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Dental Tourism Study Underway

Annually, two million patients leave the comfort of their own homes in order to seek affordable dental care and health care abroad. Europeans and Asians have been partaking in dental tourism for decades and Americans are just starting to get in on the action. Expectations suggest that dental tourism will evolve into a $100 billion industry by 2012 and the popularity surge has prompted the first ever study of the medical tourism industry at large.

RevaHealth.com (world’s leading medical and dental care tourism search engine) conducted the first survey on the subject in 2008. Their research indicated that 95 percent of study participants partook in dental treatment tourism as a money saving move. However, that research is only the tip of the iceberg and a larger study on medical tourism is expected to provide even more answers.

Medical Tourism Study

Despite medicine and dentistry being divided into two separate industries featuring their own type of insurance coverage, within the human body they are forever intertwined. Because of the tooth/body connection medical and dental tourism are also linked and a study of the medical tourism funded by the National Institute for Health Research will help shed some light on both activities.

The research is being done by The University of York has and will analyze what motivates people to cross national borders to receive medical and dental services of any nature. Dr. Neil Lunt of the York Management School will head-up a team of health economists, social scientists and clinicians during the 18-month study. The research will analyze the pros and cons of the industry as well as how the impact the economy, patient decision-making, the quality and potential risks of traveling for dental care and what the future of the medical and dental tourism industries holds.

Saving with Dental Tourism

The RevaHealth.com study indicated that of those individuals who had traveled to receive dental care, 84 percent of them were satisfied with the dentistry received. Plus, these consumers reported that they benefited from an average cost saving of $6,400 off of their dental care needs including cosmetic dentistry, dental implants and other procedures needed to repair dental problems. That is possible as the overhead for running dental clinics abroad is far less than that of America and local dental care practitioners pass those savings directly onto their patients..

The savings are thought to be the main reason why the industry is growing at such a rapid pace. Paul Keckley, the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions research group, has suggested that the industry is growing at a rate of about 20 percent annually. Middle income Americans with dental insurance make up the majority of the dental care bargain seekers.

Who can blame them? Cost analysis of some basic dental procedures have shown huge savings potential. Mexican dentists charge their patients around $250 for a porcelain dental crowns while their American counterparts charge approximately $950 per tooth. In India, a root canal can cost around $200-$250 while the procedure averages at about $1,300 per tooth stateside.

Risks of Dental Tourism

Although saving on dentistry can be tempting, traveling for a dental care bargain can still be a risky proposition. Some risks associated with dental tourism include:

  • Hidden Expenses: Although traveling to India, Poland or Russia can save big money on dental care, the expenses associated with the trip may negate the savings. Airfare, accommodations, food and passports all cost money and can all impact a dental care budget.
  • No Comforts of Home: Some dental treatments involve multiple office visits and time to heal. Shacking up in a hotel and relying on different foods to rebuild strength and recovery time may be a challenge that can only solved by additional money.
  • Lost Time: If lucky, the average American worker gets two weeks of vacation a year. Some dental procedures take many weeks and multiple office visits. That can negate the perks associated with dental tourism.
  • No Vetting Process: Investigating an international dental office and dentist is not an easy task and unless a dental tourist has a positive first-hand account to go by, it may not be worth the risk.
  • No Legal Recourse: Malpractice caused by international dentists cannot be fought in the United States legal system because of nationally established protection laws that

Prior to booking a dental care holiday, individuals are wise to examine the possibility of getting dental treatments in their own backyard as the full implications of dental tourism have yet to be unearthed. Local dental clinics provide patients with an automatic level of protection as laws are in place to protect all involved parties.

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