How is dental treatment abroad regulated?

While there are significant savings to be made by travelling abroad for dental treatment, there will always be a risk that things may not be the same as you would expect to find in your home country. Dental training may not be as thorough, dental regulation may not be as tight and overall standards may not be as high.

Of course, this will not always be the case. In many countries, the price differential may simply be down to lower local costs. Staff, facilities and dentists themselves are simply cheaper in these countries, and this is reflected in the price. So how are dental services regulated aboard, and how can you check whether your dentist has the right qualifications and insurance?

Dental training abroad

The first thing to research is the standard of dental training in the country of your choice. In most countries, dental training takes around four or five years, leading to a recognised degree such as the Bachelor in Dental Surgery in India or Doctor of Dental Surgery in America. This is the minimum level of qualification you should accept for basic dentistry treatments and minor cosmetic procedures. For more complex procedures, such as implants, your dentist should have undergone further study and training, leading to a higher qualification or specialist degree.

You can find out about dental training in European countries by visiting the Council of European Dentists website, where you will find an EU Manual of Dental Practice, which lists the specific training details for each country. Check carefully what training is required and ask your chosen clinic to prove that they have these qualifications.

Dental Associations and Chambers

Most countries will have a national dental association in some form or other. However, you should research these to ensure that membership actually means something. If the aims of the organisation are to promote best practice and encourage high standards, then membership is meaningful. If membership is automatic upon qualification, then perhaps it carries less weight.

You should also find out if membership is compulsory or voluntary. Voluntary membership, or membership of more than one national organisation, shows a willingness to comply with high standards and a drive to share best practice, which can only bode well for your treatment.

Dental regulation in Europe

European dentists are regulated by their national dental associations or chambers, such as the General Dental Council in the UK or The Czech Dental Chamber in the Czech Republic. 30 of these dental associations are represented on the Council for European Dentists. You can view the full list of European dental associations on the Council for European Dentists web site. For the more popular destinations, the associations are as follows:

In most countries, dentists will also have to register with their national health body, or health ministry. You can find out more about health regulation bodies abroad by visiting

Dental regulation in Mexico

The majority of Americans travelling abroad for dental work go to Mexico. Here, dental clinics are regulated by the Mexican Dental Association (ADM). However, since many of these clinics rely on American business, they are often also registered with the American Dental Association or the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and conform to the high standards set by the American Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

American dental tourists also head for Costa Rica, which is regulated by the Colegio de Cirujanos Dentistas de Costa Rica, and Argentina,which is regulated by the Ateneo Argentino De Odontologia.

Dental regulation elsewhere

Outside of Europe and the Americas, dental regulation follows a similar pattern, with national bodies and health ministries regulating the training and operations of their dentists. These include:

Check your contract for dental treatment abroad

Even if you have thoroughly checked out the qualifications and registrations of your dentist, you should still check your contract very carefully. Many dentists treating clients from abroad will have a clause in their contract that states that any litigation against the practice must be made under the laws of their own country and be regulated by their justice system.

This can make it very difficult to gain compensation in cases of negligence. Naturally, countries will have different levels of compensation and different attitudes to such claims. Patients from the US and UK, where negligence claims are relatively easy to pursue and result in substantial sums, may find that the legal system in other countries does not live up to their expectations.

Insurance issues and dental treatment abroad

With the best regulation available, things can still go wrong and so you should always ensure that your treatment is covered by sufficient liability insurance to cover the costs. It is highly unlikely that your standard travel insurance will cover you, and it may even become void if the main purpose of your trip is to seek dental treatment abroad. In most countries, it is compulsory for dental clinics to have such insurance, but if you are in any doubt, you should ask to see copies of their certificates.

See the next section on “Insurance for dental treatment abroad”.


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