Travelling abroad for dental treatments is becoming quite common among patients in developed countries. Every year, some 800,000 Americans travel to overseas countries for dental care, according to Patients Without Borders. Almost half of all medical tourism is dental travel, which the American Association of Dentists calls an “increasing phenomenon.”
If you have heard of people who have gone overseas for dental travel or know someone who has, then you might wonder if you can benefit from the practice yourself. The main reason many patients seek dental care overseas is rising healthcare costs in developed countries. You can potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars by becoming a dental tourist.
Read below to learn more about the benefits of dental tourism, cost savings, and risks you should be aware of:
Dental care is expensive in just about all developed countries in the world. Even in advanced countries with universal healthcare policies—such as Canada or the UK—patients may struggle to obtain affordable care beyond the most essential treatments. In the US, where overall healthcare is very expensive, dental costs are unattainably expensive for the average income earner.
The problem is, only a few dental treatments are considered medically necessary. Most treatments that patients desperately seek, such as replacing missing teeth with implants, are considered cosmetic. Health insurance policies or government-covered plans do not pay for cosmetic dental procedures like smile makeovers or laser teeth whitening. As a result, patients often have to pay for such care out of pocket.
Traveling overseas is one of the best ways to avoid the hefty price tags that come with going to the dentist. Dental tourists often travel from a rich developed country where care is expensive to a less developed country where dentist’s fees are lower, but standards of care are the same.
When lower cost doesn’t mean lower standards of care, dental tourism can become very appealing. But how cheap are “low cost” dental treatments anyway?
For patients from Western countries, dental tourism can result is substantive savings. Consider, for example, Turkey, one of the top destinations in the world for dental tourism. In Turkey, dental clinics often offer free initial consultations to attract new patients. In the US, just visiting the dentist could cost over $200.
One patient in Ireland diagnosed with gum disease was told that the necessary treatment she needed would cost over 6,000 Euros. In Turkey, resolving gum disease would cost only a third of the price. Common cosmetic dental procedures that patients often seek, such as laser teeth whitening or polishing, costs close to a thousand Euros to get done in the UK. Whereas in Turkey, laser teeth whitening could cost just 300 Euros or less.
Prices for minor dental treatments offer good savings, but most patients fly to countries like Turkey to save thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars on serious dental procedures, especially of the cosmetic kind.
Most aging patients desire dental implants to replace missing teeth. Branded procedures like All-on-4 can replace missing teeth on an entire arc of the jaw. But these treatments often cost over $20,000 in total to get done in the US or a similar amount in the UK or Canada. But in Turkey, patients can obtain a single dental implant for as low as 800 Euros.
Popular cosmetic procedures like smile restoration may involve getting several different types of treatments, such as crowns, veneers, implants, or gum contouring. Costs can easily rack for these cosmetic treatments in developed countries where insurance plans don’t usually offer coverage. Such patients can travel to Turkey where overall costs of smile restoration can be as low as half the price in US or Canada.
The point is, patients who need common cosmetic dental procedures done can alternatively seek care in a country like Turkey, and possibly save thousands of dollars on care. If you don’t have dental coverage, this is a better option to consider.
It’s perfectly normal if you are bewildered by why dental care costs less in certain countries. In poorer countries, healthcare costs are naturally low so the local populace can afford the clinic fees. But what about destinations like Turkey, which is a part of the European Union?
Turkey’s lira allows the country to keep healthcare costs low for several reasons. The lower trading lira allows those with dollar values to capitalize on smaller local fees. Turkey, regardless, invests heavily in dentists, some of whom have attended colleges in the US or Northern European countries.
Turkey doesn’t offer low-quality care for lower prices. Turkish dental care is on par with standards set in Europe. The country’s public health facilities may lack infrastructure. But private dental clinics not only charge local prices, but they are also built according to world-class standards, in most cases.
Turkish dentists do not have a practice of charging patients for third-party services like equipment on rent. In America, dental prices are often inflated because of charges like rental equipment. Turkey usually charges a flat rate for the dental clinic. You only have to pay separately for dental products, like tailor-made crowns or veneers.
All in all, lower clinic fees in general keep overall dental care costs down in Turkey, so patients from Western countries can benefit from only fraction of the price compared to native countries.
If you are traveling to another country for care, then obviously you would have to calculate airfare and hotel charges in addition to the cost of treatments. When all these things add up, can patients still save hundreds or thousands of dollars?
Dental tourism travel costs significantly depending on where you are flying from. If you live in Germany, for example, you can go to Turkey, a fellow EU nation, for a really low cost using Euro Rail or a discounted air ticket. Flying to Turkey from North America could cost up to $1,000, or more.
Then there’s the accommodation. Wouldn’t it cost thousands more dollars or Euros to stay at a hotel? It really depends. Turkey has a vibrant tourism industry. As a result, you can find really cheap accommodation options in hotels, villas, or Airbnb rentals, much like in countries like Thailand. Airfare is also much cheaper compared to flying to other European countries like the UK.
Say your stay in Turkey costs a couple of thousand dollars to go from North America. But if you are seeking treatment like a dental implant, you can still save thousands of dollars more, even after considering the travel costs.
For patients in nearby European countries, it might save several hundred Euros to quickly pop-in to Turkey to get your teeth scaled and polished, or to get cosmetic dentures. If you live in North America or Australia, traveling would be much more cost effective for really expensive cosmetic dental procedures, including smile makeovers, implants, gum contouring surgery, or full teeth veneers.
Ultimately, you should add up the traveling costs depending on where you live and the season you plan on flying. In most cases, patients still find it affordable to travel to get the necessary treatments than receive the same in a developed home country.
While lower costs are the primary reason for dental tourism, it’s not the only one. Some patients may become dental tourists to enjoy a vacation while getting a root canal done. Dental treatments are stressful anyway. So why not relieve some of that stress on a Mediterranean beach in between visits to the dentist?
Countries like Turkey are well-known for tourism as well. Turkey has a massive tourism sector similar to that of Italy’s. Tourists flock in to sightsee the many historic sites, sometimes dating back to the Roman era. Mostly, travelers want to enjoy the gentle Mediterranean sun and enjoy beaches with pearl-white sands.
Turkey is also a top foodie destination and a great place to stop. Where else is better to shop for authentic Turkish rugs? Adventurous tourists can even try hiking or trekking further inland. Essentially, the country’s got the whole tour package.
Many dental clinics set up shop close to tourist destinations to attract foreign patients. Some dental clinics may even have tourism packages for foreign patients. These packages make it easier for patients to find accommodation nearby and find cheap plane tickets. The clinics may throw in perks like free consultations and chauffeured transportation to and from the hotel and the clinic. Patients can certainly benefit a lot from such packages. Not only are this cost-saving, but these
packages also make travel arrangements significantly convenient.
Dental tourism is not only for patients from developed countries. Well-off patients from developing countries can seek dental treatments in Turkey to enjoy high-quality care.
Low-income nations may lack dental clinics with technologically advanced facilities. High-end dental treatments, like All-on-4 implants, might not be available for non-premium prices. Patients in these countries willing to pay for quality and reliability can seek care in Turkey.
Turkish dental clinics are equipped with the latest tech like laser cleaning products, and in top-notch places, 3D smile scanning machines. Clinics often have attached labs to custom design products like crowns and veneers. Such care may not be available in many places in Asia or Africa. In that case, patients can fly to Turkey to receive premium rare European dental care as they wish.
Patients from developing nations can also save money by flying to Turkey than a country like the US, where airfare, accommodation, and clinical costs would be eye-wateringly high. Countries like Canada and Germany are famed for their nationalized healthcare, but only patients who are citizens benefit from these plans. In Turkey, affordable costs are available to everyone.
You can get any type of dental treatment in a country like Turkey. However, patients might want to prioritize to truly save costs. For example, if you need immediate care, such as for tooth extraction, visit a nearby dentist without waiting to travel. Certain surgical procedures might be better performed in your home country.
If the dental treatment you need is covered by a healthcare plan in your country, then there’s no need to travel to Turkey, unless you are sure the care you would receive is going to be better. Limit dental tourism for treatments you would have to pay out of pocket.
Most patients find it worthwhile to go abroad for cosmetic dental procedures such as the following:
Dental Veneers and lumineers
Scaling and polishing treatments
Cosmetic teeth fillers
Treatments are not limited to the above. You should compare prices in your home country and in Turkey before visiting.
As for cost saving as dental tourism can be, there might be risks associated that patients should consider well beforehand.
Mainly, patients with certain medical conditions are cautioned against traveling abroad for dental treatments. For example, if you have severe asthma, air travel can trigger an attack. Asthma can complicate dental procedures so it’s best not to allow travel to put any stress on your body before you receive treatment.
Patients recovering from other medical treatments for conditions like heart disease, kidney failure, or organ transplant, are advised not to travel abroad for care either. These conditions put you at risk for infection during invasive dental procedures. You may need special medical care even for a dental procedure that an overseas clinic might be ill-equipped to provide. In your home country, you can easily be rushed to a hospital as an insured patient. But the same may not apply in another country.
If traveling, in general, is stressful for you, don’t travel abroad. Your body should be in optimal shape to receive most types of dental treatments.
Additionally, don’t travel to another country without understanding how the dental health system works there. As in any country, there would be good dental clinics and bad ones. You should do your research and locate a well-regarded clinic for your treatment to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness abroad.