The Hidden Dangers of Dental Tourism

October 4, 2017

The Hidden Dangers of Dental Tourism

It is so tempting to travel to a sun-kissed, far-flung place and have dental implant treatment cheaper than in the UK for a fraction of the price. But in the long run it may cost a whole lot more for return visits or to put right any problems created.  

We are one of the leading dental implant practices in the UK, and Dr Adam Glassford, our Lead Implant Surgeon, has seen the worrying trend in Dental Tourism, as patients ask for his help to deal with the problems they bring home with them on returning from dental tourism visits.

Dental implant treatment is growing at breakneck speed. 10 years ago, most of our patients did not know what an implant was. Now they are main stream in people’s thinking when they have a missing tooth.

A dental implant can replace a missing tooth by a “fixture” being placed in the bone under local anaesthetic. After about 8-12 weeks, osseointegration takes place, where the bone bonds to the implant, then the final crown or bridge can be placed. If the crown/bridge is placed too soon before healing is complete and loaded through biting forces, then there can be failure.

Dental tourism is rising, with patients wanting private treatments quickly at a fraction of the cost. They are prepared to go to places such as India, Thailand or Hungary to get what they want.

Dr Adam Glassford is the lead implant dentist at Love Dental at Andrea Ubhi Dentistry in York, is the Leading Provider of Straumann Implants in the North of England.  Adam outlines the 9 problems that he has come across as patients come to him for help with problems after treatment abroad:

1. The Problem of Cheap Dental Implant Components

There are hundreds of implant systems on the market in the world, some regulated and some not regulated at all.  Even EU regulated ones available in the UK come in different qualities and strengths. In some countries abroad, how do you know which system is being used, the research behind the system and whether the components actually are medical grade or just a reproduction?

“We are seeing patients seeking help as implants from inferior systems placed elsewhere are fracturing from lack of sheer strength. These need to be surgical removed, bone grafts placed and new implants placed to restore. This is a long, expensive and painful road for these bargain hunters who were hoping for a 1 week beach holiday recovery in the first place.”

2. Sub-standard Cheap Crowns or Bridges Placed on the Implants

Another significant problem is the standard of ceramic work fitted onto the implants. “Sometimes the work that we are seeing is appalling. Patients come back from abroad with ugly, ill-fitting work that they cannot clean around, leading to gum disease and implant failure. Where do we start again re-doing this? We cannot even get the components to fix these unknown implant systems in the UK, even if we trusted the implant fixtures. We have to start again from the beginning,” says Dr Adam Glassford.

3. Inadequate Healing Time as Treatment is Rushed

Dental implants are not a one appointment quick fix. Just one visit abroad cannot provide quality implant treatment, as implants take time to heal at the bodies own rate of healing before loading with the final crown. Rushed treatment has a significantly higher risk of failure.

4. Lack of Post-Treatment Hygiene

A major cause of failure of dental implants is peri-implantitis. This is gum disease around the implant fixture from inadequate cleaning. “Implants must be cleaned just as teeth need to be cleaned.  Many patients have the idea that once they are placed, then that is that for life. Absolutely not, implants take maintaining, checking, cleaning, and professional cleaning!”

5. Lack of Follow up Care

We have had GP surgeries calling us as some of their patients have returned from implant surgery abroad, needing stitches out or patients needing emergency care, and they have been asking what they should do. 

6. Poor Implant Placement

As with any surgery, implant surgery requires a high skill level and precision of technique. If not, then there is a risk of nerve damage and permanent numbness of the face or tongue.

7. Lack of Training of the Surgeon

Some implant manufacturers provide weekend courses for general dentists, after which they start placing implants. In contrast, an experienced implant surgeon will have undertaken a post-graduate course in implants and had years of practical mentoring by a senior surgeon before working alone.

8. Cross Infection Risks

In the UK, dental practices are regulated by the Care Quality Commission and adhere to strict guidelines. These inspections are public reports. When going abroad, a patient must consider the laws and regulating bodies in the country chosen, and whether they are confident that safe standards are being met.

9. Lack of Guarantee

 “As a dental implant referral practice, we are seeing a worrying rise in the number of patients seeking help after ‘Dental Tourism,’ where patients have been abroad to have cheap dental work carried out.  Often we see dental implants placed and the restorations fitted that are of a much lower quality than you would expect by an experienced surgeon in the U.K.  Dentists and laboratories in the U.K. must comply with strict cross infection and quality controls which don’t apply to some parts of the world.  Any dentist can place implants after just a weekend implant course. However it is important to choose a surgeon with a high success record, who has great experience and has been properly trained and mentored.”

 “There are over 130 different dental implant systems worldwide and each has their own unique set of tools and components. Many of the cheaper dental implant systems used abroad do not comply with the strict rules of the U.K. and so are not available or accessible here. We have seen failing work carried out abroad that cannot be repaired here because the system that has been used is no longer supported or cannot be sourced in the U.K.  This leaves the patient unable to have ongoing maintenance for their implant work in the event of problems, leaving them with the choice of returning to the country that the work was originally provided, or having the failing work removed and the procedure started over again, “ says Dr Adam Glassford.

If you are considering dental implant treatment, and would like to learn more about your options and the lifetime fixture guarantee that we offer, call 01904 639667 for a FREE consultation with Dr Adam Glassford and our award winning team.

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