Dental Vacations for Nearly 1% of US Population

Dental vacations popular among US patientsWe’ve been talking again about dental tourism — specifically, how US dental insurance company Companion Dental is including an “international treatment option” in all its dental plans for patients who’d prefer to go to Costa Rica for lower-cost care.

So how big is this whole “dental tourism” business, anyway?

It’s not really mainstream, but it is growing — and that’s why we should all be keeping an eye on it.

Think tank Deloitte Center for Health Solutions predicts that about 648,000 patients will take medical and dental vacations overseas this year — 20% more than in 2008. (Read the article)

According to Deloitte, this 20% growth is actually a reduction in demand. (Deloitte once predicted medical tourism would double every year, reports one website.) As many as 750,000 American sought dental tourism in 2007. The recession seems to be to blame, with patients having less money to spend on discretionary treatment.

“Barring any tempering factors, such as supply constraints, resistance from health plans, increased domestic competition or government policies, we project that outbound medical tourism could reach upwards of 1.6 million patients by 2012,” said Paul Keckley, Ph.D. and executive director of Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

In a 2008 article on dental tourism, The New York Times stated:

“Roughly half a million Americans sought medical care abroad in 2006, of which 40 percent were dental tourists, according to the National Coalition on Health Care, an alliance of more than 70 organizations. That’s up from an estimated 150,000 in 2004…”

So it would seem that about 200,000 Americans will take a dental vacation in 2009. That’s nearly 1% of our adult population!

But there might be an upside… As the dollar slides, will foreigners start visiting the US for low-cost dental care? Maybe we’ll be the ones offering discount dental implants, affordable sedation dentistry, and relatively cheap dentures

Deloitte predicts that by 2017, up to 561,000 people from other countries will visit the US for dental and medical care.

Deloitte mentions a few other juicy tidbits:

  • “West Virginia and Colorado have attempted to pass legislation that would either require or incentivize insurers to incorporate medical tourism within their health benefits plans. Although both bills did not pass, they demonstrate that state legislators are paying more attention to the value of medical tourism.”
  • “India’s medical tourism sector is expected to grow 30 percent annually from 2009 to 2015.”

Make no mistake about it: Globalization will affect dentistry just as much as every other profession.

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

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