In recent years, implant dentistry has grown into an increasingly popular type of medical tourism. This trendy treatment involves travel outside of the local healthcare system to receive services at a substantially lower cost. The treatment typically takes place at the end of a vacation to make the most of the travel expense. The majority of dental tourism advertisements target Americans for treatment in Mexico or Costa Rico and Australians for treatment in Thailand or India.
Tooth implant procedures and restorative crowns in the United States ranges from $3,500-$5,000 per tooth but in Mexico the treatment is no more than $3,000 total. Similarly in Australia, a single tooth implant and crown ranges from $4,500 to $7,000 compared to an average of $3,500 in Thailand. Those considering the All-On-4 denture implants for $20,000-$30,000 in one of the more highly developed countries can receive start-to-finish treatment for $12,000 in Thailand, $10,000 in Costa Rico, $8,000 in Mexico, and an astonishing $6,000 in India.
One of the major drawbacks to this type of treatment is the complete lack of pricing transparency. In the United States and similarly well-developed countries the first step of the treatment is a consultation using CT diagnostics or a clinical examination in a dental chair. The dental implant costs are determined by the doctor based on the case complexity and specific needs of the patient. This quote typically covers more than it appears to because it is backed by the guarantee of follow-through and remediation of any issues that may arise.
An all-inclusive jaw restoration in the United States, for example, is likely to include whichever drugs and drug quantities are necessary to push through the IV to keep the patient comfortable as well as any bone graft material that is necessary to place around the tooth implants to help them heal, though those aspects are not emphasized because patients expect to be comfortably sedated and they expect their doctor to do what is necessary to ensure the implants will work. However, a similarly described “all-inclusive” treatment overseas is likely to include local anesthesia, four cheap dental implants, and a set of implant supported dentures. The treatment is delivered in the most basic, low-grade form or additional necessary services are added once the patient arrives and the associated fees are tacked on, bringing the price closer to the original estimate received at home.
Safety and Security
Travel insurance policies will not cover the cost of medical recourse to a complication if it is the result of an elective or cosmetic treatment and the treating dentist cannot be held responsible for any adverse reactions to the sedation drugs or dental materials. Even after returning home safely with low cost dental implants, minor developments can turn into major issues without the proper attention from the treating doctor.
A scab under an implant bridge would be noticed and addressed before the patient even notices it during a routine post-op appointment, but without follow up care the scab could create pressure between the healthy tissue and the bridge, causing tissue death and destruction. Another example is when one of the tooth implants is not as tight as it should be it can be left alone rather than attached to the implant supported denture during the immediate post op period. Once the dental implant has healed enough to help support the implant supported denture it can be attached a month or two later. This is a common precaution taken by doctors to ensure successful dental implant integration but when additional appointments are not an option, the weaker implant will be attached and the doctor will just hope for the best.
Aside from the long list of potential surgical complications that can develop as a result of the complete lack of follow up care, dental tourists lose the opportunity to make changes to the design of the smile and bite before receiving their permanent teeth which are intended to last a lifetime. Any desired changes must be completed back at home at the patient’s expense.
Regulation and Credibility
It is also important to keep in mind that in the United States, sterilization standards are maintained by OSHA and materials are regulated by the FDA. Doctors are required to pay for malpractice insurance and ongoing educational programs to maintain status and certification. None of these laws or standards exist in the less-developed countries, making treatment more affordable but also making it much easier for the doctors to ignore moral obligations to take care of their patients.
The lack of credibility is evident in dental tourism advertisements once you look beyond the attractive price. VitalDent, a more upscale Mexican dental clinic, sets itself apart by offering “patient education and prevention,” essentially meaning they take the time and provide the necessary materials to help their patients understand what they need to do to take care of their implants and bridges after they return home. The cost of a full-jaw procedure at VitalDent is $13,500, several thousand above the competitive market price. Most of the clinics, in contrast, describe their greatest advantages as being able to offer the most affordable dental implants, best scenic views from the windows of the operatories, and nearest proximity to the airport.
Dental tourism can be an affordable way to receive treatment that would otherwise be out of budget, but a limited budget is all the more reason not to gamble with your health and savings. All who participate are advised to proceed with caution.
Call EON Clinics at 855-820-7276 for more information on our great financing options or schedule a free no obligation consultation where you will be able to speak with one of the treatment coordinators who will provide you with all your options.