The rise of dental tourism

CHOICE investigates why some consumers are going overseas to save money on their dental treatment.
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01.Dental tourism


As dental costs continue to rise, some people are choosing to travel overseas for treatment instead. 

With reported savings of up to 75% in some countries, it’s not surprising a growing number of people are packing their bags to chase cheap dentistry overseas. 

In this report we look at:

There are few things in life worse than a trip to the dentist. Some might say the only thing worse is paying the bill. Worse yet, though, is not being able to afford to go at all. Because of this a growing number of Australians are considering seeking cheaper dental treatment overseas.

And if you’re up for it, there are plenty of medical tourism agencies to help you on your way. Many offer a range of medical options – from cosmetic surgery to elective surgery, eye surgery and fertility treatment while others specialise in one area such as dental. 

These agencies will organise your flights, accommodation and even sightseeing (though not travel insurance should a procedure go wrong). They will provide advice on hospitals regarding their success rates and complications for treatment and whether they are accredited by organisations such as the International Organization for Standardizations or the Joint Commission International.

It all sounds pretty tempting, but is dental tourism too good to be true?

Overseas destinations

India, Vietnam and Turkey are just some of the exotic global destinations on offer for medical tourism. For Australians, the most popular destinations for dental work are Malaysia and Thailand.

Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok sees 11,000 overseas visitors for dental treatment alone. 

Marketing Director Kenneth Mays estimates that 500 to 600 of these patients are Australian. “We provide a complete dental centre, staffed by 55 full- and part-time dental specialists, 26 [of whom] trained and/or have been board-certified in the US, UK, Japan or Australia,” he says. 

Patients are choosing to travel to Thailand, he explains, because of the lower cost for equivalent quality of care, combined with good treatment, service and value – and all in a desirable vacation location.

Barbara Sherriff, who owns Queensland travel agency My Body and Spirit, specialises in sending clients to Thailand for dental work, cosmetic surgery and laser eye surgery. 

She says the business came about as a result of her husband’s dental woes. “He needed signifigant dental treatment and was quoted $25,000, which was just far too much.” 

Sheriff, a travel agent already familiar with Thailand, looked into having the treatment there instead. She and her husband visited The Bangkok Hospital on the holiday island of Phuket and were impressed with the facilities. 

After receiving a quote they were even more impressed with the price – $5500, a huge saving on the original quote. As a result, the couple started a health travel service to Thailand. 

Sheriff says they’ve sent more than 160 clients overseas in the last year, 75% of whom were for dental. When she asks her clients why they’re choosing overseas destinations for their dental care, the answer is always the same. 

“It’s cost. We’ve seen people who’ve been quoted up to $60,000 for substantial work and simply cannot afford to have it done in Australia. We now receive up to 20 enquiries a week, and most of these are from people wanting dental work.”

Cassandra Italia owns Global Health Travel, another agency that sends Australians to a variety of countries for healthcare. She also says dental requests are on the rise. “Dental is huge, and the driving factor is cost,” she says. “Even if people have a holiday at the same time they will usually find they still come out better off financially.”



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