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Is dental tourism a good idea? Or, “wow, that’s not really a good idea”.

Dental tourism has been touted as a solution for patients unable to afford dentistry at home.  The premise is this: for a fee less than what you would pay in Canada, you get to travel to a country that can offer you not just the dentistry, but also a vacation/sightseeing experience!  The higher someone’s dental needs, the more appealing this offer becomes, and it is unsurprising that many people have made use of foreign-dentistry offers.  Here’s the other side though: people taking themselves on a dental tourism trip are really taking a big risk with their oral health.

When done right, dentistry will look great, feel great, and last many years.  There is nothing saying that the dental work provided in foreign countries is necessarily of a lower quality than what you would get right here at home.  It may be of equal quality, and may even be done faster!  The practitioner may be extremely well trained and practice a standard of dentistry that is world-class.  But here’s the question: how do you know?  Dentistry is not a product that is made in a factory and is the same no matter where it is purchased in the world.  It is a service provided using an individual’s knowledge, skill, materials, and instrumentation that cannot be assessed “before you go”.  There is no “test driving”.  Even as a dental  office, we could not adequately evaluate the quality of another dentist unless we were able to sit and watch several weeks of treatment being provided.

Dental tourism operators want you to forget these realities.  They also want you to forget that if anything goes wrong with the treatment, or even if some fine-tuning is required after you get home, you are on your own.  There is often no recourse to deal with failed treatment, legally or financially.  And the jurisdictions in which this dentistry is practiced may not be as strictly regulated as in Ontario (or your home province/state).  In Ontario, the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario exists to ensure that there is protection for dental patients and to ensure a standard of dentistry that is safe.  This does not mean that all dentistry is successful (there is no branch of medicine that can cure everything), but at least the standards to which dentists are held are protected by legislation.

Have we seen failures of dentistry done abroad?  Sure, but not everything done in Ontario is a success either, and here is the point: if you do engage in dental tourism, you really are flying without a safety net.  Unless that dentist can communicate to your regular family dentist the overall plan of management and somehow arrange for continuity of care when you move between dental offices, and you are willing to undertake the costs of proper management, the allure of a lower price tag may not have that same shine down the road.

For a comprehensive evaluation of your mouth and a serious, prevention-based treatment plan, contact us!  We’d love to be your dentist in Barrie (and your only dentist anywhere).


Dr. Elston Wong Portrait

About Dr. Elston Wong

Dr. Elston Wong completed his dental degree at The University of Toronto in 1999 before arriving in Barrie in 2002. After graduating, he continued to learn everything he could about dentistry. Now he has taken the time to share important information for anyone to read.

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