In 2017 millions of patients will again travel abroad for dental treatment.
Dental tourism, a subset of medical tourism, involves individuals seeking dental care outside their local healthcare systems, coupled with a vacation.
Definition of dental tourism according to the American Dental Association – “Act of traveling to another country for the purpose of obtaining dental treatment”
Dental tourism is developing worldwide, as the world becomes ever more symbiotic and cut-throat, method, material, and hi-tech advances spread swiftly, enabling providers in “developing countries” to endow with dental care at substantial cost savings when compared with their nobles in the developed world.
The Worlwide Market of Dental Tourism
Factors for Dental Tourism
Compared to UK and US, countries like Mexico, Poland, Hungary and Thailand provided quality dental care at a reduced average cost
Lack of Insurance Coverage
Healthcare consumers in industrialized nations, including the United States, Canada, the UK, Japan, Australia & New Zealand have found dental care becoming increasingly expensive in their home countries, even for those with insurance.
For those without dental insurance – in the United States recent estimates put this figure at more than 120 million – even a simple root canal procedure or crown can be prohibitively expensive and puts treatment out of the reach of millions.
Less Waiting Time
It was found that patients overall treatment abroad was carried out in a short time and most patients were satisfied with dental tourism as found in study conducted by Carmagnola D et al., in 2012
Best Quality Dental Services
A study conducted in Romania by Elena et al., in 2013, found Romania to be a popular destination providing affordable quality dental treatment along with high end technology and material. Also it was found that the dental profession quality is high in Hungary and the quality of dental technology, the quality of materials and equipment used in dental practices in Hungary are equal to Western European quality.
Destinations for Dental Tourism
British tourists are now flocking to destinations including Hungary, Romania, Latvia and Croatia, as well as traditional destinations such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. American tourists tend to visit Mexico and Canada to get cheaper dental treatment (Dental tourism : London Health).
Mexico followed by India and Hungary is the leading destination for dental tourism, 25% of the worldwide dental tourists come to Mexico. Hungary primarily serves the Europeans, while India attends mostly Asian patients, along with some US citizens. Even Thailand is growing as a dental tourism destination because of affordable prices for quality dental services.
Many developing countries provide affordable quality dental treatment in very short time to attract more patients. The UK patient gets such treatment in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Poland. At the same time, most of American patients obtain such low cost dental care in Argentina, Costa Rica and Peru (Turner, 2008). The most popular destinations providing affordable dental treatments are : India, Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand, Philippines, Hungary, Turkey, Czech Republic and Poland.
Turkey is becoming popular for catering to Europeans along with Poland, Croatia, and Czech Rep while Mexico and Costa Rica caters to Americans and Canadians. Turkey and Ukraine are favorite destinations for people from the Middle East while Thailand, India, and South Korea are popular with Asians and Australians.
Benefits of Dental Tourism
Lower treatment costs – Up to 80% cheaper, especially for those without insurance coverage Transparent pricing – Many clinics will give you the prices of their treatments/procedures upfront
Memorable experience – Enjoy a short vacation alongside dental treatment in an interesting foreign country by visiting local restaurants and attractions
Quality service – Dental clinics abroad can be more caring, attentive and personable as their businesses rely heavily on attracting foreign customers through referrals from happy patients
Convenience – In most cases there is no waiting list for treatment and clinics will work around your schedule, not the other way around.
Risks of Dental Tourism
Lack of legal protection – malpractice lawsuits may not be admissible in US courts
Long way from home – if you need to return to get a problem fixed (to take advantage of a guarantee)
Exposure to disease – possibility of contracting a disease that isn’t common where you live
Poor follow-up – clinic may not have a system/process to assist dissatisfied patients and address their complaints
Inexperienced dentist – some countries have a lower standard of training and education compared to North America
Low quality materials – materials might be cheap or used and they may not be compatible with North American equipment
Predictions for Dental Tourism
Dental tourism demand is expected to expand with the number of dentists offering services in the year 2014 and beyond. The trends foreseen by experts include:
Multi trips: Consumers who require extensive dental work like dental crowns or implants, root canals or dentures will have to make frequent visits to the dentist for perfect results and maybe an additional biannual check-up.
Regional options: Regional solutions will affect dental tourism, especially if distance travelled is a major factor that equals travel costs. The evolving industry will make consumers travel to places they are comfortable and familiar with so that they can also plan a vacation. Like North Americans may travel to Latin America, Europeans will travel to Eastern Europe, Australians will travel to South East Asia while Asians will travel within Asia.
Competition: Dentists look to expand revenues as they see huge potential in dental travel. Thus dentist clinics with limited infrastructure and centers with wide offerings compete to attract the same patients. This competition leads to confusion, chaos and blurring of lines between the good and bad and can lead to a price war.
Price wars: As consumers will look for deals with a total return on investments including treatment and travel costs, lodging and incidental expenses, they look for all-inclusive deals to reduce potential financial risks. People tend to travel if they have significant savings and will not travel for a single dental implant, unless they had already planned to visit the country.
Transparency: This is important as many times, there are differences between what is marketed and what is delivered. Dentists may advertise the use of top American brand dental implants but actually use low quality, unreliable implants while charging for a high-grade article. Consumers thus have to do proper research before undergoing any treatment.
Commodity: As suppliers and demand for service is common, dental tourism is growing into a commodity-type market where procedures, materials, techniques and skills used are similar everywhere. Differentiating factors like costs and quality are blurred amongst the many dental service providers.
Competitive advantages: To remain competitive dental clinics have to think strategically and differentiate themselves through innovation, talent and services offered.
Dental Tourism Key Findings
- Over 1.2 million Americans traveled abroad for health and dental care in 2014.
- 42% of the UK patients in the study went abroad for cosmetic surgery, 32% for dental treatment, 9% for obesity surgery, and 4% for both infertility treatment and orthopedic surgery.
- Hungary was the most popular destination for dental treatment (chosen by 38% of UK dental travelers)
- Mexico is a favorite destination offering 25% to 35% savings for dental and cosmetic surgery.
- Costa Rica offers 30% to 40% savings for dental and cosmetic surgery services.
By Doctors Nives and Pointy
Last update 30th of December 2017