What is dental tourism? Definition and meaning

Dental tourism refers to traveling to a different country for dental care. It is a subset of the medical tourism sector.

Affordability of treatment is one of the main reasons patients travel to another country for dental care. The reason why dental care in some countries is less expensive than others include: lower fixed costs, lower labor costs, lower insurance costs, and less government intervention. 

Some of the main destinations that are advertised for medical tourists like dental tourists are: Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Malaysia and Thailand, according to Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) Magazine.

People travel abroad for a number of different dental procedures, such as dental implants, bridges, crowns, teeth whitening, and veneers. Some dental clinics may also offer international patients free airport and hotel transfers to the clinic. 

Reasons people travel abroad for dental procedures

  • Lower costs
  • Certain procedures may only be available abroad
  • Privacy
  • Opportunity to explore another country

The risks of dental tourism

There are certain risks associated with traveling abroad for dental care. 

According to Colgate, some of the potential risks include:

  • Dental standards – infection control standards can vary depending on the country.
  • Language barriers – there is a higher risk of miscommunication if the patient travels to a country where they don’t speak the same language.
  • Continuity of care

Alberto Meza, DDS, dentist and director of Meza Dental in San José, Costa Rica, provided some tips for patients thinking about traveling for dental care.

  • Look at the costs – this includes expenses such as airfare and hotel rooms.
  • Find a reputable dentist – research their education, experience and accreditations.
  • Connect your dentists.
  • Plan post-appointment care.
  • Bring a companion to come along in the event something goes wrong.