Dental tourists under fire

People who travel abroad for dental treatment should do their homework beforehand or risk problems later, warns Which?.

The campaigning magazine and website surveyed around 300 UK residents who went overseas for medical treatment in the past five years to find that 18% had later run into problems.

The report – at www.which.co.uk – cites the example of a dental implant costing £750 in Hungary and £2,200 in the UK as to why patients go abroad.

It goes on to advise readers to check qualifications of health professionals in foreign countries before treatment – plus, their registration with a professional body.

Which? editor Neil Fowler said: ‘Medical tourists must do their homework before jumping on the plane – and avoid rushing back too quickly – if they want to avoid potential problems.

‘Ask the right questions beforehand, speak to UK health professionals, and don’t assume you’ll have a safety net if things don’t go according to plan.’

In the light of the Which? report, the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) has launched an appeal against ‘dental holidays’ and the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has reiterated its warnings, too.

BACD director Tif Qureshi said: ‘The public needs to be careful before taking these so called ‘holidays’.

‘They may be cheap, but at the risk of damaging your mouth and smile’.

Dr Carter, chief executive of the BDHF, commented: ‘It is a big concern that UK patients are so willing to travel abroad for dental treatment without being fully aware of the risks.

‘Not all dentists are as highly trained as those in the UK, where extensive training and strict examinations are undertaken to ensure they meet the high standards required and this also applies to foreign dentists practicing in the UK.

‘So-called ‘dental holidays’ are presented as a cheap and hassle-free alternative to getting treatment in this country but we know from calls to our Dental Helpline that if things do go wrong then they are anything but.

‘When you are in pain and feel distressed because treatment has gone wrong then these decisions can become even harder to make.

‘It is totally unrealistic to expect that complicated procedures that can take months to complete in this country can be carried out to the same high standard while on a 10-day holiday – but unfortunately that is the myth being sold to people.

‘Around half of people questioned in the medical tourism survey were travelling abroad for dental treatment, so it really is a big issue in UK dentistry.

Meanwhile, there are added concerns that dental tourists are ‘not checking insurance policies’ before jetting off for treatment.

The Post Office has revealed that 36% of medical tourists – 25,000 people – do not purchase the correct amount of cover needed for having treatment overseas, it was reported on the TV morning show, GMTV.

One fifth claimed it never entered their mind to check their policy, 16% just assumed theirs would cover them and 9% knowingly decided to not extend their insurance.

Many travel policies will not cover patients for claims as a result of treatment or any additional periods of hospitalisation and replacement flights.

Helen Warburton, head of Post Office Travel Services, advised people seeking medical procedures abroad to buy specialist insurance and be honest with their provider.

‘It’s also important to check exactly what the specialist insurance covers over and above medical treatment,’ she said.

Earlier this week it was revealed that Bulgaria is emerging as a hotspot for cosmetic dentistry treatment.

DentaPrime Dental Clinic, who promote dental holidays to Bulgaria, claimed that patients seeking particular treatments can make a saving of 60% by travelling to the eastern European country and reported an upsurge in the number of bookings for summer 2008.

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