied?
Will your travel insurance cover such a procedure? Probably not.
Limited Liability Options
Many people go to countries like the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Mexico, Colombia, and India for cheaper dental procedures. You can get a root canal performed in India for less than $200.
What will you do if you suffer a botched procedure and come home? You have limited options to sue a dentist who lives abroad or demand a refund.
The cost and bureaucracy involved in suing a foreign dentist will be immense and could take years to accomplish.
In the end, you may end up paying more money to visit a foreign dentist to get cheap dental procedures.
You will have to pay the cost of airfare, hotel and food, and the cost of the procedure. If you are injured, getting treatment in the United States won’t be cheap.
Also, you will see that it probably would have been cheaper to get your procedure done here in such a circumstance.
The risks of dental procedures abroad are great. You have many options to consider here.
First of all, try to negotiate with your local dentist. If you are willing to travel thousands of miles to negotiate prices, why not start here? Your local dental clinic may be able to accommodate you or develop a payment plan.
Many dental clinics offer discount services for people who can’t afford to pay.
Or call or visit your local dental college. You can get a procedure done by a dental student supervised by a dentist. You will receive a discount on the service.
However, you may have to travel far for the privilege – like the next city instead of another country.
Risks of Dental Procedures Abroad
The greatest risk of dental procedures abroad could be hilarious karma. You may receive subpar care or get injured abroad.
Then you’ll end up spending more money to get your foreign procedure fixed than if you just had it done in the United States in the first place.
Remember to brush and floss your teeth regularly and use mouthwash. And see your dentist at least twice a year for a checkup. Take care of your teeth and you won’t have to consider discount dental work in a developing country.
Allen Francis was an academic advisor, librarian, and college adjunct for many years with no money, no financial literacy, and no responsibility when he had money. To him, the phrase “personal finance,” contains the power that anyone has to grow their own wealth. Allen is an advocate of best personal financial practices including focusing on your needs instead of your wants, asking for help when you need it, saving and investing in your own small business.