Over the last 12 years I’ve had an inside view to the effects of dental tourism on both patients and fellow dentists. This blog will share some of my thoughts.
The obvious reason for dental tourism is saving money. Dentistry in Asia can cost a third or less of what the median fee would be in Australia. Combine that with an opportunity for some r&r on an island resort, and the deal is often one that’s hard to refuse. The relative strength of the Aussie dollar probably plays a factor too.
Australian dentists simply cannot compete with those sorts of fees. Why?
- Rent expenditure
- Strict Labour laws (Dental staff are covered by Health practitioners and support services act, and are usually paid $26-30 per hour)
- Expensive Consumables (My 2-chair clinic spends $6000-7000 per month)
- Australian dental labs are several times more expensive than labs in Asia.
Our inability to compete on cost has resulted in Australian dentists losing patients by the droves to Asia. Treatment plans including Implants, Veneers and Crowns being among the most popular for dental tourism. This has left Australian dentists between a rock (losing business to Asia) and a hard place (unable to compete financially due to local factors).
I’ve seen plenty of competent work from Asian countries, as well as my fair share of disasters. Many patients gamble on their dental outcomes in order to save money. Sometimes the gamble pays off, occasionally the outcome needs an expensive rescue operation.
If Australian dentists cannot compete on fees, what can we compete on?
- AHPRA – Australian dentists are strictly regulated. Each dentist has a quota of CPD (professional development) annually. There is no such regulation in Asia.
- Audits – Practices are audited by the dental board for compliance. This maintains a high standard across Australia especially with infection control. There is no such centralised body in Asian countries.
- Litigation – Cases that fail, cause harm and are not managed well are backed up in Australia by a decent legal system. Your $20000 treatment from Thailand failing is very different to the same failure in Australia.
- Strict Laws– There are strict laws in Australia for infection control. Autoclaves, sterile surgical procedures have guidelines, protocols and laws.
- After care – Like anything mechanical, dentistry needs maintenance. I take great pride in maintaining the implants, crowns, veneers and orthodontics I’ve done. Maintaining dental tourism is very tricky. Often, you’ll have to fly back for constant maintenance.
- Communication and Empathy – We literally speak the same language as you.
Getting your dental treatment done at Dental on Flinders will be more expensive than Dental tourism. There are many advantages though.
You’ll also be supporting a family owned small business!
Dr Max Ganhewa
BDS Otago, NZ
Registered with AHPRA, Member of the Australian Dental Association, Victorian Dental Association, and Australian Endodontic Society, Invisalign certified,