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Complex dental treatments are painfully expensive in developed Western countries, and dental tourism is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to local treatment. What should you know about dental tourism, and where can you go?

Four in five adults are at least a little afraid of going to the dentist, but why? Not many people relish the pain and discomfort that often come with dental treatments, and the anesthesia isn't much fun either. These days, however, your wallet may just hurt more than anything else if you need serious dental work, and that's a great reason to be terrified of the dentist.

Insurance often covers only rudimentary dental treatments like filling and drilling, and some policies don't even do that. Crowns, bridges, implants, periodontal surgery, full-mouth dental reconstruction and other operations may really set you back. What can you do, besides paying the price or foregoing dental treatment altogether?

For an increasing number of people living in developed — and thus expensive — Western countries, finding cheaper dental treatment abroad is the answer. 

Why Dental Tourism — And Why Not?

You know you should see your dentist twice a year for a checkup if nothing else. Plenty of people don't — perhaps because they think there is nothing wrong with their teeth, they don't have time, or they simply don't remember to go, but there can also be more serious reasons to avoid the dentist. 

Perhaps the good clinics near you are closed to new patients, or perhaps you don't have dental insurance and can't afford to pay out of pocket. Some people do see local dentists for checkups and the odd filling, but can't swing the more extensive dental work they really need. Then, there are those who could afford local dental care, but prefer to save money

Whatever your situation, dental tourism may just be a convenient and affordable alternative.

While some dental tourists travel to other countries just to see a dentist or dental surgeon, many people do have other reasons to be at a particular destination. In some cases, taking a vacation — including the airfare and a hotel stay — and receiving dental treatment works out cheaper than the dental treatment alone would in your own country. Though a sore mouth on vacation is hardly ideal, it's better than not being able to go on vacation because you need to pay the dentist! People who are going to a cheaper country to visit relatives or friends anyway can grab the opportunity to investigate the prices and quality of dentistry there, and the same goes for folks taking business trips. 

Going abroad can be a great way to get the dental care you need for a fraction of the price you'd pay at home. Many countries have very skilled dentists, who may even have graduated from universities in your home country. These dentists are also much less likely to be booked for months on end; many can fit you in whenever it is convenient to you. 

Dental tourism isn't all savings and sunshine, though. Hopefully, you'll go home with a beautiful smile and a relatively full wallet, but you could also suffer complications once you have left your dental destination.

Dental tourists who suffer complications after returning home will either need to travel back for further treatment, or seek treatment in their own country. Both options can cost an awful lot more than you anticipated, so taking the possibility that something will go wrong into account is very sane indeed. 

Another warning: dentistry isn't the same everywhere in the world. Crowns and bridges, for instance, can be placed in a number of different ways. The techniques a foreign dentist uses are likely to be quite different to the ones employed at dental practices near you, potentially making it quite difficult to get additional treatment in the same tooth locally in the future.

Finally, don't simply rely on relatives or friends in a country you're about to visit for advice. If they've never experienced any other dental care, they are likely to say their own dentist is pretty OK. By blindly trusting their advice, you may end up with a very nasty surprise! Look into the quality of dental care on your own before taking the plunge. 

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