How far would you go for the per­fect smile?

With other coun­tries of­fer­ing den­tal treat­ment for a frac­tion of the cost of those in the UK…

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How far would you go

for the per­fect smile?

There’s noth­ing more at­trac­tive than a sparkling set of pearly whites, and that’s a fact. Bupa Den­tal Care’s 2018 sur­vey found that a good smile is the phys­i­cal fea­ture that peo­ple find most at­trac­tive – rated more highly than nice eyes and a toned physique.

Yet, lat­est fig­ures show that 50 per cent of adults and a third of chil­dren have failed to see a den­tist in the past two years. Why are we in­dif­fer­ent to our den­tal health?

The an­swer is sim­ple – money. Fi­nan­cially, times are tougher than ever, and statis­tics show a whop­ping 36 per cent of peo­ple are likely to de­lay needed den­tal treat­ment due to the cost.

Which is prob­a­bly why those who want more than just a check-up are choos­ing the cheaper al­ter­na­tive and go­ing

abroad. World­wide, more than five mil­lion of us are trav­el­ling to coun­tries such as Mex­ico, Thai­land, Turkey and Hun­gary in our quest for the per­fect smile.

Health tourism – in­clud­ing den­tal work – from the UK has tre­bled from 48,000 in 2014 to 143,000 in 2016. But can you ex­pect the same re­sults for less money?

Guy Bar­well, co-founder of The Im­plant Cen­tre, is just one den­tist who is see­ing – and rec­ti­fy­ing – the dev­as­tat­ing re­sults of seek­ing den­tal treat­ment abroad.

‘ We’re see­ing more and more peo­ple com­ing in with com­pli­ca­tions be­cause of shoddy work over­seas,’ he says. ‘They can have in­fected im­plants or dis­eased gums. But the worst prob­lems are def­i­nitely when peo­ple have had full sets of ve­neers.

‘Here in the UK, we’re gen­er­ally cau­tious about the treat­ment we of­fer and will of­ten avoid cut­ting into healthy teeth for ve­neers or re­mov­ing those that can be saved. Abroad, they use far more ag­gres­sive treat­ments.’

Peo­ple who go abroad for den­tal work are of­ten after a quick fix, not the care­ful, more pro­longed work that UK den­tists of­fer. They of­ten plan to com­bine the treat­ment with a hol­i­day – den­tist in the morn­ing, then round the pool by the af­ter­noon.

‘There are, ob­vi­ously, good den­tists in ev­ery coun­try, and I know I only see the hor­ror sto­ries,’ Guy says. ‘But I’d rec­om­mend peo­ple to ask them­selves why the same treat­ment varies so much in price. Is it be­cause den­tists abroad know peo­ple are un­likely to re­turn, so they do a rush job? And are they us­ing good-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als?’

One of Guy’s pa­tients who opted to go abroad is Amanda Eas­ton, 50, from Brighton.

‘I’ve al­ways had a prob­lem with my teeth, par­tic­u­larly my front in­cisor,’ ex­plains Amanda. ‘I was kicked in the mouth by a horse when I was lit­tle and, since then, I’ve never been able to get a crown that fits prop­erly. I’ve spent thou­sands over the years. Even­tu­ally, I de­cided to look into im­plants.’

How­ever, a quote from her lo­cal den­tist re­vealed it was go­ing to cost £2,000 an im­plant – and Amanda needed three. That was when a friend rec­om­mended a surgery in Bu­dapest that his aunt had used and raved about.

‘I looked it up on­line and the surgery had lots of good re­views – and it was go­ing to charge a third of the price of UK den­tists,’ says Amanda. ‘So, I de­cided to go for it.’

At first, the scheme seemed very pro­fes­sional, with the com­pany or­gan­is­ing her ho­tel and trans­fer from the air­port. But, at her first con­sul­ta­tion, things started to go wrong.

Rather than speak­ing to the den­tist di­rectly, Amanda spoke to the busi­ness man­ager about her treat­ment plan. It was rec­om­mended she could have all her teeth treated.

Although Amanda stuck to her orig­i­nal idea, even that didn’t go to plan. The first im­plant pro­truded and was a dif­fer­ent colour to the rest of her teeth. She was also of­fered no se­da­tion – some­thing she, as an anx­ious pa­tient, had been pre­vi­ously as­sured of.

Back at home, Amanda’s mouth was bruised and sore – and in­fected. And that wasn’t the end. The sec­ond im­plant fell out, and she had to re­turn to Bu­dapest four times to have fur­ther in­va­sive treat­ment.

‘Now, I’m so scared that I need se­da­tion ev­ery time I go to the den­tist,’ says Amanda. ‘That costs £300 a go, so any money I did save on the ini­tial treat­ment has al­ready been spent. I wish I’d never both­ered.’

So, if you are think­ing of trav­el­ling abroad for den­tal work, how can you min­imise the risk of things go­ing wrong?

Dr Nigel Carter, chief ex­ec­u­tive from the Oral Health Foun­da­tion, ad­vises us to do thor­ough re­search be­fore book­ing flights.

‘Many peo­ple con­sid­er­ing go­ing abroad want more ad­vanced pro­ce­dures, which are more likely to re­sult in com­pli­ca­tions. No mat­ter how skilled the clin­i­cian, there’s al­ways a risk of treat­ment fail­ure,’ he says.

‘ You need to be aware that, if any­thing goes wrong at home, it may not be easy to re­turn to the clinic – and your in­sur­ance may not cover your travel costs, es­pe­cially if you want to go back with a friend or part­ner.

‘It’s also re­ally im­por­tant that your clin­i­cian can com­mu­ni­cate with you and ex­plain the treat­ment and post-sur­gi­cal care. This is al­ways more dif­fi­cult when English is not their first lan­guage, and we of­ten hear re­ports of prob­lems and com­plaints aris­ing from com­mu­ni­ca­tion is­sues.’

Both Guy and Dr Carter also point out the vary­ing clin­i­cal stan­dards in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. ‘Not all coun­tries have the same high stan­dards of cross-in­fec­tion con­trol,’ ex­plains Dr Carter. ‘In de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, there can be a higher in­ci­dence of in­fec­tious dis­eases.’

UK den­tists are an­swer­able not only to their clients, but also to a strict gov­ern­ing body – the Gen­eral Den­tal Coun­cil. This body main­tains stan­dards for the ben­e­fit of pa­tients.

Again, not ev­ery coun­try has such strict rules. So, although treat­ment over­seas might be cheaper ini­tially, it might have a hefty price tag in the long term… and you may not al­ways be beam­ing with joy when your flight lands.

‘The worst prob­lems are when peo­ple have had full sets of ve­neers’

Pay­ing less for den­tal work could leave you with­out a smile

A per­fect smile is rated the most at­trac­tive fea­ture Amanda went abroad for her im­plants… ... but the re­sults were not what she hoped for Den­tist Guy Bar­well has words of warn­ing

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