What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
A trip to the dentist is no longer just a quick cleaning and reminder to floss. No No. Today cosmetic dentistry has revolutionized the classic field of dentistry and is giving patients more and more options to improve their smiles and their confidence. New technologies, such as CEREC®, have coined the phrase “1-day dentistry” and make getting a new smile over your lunch break possible. A variety of treatments are available including ceramic crowns, veneers, inlays onlays & overlays and teeth whitening. Similar restorative treatments include Dental Implants and Bridges.
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Needless to say, advances in dentistry do not come without a price. Under the UK’s universal healthcare act, National Health Service (NHS), dental treatment is only covered if considered clinically necessary by your dentist in order to maintain oral health. This includes dentures, crowns and bridges. Dental implants, dentures and orthodontics are also covered. In most cases, cosmetic dentistry is considered an elective surgery and is not covered by insurance. Any cosmetic treatment used to improve the appearance of your teeth to make them look more attractive (i.e. teeth whitening, dental veneers), means patients must turn to private practices and pay out of pocket.
Why Should I Have My Cosmetic Dentistry Abroad?
In the United States, healthcare costs are through the roof and individuals who must purchase health insurance on the open market are faced with an overwhelming number of choices. According to Patients Beyond Borders, in the US, only the most rudimentary dental care is covered by health insurance plans, which is why more than 150 million Americans are without dental coverage. A comprehensive health insurance plan will run the average American $100 per month or more. For other health insurance consumers, their choices are limited by their employers’ group health insurance providers. Many medical treatments end up being out-of-pocket- such as adult dental care, weight loss or cosmetic surgery and corrective eye surgery. For example, dental veneers in the UK or United States can cost anywhere between £400-1000 per tooth, depending on the material used. Abroad, costs may be as low as £290 per tooth including the preparation, local anesthesia and patient care. On average, medical travel can save patients anywhere from 30-80% with wait-times as little as 1-2 weeks.
In 2011, the EU directive on cross-border healthcare was passed. The directive granted citizens fundamental right to purchase health care services across the European Economic Area (EEA) for all EEA citizens, and the right to apply for reimbursement from their home system. However, in the UK this still limits residents to treatment that is deemed medically necessary and would be made available under the NHS. Therefore, elective cosmetic dentistry is typically not covered.
Patients Beyond Borders explains, “The traveling dental patient need not sacrifice quality to save money. Highly competent dentists who attended respected schools of dentistry and are certified by boards in Western countries often work “just across the border,” providing excellent services for a fraction of the cost. For people who can easily cross a national boundary, the choice is a no brainer.”
Why is cosmetic dentistry cheaper abroad so cheap?
A general rule of thumb is that any medical treatment or procedure is going to be slightly more expensive in a metropolitan area. When you begin dealing with cosmetic dentistry, prices can also be influenced by the dentist and his/her specializations, the amount of preparatory work on the mouth, and skill and experience of the laboratory.
The reason cosmetic dentistry is cheaper abroad is largely due to the cost of living in other countries- which directly influences the average salaries of medical professionals. A cosmetic dentist in the UK may earn anywhere from £75,249 to £101,451 depending on years of experience, company size, and location. In Central Europe, a cosmetic dentist in the Czech Republic makes on average, £11,000-15,000 per year.
Where Are The Most Patients Travelling For Cosmetic Dentistry?
In the United States, people who live on the west coast or in the southwest tend to cross over to Mexico for their cosmetic dentistry. On the east coast and in Canada, patients are heading to Costa Rica or Central America, where savings are between 50-80%.
In the UK and western Europe, people are hopping borders over to countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. Hungary, for example, has the most dentists per capita than any other country, along with some of the highest quality, low-cost clinics in the world. For europeans, dental travel is a very economical choice, but many north americans are also travelling to central Europe for more extensive treatments, including cosmetic oral surgeries, full-mouth restorations, and implants. Even after factoring in the cost of travel and accommodation, such work can be done at less than half the US price.
Other popular destinations include Malaysia, Thailand, and India. In Bangkok, some clinics are even specially dedicated to international tourists.
How Do I Begin Planning My Trip?
Medical travel platform or agencies are a great place to start. Many provide an end-to-end service, including everything from free online consultations, treatment costs, patient reviews, and clinic and staff credentials. When arranging your dental travel, a medical travel platform can also save you valuable time during the decision-making process and elevates the headache and stress of doing research on your own. Patients Against Borders suggests that medical travellers seek out evaluations from previous patients, and ask for proof of competence before making an appointment. “You are paying the bill. You have a right to know everything there is to know about your dentist’s training and experience.”
Medical platforms and agencies can act as a resource, putting you in direct contact with the clinics, and your cosmetic surgeon, allowing your questions and concerns to be answered by the professionals. It is also important to consider the amount of time you will need to spend at your destination. Procedures such as implants, may require two or more steps with weeks or months in between. Find out in advance how many visits are required and the amount of time between them. This is also important when considering your destination. If you are in a new country or city, this time between procedures is perfect for sightseeing and exploring the local history and culture.
Unlike other cosmetic procedures, cosmetic dentistry is not always permanent. The average veneer lasts 7-20 years. Therefore, it is good to be prepared if something bad happens (i.e. filling falls out, crown comes loose) Even with the best of dentists, bad things can happen after dental treatments. If something goes wrong after returning home from dental travel, your two options include- getting the problem fixed at home or travelling again. Luckily a number of clinics abroad will make repairs free of charge or at low cost. However, you will still have to pay for the travel costs. The best advice is to plan for a possible return in your travel budget and to keep your home town dental specialist informed of your medical travel decisions.
A How-To Guide For Dental Travel: Planning Your Trip Abroad