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What Are the Pros and Cons of Dental Tourism? 10 Key Facts

Experts forecast the global value of the dental implants market to reach $9 billion in 2027. 

That’s how popular and sought-after dental implants have become. And for many reasons, seeing as these fixtures offer numerous benefits, especially permanence. They have a high success rate, and they can last for 20 years or even longer.

However, since they are the best tooth replacement options, they are also the priciest. This, in turn, has led to the rise of dental tourism.

There are several pros and cons of dental tourism, but at the end of the day, the risks they bring can be too significant.

So, if you’ve been thinking of going on a trip to get implants outside of the U.S., you may want to postpone it. This post reveals some of the most crucial facts you need to know about dental tourism, and why it can be a bad idea.

What Is Dental Tourism?

Market experts forecast the dental tourism industry to become a $5.83 billion sector in 2025. One of the major drivers behind this growth is the cost of treatment in developed countries. Another is the lack of insurance coverage for preferred dental procedures.

What exactly is dental tourism, though, and why do a lot of patients do it?Dental tourism is the practice of traveling outside of one’s country to get dental care. For instance, a U.S. citizen may travel to Mexico to undergo surgery for dental implants there. Another example is an Australian traveling to Thailand for oral procedures.

As you can see, most “dental tourists” come from places where the costs of treatments are quite high. The destinations, in turn, are nations known for their lower-priced services.

Is It Safe to Have Dental Work Done in Mexico?

It is, so long as you live in Mexico. 

However, as someone who lives outside of Mexico, there are too many risks involved. For starters, there are the risks of contracting diseases through traveling. There’s the novel coronavirus, for instance, which is one of the greatest risks at the moment.

The Pros and Cons of Dental Implant Tourism

Dental tourism, just like medical tourism, has both good and bad sides to it. Lower treatment costs are the primary benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, however, are the many safety risks associated with it.

Let’s take a closer look at each side of dental tourism.

The Upside

According to a recent survey, up to 37 million consumers in the U.S. don’t have dental coverage. Many of them are those who’ve lost their dental benefits after they retired. For others, it’s due to the high cost of insurance. Therefore, this lack of insurance is one of the key drivers behind the growth of dental tourism.

The cost of living is a good indicator of how pricey dental and medical services are in a certain country. For example, consumer prices in the U.S. can be almost 130% higher compared to the United Mexican States. That’s why tooth implants and other dental services also cost less in Mexico.

In some cases, dentists themselves carry out some form of “dental tourism” as a charitable act. However, they do so not to cut costs, but to extend their services to the underserved.

They travel to indigent countries to provide their skills to the impoverished. In this way, they help the less fortunate achieve better oral health, which is key to overall health.

The Downside

Safety and security risks are just some of the many drawbacks to dental tourism. Long-distance travel can already come with hazards, and not only in terms of oral health. All these can outweigh the lower costs associated with being a “dental tourist.”

Oral Safety Hazards

High-quality dental implants can restore up to 99% of lost teeth functions. With proper placement procedures, they also have at least a 95% success rate.

However, the success of dental implants relies on gums that are free of disease or infections. As such, patients who want to get implants but have gum disease need gum treatment first.

Dental tourism makes it hard to achieve this, as that would mean multiple travels. As you can imagine, that would be extremely inconvenient.

Implant Failure

Inconveniences aside, being a “dental tourist” can also put you at risk of implant failure. This can occur when bacteria get into the gums during the surgical procedure. In some cases, the bacteria may get into the implant itself prior to the insertion.

What’s more, the infection may not exhibit signs right away. If this happened during a dental holiday, you might go back home without symptoms. The infection may then begin to reveal itself after several days from your return.

Although an implant-caused infection is treatable, it’s difficult. It could cost you a lot more, as it may already requiring removing the implant. Aside from that is the cost of treating the infected areas of the mouth.

Lack of Sanitation Standards and Regulation

To make matters worse, these infections are often preventable. That’s because implantations should only occur in a highly sanitized environment and due to lack of standards that the U.S. is held to don’t exist in less developed countries. In the United States, sterilization rules are governed by OSHA, and the FDA regulates materials. Dentists are required to have malpractice insurance and ongoing continuing education programs to maintain certification.

Dental Insurance Coverage Won’t Apply Outside of the Country

If you have dental insurance, it’s doubtful that a foreign dentist will accept it. Meaning, you’d have to pay cash for the entire treatment in one lump-sum payment.

This also means that part of your insurance may go to waste. This is true even if your insurance policy was to cover only a part of the procedure. Whether it’s coverage of 25% or 50%, it won’t apply if you get the treatment outside of the insurer’s network.

Now, remember that dental tourism requires you to travel outside of the country. In that way, you’re also leaving your insurance policy’s benefits behind.

Risks of Traveling

The CDC itself says that traveling raises one’s chances of contracting coronavirus. The farther you travel, the higher your risks of exposure.

Also, note that even before the COVID pandemic, traveling has always carried risks. Studies found that U.S. travelers to Mexico are at risk for diseases like dengue and hepatitis. There’s also the danger of other pathogenic infections, such as shigellosis and syphilis.

Dengue is also an ongoing risk not only in Mexico but also in Costa Rica and Brazil. Brazil, in particular, has had the most number of dengue fever cases in the Americas. The latest reports reveal that so far, the country has had 1,040,481 dengue cases.

Security Threats

In 2019, Mexico’s crime rate broke the 1997 record as the year with the most crimes. As incredible and beautiful as the United Mexican States is, it does have a higher crime rate than the U.S.

While no country is 100% safe, secure, and crime-free, being a foreigner can make you a bigger target. There’s also the potential of encountering language barriers. It could also be challenging to overcome cultural obstacles in a foreign country.

Travel Insurance Exclusion

It’s true that dental implants in the U.S. do cost more than say, Mexico, Brazil, or Thailand. However, dental tourism comes with many other costs, such as transportation. You also need to consider accommodations, not to mention travel insurance.

Travel insurance may not cover accidents that occur during a dental holiday. If you develop an illness due to the procedure, your coverage may not be of any use.

Is Dental Tourism Safe?

Dental tourism isn’t always completely dangerous, but as you can see, it does have a lot of risks. That should be enough reason for you to rethink your decision to go on a dental vacation. It’s best that you seek dental treatment locally so that if any problem does occur, you can have it resolved ASAP.

Preventing the Need for Dental Trips

Regular dental check-ups and excellent oral hygiene habits are key to long-lasting implants. Their performance, aesthetics, durability, and longevity are the drivers of their cost. However, since they can last you for 20 years or more, that makes their price reasonable.

Besides, there are now financial options that make dental implants easier to obtain. With these programs, you may find it easier to afford high-quality implants. If you’re in the U.S., such financing plans won’t require you to travel outside of the country.

Here at Gordon Dental Implants & Cosmetics, we offer financing options for dental implants. For as low as $215 a month, you can already be on your way to replacing a single lost tooth.

Invest in Your Long-Term Oral and Overall Health

We hope that this guide detailing the pros and cons of dental tourism helps you make the right decision. While not all dental holidays end up badly, they can still carry significant risks. So, before you book that trip, please take the time to consider these potential hazards.

Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of working with a local dentist in Leawood, KS? Then please know that Gordon Dental Implants & Cosmetics is here to help. Connect with us now, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about our dental implants!