Considering getting dental implants overseas? Know the risks

Considering getting dental implants overseas? Know the risks

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Dental work in New Zealand can be expensive. New Zealanders are opting to go overseas for a bit of dental tourism—a tan with a side order of root canal. But as many are finding out, it can be very risky and end up an expensive and painful mistake.

There are a number of Kiwi’s going overseas to get their dental work done. They say that dental work in NZ is too expensive. But the very reason it’s so expensive is the reason you can trust it. Our dentists have a thorough and extensive education, plus the on-going costs of continual education for updated best practices. A dentist must have a minimum of five years at university, plus another three years if they specialise. This level of education and knowledge is what ensures you get a safe procedure with the optimal outcome.

The risks from dental tourism are high, and there may be costs and problems you have not considered.

There are no guarantees about your dentist’s education

In NZ, most dentists are part of a governing body called the Dental Council of NZ. There is also the NZ Dental Association, that provides resources and support to their members. There are also strict standards around obtaining qualifications and the process of becoming a dentist. Overseas, you have no way of knowing the dentists’ level of education, the legitimacy of their qualifications, or if they are keeping up with latest practices and standards.

NZ dentists have reported outcomes from overseas dental work such as implants placed in the sinuses, ill-fitting bridges, untreated infections, infected bone grafts, and incomplete root canals. Worst case scenario, is in the case of Melanie Heremaia from Waihi. She died two days after a root canal in Noumea—a combination of medication and tiredness. Dentists need medical qualifications because it’s a complex science and important to get right.

You don’t know about hygiene levels

Their website looks good and they have some great reviews. But unless you know what you’re looking for, there are a number of practices that are happening that could endanger your health. Diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV can be transmitted via instruments not properly sterilised. There are often reports of superbugs originating from overseas dentists which can compromise results and are difficult to treat. In NZ, the practices are tightly regulated and there are mandatory clinical audit requirements dentists must uphold to retain their practising certificate.

Some dental processes need more time

Ten days is not long enough for some dental processes, and rushing them may compromise the outcome. For instance, dental implants generally need a few months to heal before the crowns are added. This is because chewing puts pressure on the tooth implant and may stop the implant from integrating with the bone. This can lead to failure of the implant. Rushing treatment can have serious consequences and you risk irreversible damage.

Good dental work takes time. A week or ten days is not enough.

There may be communication problems

You will probably want to ask your dentist questions about the procedure, or chat about their previous experience. But if you don’t have a common language that you’re sufficiently fluent in, there’s going to be a big barrier to communication.

Medical tourism can be a false economy

There are flights and accommodation to pay for. Not only that, but the best dentists—the ones you can trust to do a quality job – will charge a fee not dissimilar to NZ dentists. If you need follow up appointments, the costs of the flights add up quickly. You’re also using up valuable paid leave- or, worse, unpaid leave.

Teeth need maintenance

Getting an implant, bridge or crown requires ongoing care and maintenance. This means you’ll have to find a local dentist to maintain your overseas dental work, and these services will often be accompanied by large fees. If you get treatments done in NZ, there may be ongoing maintenance appointments as part of the package.

If something goes wrong, there are no guarantees

If something goes wrong and you’re back home in NZ, it becomes an expensive dilemma. ACC and insurance will not cover the costs of treatment for procedures performed overseas. The cost of a flight back to Thailand, Bali or India is a very expensive commute. And if you find a dentist in NZ willing to treat you or the situation becomes an emergency, you’ll be paying full price for those repairs—which many end up costing more than the initial procedure itself. Many dentists will refuse to treat work performed overseas, knowing how it can become a large and complex task.

There is no way to get your money back from the original treatment provider either.

Do you actually need that laundry-list of treatments?

Some people do end up with ‘over-treatment’. Overseas Western tourists can be seen as a source of extra money and some dentists in NZ have reported that extra, un-needed work has been carried out.

It’s not much of a holiday

Don’t plan much relaxing and resting- the surgeries/ treatments will be for a few hours each day. And when you’re not in the chair, you may not feel like going and visiting tourist attractions. Alcohol during treatment should be actively discouraged too, so you may find yourself limited to your hotel room, watching Netflix (which you could do at home too).

What’s our advice?

Stay in New Zealand, where the quality of the treatment can be guaranteed. If you can’t afford it, speak to your dentist about payment plans, or spreading out treatments to make them affordable—maybe you could fix the decay first, then start the cosmetic work. Overall, it’s a much less stressful process staying in NZ, with a dentist you have an ongoing relationship with.

The best advice is to look after your teeth now. Brush with toothpaste containing fluoride, and floss daily. Don’t delay seeing the dentist for a little filling or infection; a little work now may save you tens of thousands of dollar further down the track. If you maintain good dental hygiene now, expensive treatments—fillings, dental implants and root canals—will not be needed.