What if something goes wrong with my dental treatment abroad?

By its very nature, dental treatment abroad carries a unique set of risks. Even if cosmetic surgery to the body or face goes wrong, the body can usually heal and repair itself. However if dental work goes wrong and your teeth are damaged, they will never heal. The only way to put right problems caused by mistakes or dental negligence will be further, expensive dental work.

What can go wrong?

There are many things that can go wrong with dental treatment abroad, from infections and excessive swelling to faulty implants and crooked bridges. Most dentists will have a certain level of competence and most clinics a certain level of hygiene, so major problems are rare. However it is important to remember that no dental treatment is without risk.

Sometimes things do not go wrong as such, but do not turn out quite as well as expected. This is especially true with cosmetic dental work, where people have unrealistic expectations of the outcome. Having your crooked teeth straightened will not give you Tom Cruise’s smile, however skilled or experienced your dentist is. It is important to discuss the possible outcomes with your dentist so that your expectations are realistic and you are less likely to be disappointed.

Know the procedure before booking your dental treatment abroad

It is important to establish who pays for what if something goes wrong, before you agree to your treatment. Obvious issues, such as mistakes by the clinic will clearly be their responsibility, however areas such as post operative infection and operations that are not completely successful in creating a straight smile, may be more of a grey area.

You should insist on a clear cut contract that details who pays for what, as the costs of remedial dental care, extra travel and accommodation, and the inconvenience of more time off work and out of the country will soon add up.

You should also ensure that there is a formal complaints procedure in place so that you can raise your concerns through an established process. This should detail how quickly the clinic will respond to your complaint and what they will do in that response. A complaints procedure should always give you access to an independent third party, such as an ombudsman, to resolve disputes.

Where do you stand legally if something goes wrong?

Remember, if you have dental treatment abroad, then chances are that treatment, and any associated claims, will be governed by the laws and courts of that country. This means you will need to engage a local lawyer and be prepared to undergo proceedings in a foreign language. There are specialist law firms in most countries that deal with claims abroad, but this will cost extra.

If you choose a dental company based in another country but with offices in your own country, then this can make things much simpler if you need to take legal action, as you may be able to sue the company in your home country, rather than in the courts in the country you are having treatment. However, you should look out for any ‘jurisdiction clause’ in your contract that may prevent you from doing this.

Keep a contingency fund

If you do have problems with dental treatment abroad, which do not come to light until you return home, then you may need to seek private treatment to have the problems put right before pursuing the clinic for compensation. Ideally you should have a contingency fund to cover the cost of this, as it is unlikely that the clinic abroad will pay for your treatment up front. Returning to the clinic for remedial treatment may also be expensive, even if they offer to treat you free of charge to put right their mistakes.

Do your research on your clinic and dentist

The best way to avoid problems with dental treatment abroad is to plan thoroughly in advance. Clearly you cannot be prepared for every eventuality, but you can reduce the risks. Check the record and reputation of the clinic, check their insurance, cross check their qualifications and registrations and always ask for testimonials and references from previous patients. None of this will guarantee trouble free treatment, but it will certainly stack the odds in your favour. The longer you spend planning, the less likely it is that something will go wrong.

Arranging aftercare

An important part of the success of dental treatment is the quality of aftercare. This often involves arranging the cooperation of your dental clinic abroad with your dentist at home. To provide high quality aftercare, your home dentist will need to know the precise details of your treatment. For example, there are around 50 systems used for dental implants, so your dentist will need to provide details of how you have been treated, so that your own dentist can provide appropriate aftercare. Some dental clinics abroad offer consultations and aftercare in your country of origin, especially those in Poland and Hungary who service UK patients.


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