Thousands of Americans and Canadians travel to Mexico every year to get dental work done for much less than it would cost them at home.
Some return home completely satisfied with the treatment they received and the money they saved but for others, the experience can be very different.
With that in mind, the Canadian television network CTV posed the question: how risky is dental tourism?
“The only real guarantee is that there are no guarantees,” a CTV newscaster said when introducing the story.
Dr. Vikram Grewal, a dentist from Kelowna, British Columbia, told CTV that he has seen both good and bad dental work that was completed in Mexico.
The unlucky ones who receive substandard care can end up having to pay much more in the long run, Grewal explained. He cited an example of one of his patients who flew to Mexico to get her teeth capped.
While on first inspection it appeared that the work had been completed successfully and to a high standard, looking more closely revealed otherwise.
“The glue that we use to bond to the tooth was not removed properly,” Grewal said.
The leftover grey cement will not only create an unsightly line at the top of the woman’s teeth but will also irritate her gums and make them recede, the dentist said.
Another dentist and spokesperson for the British Columbia Dental Association also said that he had seen dental work of varying quality that was completed in Mexico, but highlighted one case where the treatment a patient received was completely bungled.
“I had a patient who went to Mexico, had a root canal done, they’d actually done a root canal on the wrong tooth,” Dr. Bruce Ward said.
Again, the patient was left facing additional costs to deal with the original problem.
“What’s he going to do? Go back and demand his money back?” Ward questioned.
“Nobody is saying do not go because there are great dentists everywhere, it’s [a matter of] finding that dentist who can do good work,” he added.
Valerie Crooks, a health geographer at Simon Fraser University who specializes in medical tourism, said that going to Mexico for dental work is “a buyer beware scenario.”
But she also stressed that not all dental tourism ends in disaster, adding that attention focuses on horror stories when in fact many patients are more than satisfied with the care they receive.
For people considering going to Mexico for dental treatment, Crooks said, carrying out research beforehand is essential.
“If you’re going to be using a broker or a third party who’s going to be booking for you, understand who they are [and] what their interests are,” she said.
Crooks also recommended having a contingency plan in case something does go wrong.
Dr. Ward gave similar advice: “Get clear on what you need before you go, get a treatment plan and get a dentist to tell you that.”
One of the most popular places for patients seeking dental treatment south of the United States border is Los Algodones, Baja California, where there are more than 500 practicing dentists.
Research completed by a Simon Fraser University doctoral student found that the influx of medical tourists to the town nicknamed “Molar City” brought a lot of economic benefits but also contributed to exploitative working conditions and discriminatory practices for employees in dental clinics.
Source: CTV News (en)