Dental tourism has become a common practice among many Americans as a way to save money on dental treatments.
Statistics on this trend are hard to come by, but it is estimated that each year over one million people from around the world travel outside their country for some form of dental treatment, with summer being the busiest season for dental tourism.
The highest number of dental tourists is believed to come from the U.S., while Europeans are the second largest group to travel abroad for cheap dental treatments.
There are around 600 – 800 private clinics for surgical medical tourism, of which 80% offer dentistry services.
In recent years, medical travel companies all over the U.S. have sprung up to guide Americans through the dental insurance and logistical hurdles of treatments at medical facilities abroad in places like Mexico. One popular destination for Americans to receive dental treatment is in the Mexicali area, where the dental hub of Los Algodones is located.
Mexicali’s city tourism director, Omar Dipp even meets traveling medical tourists in the lobbies of their hotels.
Dipp recently told the online publication Fontieras that Mexicali received $16 million from medical tourism in 2010. His office is trying to boost that number by 50%.
The top 4 dental treatments patients travel for are –
Some experts feel the rise in this trend is due to lack of dental insurance among patients, while others feel it is due to the rising costs of what patients have to pay over what dental insurance is willing to pay.
The American Dental Association has acknowledged that dental tourism is an increasing phenomenon that confronts dentists in the United States.
The ADA recommends the following to dentists:
1. A patient’s freedom of choice is an overriding consideration in any situation and is one in which dentists must recognize (ADA Code, Section 1, Patient Autonomy).
2. The ethical dentist will treat the patient who has received dental treatment outside the United States in the same manner as he/she would treat a patient who has transferred their care from any other practice, irrespective of the fact that the treatment performed outside of the United States might or might not be substandard and, in some instances, a possible detriment to the patient’s health.
3. A dentist should consult applicable state law to determine the definition of “patient of record.” Failure to treat such a patient may raise ethical concerns under ADA Code Section 2.F, Patient Abandonment.
4. A dentist should clearly describe to the patient his/her oral health status (ADA Code, Section 4.C, Justifiable Criticism) and maintain carefully documented records of treatment provided. Records should detail the patient’s baseline condition so secondary dental care can be clearly differentiated from treatment performed by another dentist whether in or outside the United States.
5. Where there is an emergency situation that develops as a result of dental tourism and the patient is not—or is no longer—one of record, dentists are obliged, at the least, to make reasonable arrangements for emergency care (ADA Code Section 4.B Emergency Service).
6. Dentists, especially those practicing in border states where dental tourism occurs more frequently, should begin to educate their patients about optimal oral health and costs versus the perceived value of dental tourism and advise them of the potential difficulty in seeking redress if problems are encountered with dental treatment performed in a foreign country.
Dentists, have you dealt with patients receiving dental treatments outside of the U.S.?
Have you lost dental patients due to dental tourism?