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…
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