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Restorative dental treatments: could I go abroad?

There is no doubt that the cost of dental work in many countries across the world is significantly lower than in others, prompting many people to consider travelling abroad for their treatment. However, this is not always possible, or appropriate for some kinds of dentistry.

Many more complex dental treatments require multiple visits, often spaced over several weeks or months, which would mean you would have to travel abroad repeatedly, quickly using up the savings you make on your treatment, in airfares and accommodation.

So which dental treatments can you plan to have abroad, and which are just too complex?

Dental imaging

These days, the traditional dental X-ray is often supplemented by a CT scan when assessing dental problems and their solutions, especially where implants are being considered. The cost of a dental CT scan can be significantly lower abroad, with some clinics offering free CT scans as part of your implants package.

However, it is generally advised that you have your problem fully assessed at home before planning dental treatment abroad, and so you may need to have a CT scan in your home country in order to effectively arrange you trip. You do not want to go to the trouble and expense of travelling abroad, only to have your CT scan show that you are not a suitable candidate for implants.

Root canals and wisdom tooth removal

Straightforward, single visit dental work is especially suited to dental treatment abroad. Root canal work – where the pulp of the tooth is completely cleaned out to combat infection in a dead or dying tooth, or wisdom tooth removal – where the wisdom teeth are extracted because they are not likely to emerge correctly on their own – are two such treatments. Although they are lengthy and expensive procedures, they can easily be completed in one visit, with significant savings.

Crowns and bridges

A crown is a cap that is anchored on to the remains of the tooth it is replacing, while a dental bridge is a crown used to fill a gap where no tooth remains. A bridge is similar to an implant, except that the crown is anchored to the adjacent teeth rather than in the jaw. This means that the procedure takes less time to complete since you will not need surgery or the associated recovery time.

Either treatment will still require at least two visits to your dentist however: the first to prepare for the new crown and take moulds, and the second to fit it in place. Many dental clinics abroad will have a dental laboratory on site or close by that can prepare the crowns for fitting during the latter part of your visit.  However, it is better if a bridge is not fixed permanently in place until you have lived with it for a few weeks to check the bite and alignment, so an additional visit may be advised. So...you may only require one trip for crowns and two trips for bridges.

Dental implants

Dental implants are crowns that are anchored permanently in place by metal posts screwed into the underlying bone of the jaw. This is a major dental procedure and will normally require two or three visits to your dentist. What’s more, you will need time in between each visit in order for the tissue to recover and any swelling to subside.

However, with implants (Branemark system) costing up to $5,000 in the US, but as little as $630 across the border in Mexico, and around £2,000 to £3,000 in the UK compared to just £500 in Eastern Europe, it is still worth making multiple trips if you can find low cost flights and accommodation.

Orthodontics

Orthodontics is the straightening of crooked teeth using braces or retainers. These work over a prolonged period of time, gradually straightening teeth through gentle pressure. This means repeated visits to your dentist to have your treatment adjusted as the straightening progresses. For this reason, it is not generally a good idea to seek orthodontic dental treatment abroad, unless you live close to the border with a country that offers treatment cheaper than your own.

Serious regeneration work (bone loss, bite problems, alignment)

As with orthodontics, major regeneration work often involves a series of minor adjustments and surgeries over a long period of time, making such work unsuitable for dental treatment abroad. However, if you require surgery to place prosthetics, such as jaw implants, to improve your bite or alignment, then this could be done abroad to save money.

Take professional advice

The best way to decide if dental treatment abroad is right for you is to talk to your own dentist. He or she will advise you on the complexity of the treatment, the number of visits it is likely to require and the cost of the treatment at home. You can then use this information, combined with your own research online, to make a considered decision.

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