Dental Tourism Guide

Download our all-inclusive guide to Tooth Tourism! Click here

Dental Calculator

Find out how much $ you’ll save with Tooth Tourism. Click here

Tooth Tourism Blog

Signup for Free Newsletter

Read up to date info on Tooth Tourism

Enter Your Email Below:

The History of Tooth Tourism

The idea of going to a different country for dental or medical care has been around for hundreds of years, if not more. For centuries, doctors have advised their patients to escape a damp climate in favour of a warmer climate. Doctors from England or Norway recommended their patients with tuberculosis should live in the south of Italy to get sunshine and warmth. As we know now, our bodies absorb Vitamin D from sunshine, which increases calcium absorption, may reduce high blood pressure, and may impact other health issues, including mental health, favourably.

Tooth tourism has been practiced for decades in Europe, where a two-hour trip lands a patient in a different country, with a different medical system and a different standard of living. Recommendations were by word of mouth, and it’s unknown how many “horror stories” of poor treatment took place. Across the Atlantic, patients from the USA were doing the same thing – crossing the border for cheap dental work in Mexico. Thousands of dentists dot the border, and “horror stories” still exist.

The Growth of Tooth Tourism

Tooth tourism was mostly an individual experience. It was not organized as a business, except by the dentists who located their offices close to the border to be convenient for their international patients.

The cousin of tooth tourism is medical tourism, and its growth developed into an international issue and opportunity that has made headlines. In Asia, Europe and Africa, people traveled to a different country to receive better care. But it was not an organized business.

That changed in about 1998, when a large private hospital in Thailand was built to cater to Thai people who could afford its “five-star” care. But Thailand was plunged into a currency crisis and their baht currency was devalued.

Overnight, Thai people suddenly could not afford to have medical care in the hospital, and the hospital had no customers. Attracting some international patients may have been part of their plan, but this became the focus, and efforts were concentrated to bring patients from other Asian countries. This was the first organized approach to medical tourism, and it is why Thailand is named as the most popular destination for medical tourism. It was the first.

Since then, the governments of India, Singapore, The Philippines and Malaysia, as well as Thailand and others, have declared medical tourism to be a national priority. They want to attract the millions of people who have heard about saving money and hopefully receiving better care.

But just because there are a few good dentists, doctors or hospitals in another country does not mean that all members of the medical community are first-class and are up to European, Canadian or American standards. Most of these countries still struggle with implementing basic national standards for hospitals in their own countries.

Why Tooth Tourism?

There are two main reasons for tooth tourism and medical tourism: traveling for better or more experienced care and traveling to save money.

Traveling for Better or More Experienced Care

Some developing countries have high rates of surgical infection, higher mortality rates, and less ability to have the latest in surgical equipment or a well-trained medical workforce. Patients from developing countries with poor healthcare systems travel for better medical care. This phenomenon is not limited to developing countries, since patients from the UK often try to have surgeries elsewhere to avoid contracting the common MRSA “superbug” in their local hospitals.

Patients also travel to receive treatments that are not yet approved in their countries, or to receive care from a doctor who is more experienced in the procedure. If you learned about a new procedure that showed great promise, would you prefer a doctor who has done hundreds of these procedures over a decade, or a doctor who had just learned the procedure?

For example, some countries have a cautious health system which takes longer to approve of newer surgical or medical treatments. One example is the hip resurfacing procedure, first completed in Birmingham, England. It was adopted in India where doctors practiced the procedure for about 10 years before it was approved in the United States. Other examples include “alternative” cancer treatments or stem cell treatments, which can now be done using your own skin cells to do the therapy, or certain surgical methods such as robotic prostatectomies. Many people have seen news stories about drug treatments approved in another country but not yet available in their own country.

The main questions these patients have is, I know the quality is top notch, but how much will this cost? Can I afford it?

Traveling to Save Money

It is understandable that patients will consider traveling to save money. The number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the United States is because of medical bills. People all over the world are avoiding medical care right now, because they cannot afford it in their country.

So, if a dental implant costs up to €2,000 in the UK but is available for about €700 in Hungary or €400 in Costa Rica, many people will choose to save money. If a knee replacement surgery costs $30,000 to $50,000 in the United States but is available for $7,000 in India or for $15,000 in Mexico, some people will choose to save money.

The main questions these patients have is, I know I’ll save money, but how good is the quality? Who can I trust?