Is it safe to get dental treatments while traveling?

It can be tempting to try to get dental work done while traveling outside the United States, but most dental professionals don’t recommend it, unless it’s an emergency situation.

If you are considering getting dental work abroad for cost-related reasons, you should absolutely reconsider. From low practicing standards to questionable qualifications, there are many reasons why it’s wise to establish a “dental home” where you live and resist the urge to sacrifice convenience (and potentially quality) for cost. Let’s look at a few of the reasons why the decision to keep your treatment at your home-base is the best way to go, and why the desire to engage in “dental tourism” should be met with major hesitation.

Dentist Qualifications

In the United States, those who are looking to practice dentistry go through rigorous testing to become qualified. The school they attend must have accreditation with the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. Acquiring a dental license after school requires one to pass national examinations and meet the individual requirements of the state they want to practice in. This standard is met by all dentists in the United States. Looking for treatment in low-cost countries could put your health in major jeopardy as it is difficult to know what qualifications the dentists practicing there have.

Post-Treatment Care

Most dental treatments (dental implants in particular) require follow-up care that consists of multiple appointments. Recovery time could be months-long. Maybe your crown breaks or your new dentures are not fitting very well. If there are any complications whatsoever, it’s extremely important to have a trusted dentist that you can access immediately. This is one of the many reasons why it’s best to have a “home-base dentist”, and not try to fit in a procedure over the course of your two-week vacation. The patient-dentist relationship is built over the course of many appointments where your treatment is tailored to your individual needs and based on your personal dental history. It is very difficult to receive appropriate and thorough care apart from your personal dentist.

Also, keep in mind if you have dental work done abroad and want your local dentist to fix a problem that comes up later, you may run into issues, depending on the type of work done, and the quality of the work. Some dentists won’t want to assume liability for another dentist’s work, especially if it was done in another country.

Safety Standards

Dentists who practice in the United States must adhere to extremely strict safety standards. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a specific list of guidelines that all dentists are required to follow in order to prevent the spread of infection. Without strict practicing standards, it is virtually impossible to stop infection from spreading in a dental setting. If safety is not the top priority when treating a patient, there is no way to control what diseases you will be exposed to. In the United States, every aspect of dentistry is regulated, down to each piece of dental equipment that is being used. Biomedical waste must be disposed of in a certain way and x-ray machines are built to minimize radiation exposure. While these standards might be met in other countries as well, it is very difficult to determine with certainty.

If you are traveling out of the country and find yourself with a dental emergency, the best thing to do is first to contact your personal dentist directly and have a conversation over the phone. Make sure you have the number of your dentist office before going away. If you must see a dentist immediately, it’s best to contact the U.S. embassy or local consulate and find a dentist that they recommend. That way you can avoid local recommendations that may not have your best interest in mind.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that lower cost typically sacrifices quality. It will probably end up costing you much more in the long-run if you are trying to pinch pennies with serious and extensive dental work. If finances are a concern for you, our office provides financing and accepts most dental insurance. We can help you get the treatment you need without breaking the bank. Give us a call today!