Updated on April 25, 2024
9 min read

What is Dental Tourism

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What is Dental Tourism?

Dental tourism refers to traveling abroad to get dental treatment. Many people have left, or plan to leave, their country of residence for a “dental vacation.” They may seek higher-quality care, a more attractive price, or both.

Defining the Phenomenon

Visiting another country for dental care is an increasingly common form of medical tourism. Medical tourism, including dental tourism, can be divided into three basic categories:

  1. Going from a less developed country to a more developed country to access a higher standard of care — This is more common, as some procedures used to be available only in certain parts of the world. 
  2. Going from a developed country to a country where equivalent dental care is less expensive — This trend is rising as many countries offer more advanced medical treatment. 
  3. People living abroad who return home for dental care — This is also increasingly common due to global migration.  

This article focuses on the second type of dental tourism. For well-established dental treatments such as dental implants, going to a less expensive country is an attractive option for many people.

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Benefits and Risks of Dental Tourism

As dental tourism becomes an increasingly compelling option for many people, it’s worth considering the benefits and potential risks. While the advantages of traveling for dental care may seem obvious, the drawbacks may not be as obvious.

Advantages of Seeking Dental Treatment Abroad

There are several potential advantages to dental tourism as an alternative to treatment at home, including:

  • Cost-effectiveness — Dental tourist destinations may offer the same quality of care at home but at a fraction of the price. Many clinics cater specifically to foreigners and cultivate a reputation for affordability and expertise.
  • The travel experience — Besides getting affordable dental care, tourism’s usual benefits include seeing new places, meeting new people, and having experiences that wouldn’t be possible at home.
  • High-quality procedures — Travel may be necessary to access the treatment you seek. This depends on your country of origin, as some countries still have an advantage over others regarding the most advanced procedures.

Concerns and Potential Pitfalls

There are also some potential disadvantages to traveling abroad for dental treatment. These include:

  • Risk of low-quality care — The price these dental offices offer may be attractive, but there’s a risk of providing poor care and/ or using low-quality materials
  • Little to no recourse — If you receive low-quality treatment in a foreign country, you may not have any legal or financial recourse as a non-citizen
  • Long travel times — Air travel may impact recovery, increasing the risk of complications such as post-operative bleeding
  • Leisure versus recovery — Drinking, dancing, or eating certain foods may compromise the results of your treatment
  • Local diseases — Contracting a disease you aren’t immune to is another potential pitfall that could harm your ability to recover

Which Countries are Best for Dental Tourism?

Some of the most popular destinations for dental tourism include:

  • Costa Rica — Offers state-of-the-art dental care at about a third of the cost of the US; many doctors, like those at Cavallini International Dental Clinic, have trained at US or Europe dental schools
  • Mexico — Has many quality dental offices that treat Americans and other foreigners; the border city of Los Algodones, nicknamed “Molar City,” is home to hundreds of dentists
  • Thailand An increasingly popular dental tourism destination for Australians and New Zealanders; they can save half or more on dental work at offices like Bangkok International Dental Center
  • Hungary — The top destination for Brits, Germans, and other Europeans seeking dental care abroad; clinics like Medicover in Budapest offer dental implants and other procedures at half or even a quarter of the cost at home

Other increasingly popular countries for foreigners seeking dental care include Spain, Poland, Romania, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, and the Philippines.

The best country for you to visit will depend on your preferences, current location, available funds, and any cultural association you might have with the country in question. You should choose a reputable dentist with a proven track record wherever you decide to go.

Why is Dental Tourism Thriving?

The trend of people visiting dental clinics abroad (that cater to foreigners) has grown significantly during this century.

This type of dental tourism is on the rise for several reasons:

  • A good deal for the patient — Many people from countries like the United States are affluent by global standards but find it difficult to afford certain dental procedures at home. This makes them ideal customers for high-quality dental clinics in less affluent countries.
  • A good deal for the dentist — The clinic can charge a price higher than average within their country but still favorable for the foreign patient.
  • An opportunity for travel — Dental tourists can enjoy the other perks of vacationing abroad. They can bring family and friends, visit attractions, etc.
  • Favorable location The above benefits can be found in nearby countries for dental tourists. North American dental tourists can go to Latin American countries, Australians can go to Thailand, and Germans and Austrians can go to Hungary or Romania.

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Cost of Dental Tourism

The total cost of a dental vacation takes into account the cost of treatment, travel, and accommodation. Keep this in mind and weigh these factors against potential risks.

Other costs you’ll want to take into account may include:

  • Travel expenses — Getting to your destination country and back, plus what you’ll need to get around once you’ve arrived (taxi and bus fares, etc.)
  • Accommodations — The cost of a hotel, hostel, Airbnb, or on-site guest house
  • Food and leisure — Enough to live day-to-day while abroad, plus any excursions you want to take, souvenirs you plan to buy, etc.

It’s possible that when everything is accounted for, the total cost of your trip will still be significantly less expensive than getting treatment at home. This is the bargain dental tourists are typically hoping to achieve.

On the other hand, the total cost may be more expensive than just getting treatment at home. You should rethink your plans or decide if the trip is still worth the expense.

Does Insurance Cover Dental Tourism?

Dental insurance may cover out-of-country treatment. Many travel insurance policies also cover dental treatment (however, this is typically only for emergencies).

If you’re living or working abroad long-term, you may want to consider an international health insurance policy with a global network of care providers. Dental coverage can often be included in this kind of policy.

If you have dental insurance, do the following to ensure you’re covered before traveling:

  • Check with your insurer
  • Find out any requirements your insurer places on out-of-country treatment (it may be handled differently than treatment at home)
  • Make sure your dental clinic files any necessary documentation
  • Be ready to pay out of pocket at the clinic (your insurance may require this, reimbursing you after the fact)

Even without insurance, dental tourism may get you a better deal than getting treatment at home. But only you can determine this.

Thoroughly research your options, and consider getting dental insurance (and travel insurance) if you don’t already have it. Remember that there may be a waiting period between starting your policy and getting full coverage.

Tips for a Safe Dental Tourism Experience

You’ll need to plan beforehand to ensure a safe and successful trip. Before committing to going abroad as a dental tourist, here are some steps you’ll want to take:

Research Thoroughly

Do your research to ensure quality treatment with a reputable dentist. Before traveling, you’ll want to:

  • Choose a dentist — Pick a dental clinic with verified experience with foreign patients, using their website and any available reviews to vet them and make an informed decision.
  • Make a plan — Contact your clinic of choice to establish a treatment plan and schedule and settle any logistical or financial questions.
  • Know where you’ll be staying — Know how close your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb will be to the dental office, and plan for transportation back and forth. Some clinics that cater to foreign patients offer on-site guest rooms.

Before embarking on your trip, you should eliminate as many uncertainties as possible about the reputation of your dentist and the quality of treatment you can expect.

Consider Your Treatment

The specific dental procedure you’re getting may dictate your travel schedule. Be ready to plan multiple trips or a longer stay if necessary.

For example, many people going abroad for dental care seek dental implants. Implant surgery generally requires at least two visits:

  • One to place the implants and temporary crowns
  • A second visit several months later, after you’ve healed, to place permanent crowns

Consider having your dentist at home handle the permanent crowns, but getting the information they need from the original dentist may be difficult. You’ll likely need to plan two multi-day stays several months apart for successful treatment.

This is just one example of how your specific treatment needs may affect your travel plans. Know beforehand what you plan to have done and how you’ll account for follow-up visits or changes.

Travel Preparations and Considerations

Before traveling abroad, it’s best to be as prepared as possible to be a guest in another country. At a minimum, you’ll want to ensure you have a valid passport and the funds needed to cover travel expenses.

After that, consider the following:

  • Location and logistics — Knowing where you’ll be staying and how you plan to get around is best. You’ll also want to ensure any other activities you want to do on your trip will be compatible with your treatment schedule.
  • Travel advisories and safety concerns — Stay updated on recent travel advisories for your host country. Consult other travelers online to avoid scams that may target tourists.
  • Health risks — Different parts of the world have different disease profiles. If there are illnesses common in your host country that you wouldn’t encounter at home, consider getting vaccinated before traveling.

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Dental tourism is a growing industry, as many people from countries like the United States can find quality dental services at a lower price by going abroad.

This is especially the case for procedures like dental implant surgery. These procedures require a high degree of skill and expertise but can vary greatly in cost from one location to another.

If you’re interested in getting dental work done in another country, do your research. Get advice from others who have done it before. Look for a reputable dental clinic with good patient feedback, and make sure you’re financially and logistically prepared to travel.

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Last updated on April 25, 2024
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 25, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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