Dental trend spotlight: Dental tourism

Tempted to take your teeth abroad for dental care? Get the facts first.

Every year, thousands of Americans travel abroad looking for a less expensive way to take care of their smiles. Could you be one of them?

Nearly half of people going abroad for medical reasons are seeking dental treatment, according to Patients Beyond Borders. In fact, more than 6 million people from around the globe — including 800,000 Americans — crossed a border to get dental work done in 2017, Patients Beyond Borders estimates. With some dental clinics abroad promising savings of up to almost 80% on costly procedures like root canals, implants and crowns, it’s no wonder so many people are interested.

Where do people go?

Where people go for dental care abroad is often driven by where in the U.S. they live. Residents of Arizona, California and Texas are likely to travel to Mexico. Those living on the East Coast commonly head south to Costa Rica. Other popular dental destinations include Hungary, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, according to Patients Beyond Borders.

Is it safe?

If you’re considering going abroad for dental care, be sure to research the safety and quality of an overseas dentist before making the trip. Read reviews from previous international patients to help paint an accurate picture. While Delta Dental network dentists go through a strict credentialing process that ensures quality care, some clinics abroad may be less reputable.

And remember, dental tourism isn’t for everyone. Dental treatment abroad may not be a great idea if you’re prone to asthma attacks, or more susceptible to infection because of heart disease, kidney failure or a transplant.

Is it covered by dental insurance? What about follow-up care?

Before planning a trip overseas, it’s crucial to check your dental coverage to see if services outside of the U.S. are covered and what documentation is needed. Certain plan types with closed networks may not cover international dental care at all.

If something goes wrong after you’ve returned from receiving dental care abroad, you may need a follow-up visit — with either a local dentist or potentially back abroad. Keep in mind that some U.S. dentists will not provide follow-up care on dental work done abroad because of liability risks.

The verdict: If you’re considering dental tourism, keep your regular dentist informed of any dental work you’re planning abroad. If you choose to travel overseas for dental work, research the quality of that dentist thoroughly and know the costs up front.