UK dentists scramble to keep big profits at home


London – British patients were warned today to think twice before seeking treatment for their teeth in India, Hungary and other countries.

This is because if anything goes wrong, as many British patients have apparently found, the overseas clinic which did the work almost invariably denies responsibility and it becomes prohibitively expensive to put matters right back in the UK.

All this is leaving British patients, many of Indian origin, in a no-win situation. In the UK, there simply are not enough National Health Service dentists to go around so as to offer treatment at a reasonable cost. This is why more and more patients are being forced to seek treatment from private dentists but the exorbitant fees the latter charge is encouraging “dental tourism”.

The British Dental Health Foundation, which describes itself as the UK’s leading oral health charity, has urged members of the public not to travel abroad for dental treatment after a report by consumer advice group Which? found that almost one in five medical tourists suffered problems after treatment.

A foundation spokesman told The Telegraph that patients might think they were going on a “dental holiday in the sun” but putting right any problems that occurred could prove more expensive in the long run.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the foundation, commented: “It is a big concern that UK patients are so willing to travel abroad for dental treatment without being fully aware of the risks.”

He said: “Not all dentists are as highly trained as those in the UK, where extensive training and strict examinations are undertaken to ensure they meet the high standards required and this also applies to foreign dentists practising in the UK.”

He argued: “So called ‘dental holidays’ are presented as a cheap and hassle-free alternative to getting treatment in this country but we know from calls to our Dental Helpline that if things do go wrong, then they are anything but, as patients can be left facing all sorts of questions. Am I willing to fly back? What are my legal rights as a foreign patient? Am I prepared to go through the courts? Do I have the money required to correct the treatment?”

Carter also pointed out: “It is unrealistic to expect that complicated procedures, which can take months in this country, can be carried out to the same standard on a 10-day holiday — but that is the myth being sold to people.”

It is estimated that 60,000 Britons searched for information on dental holidays on the Internet in September. In a year, 40,000 will go abroad for treatment. India, Hungary, Poland and Thailand are among the most popular destinations for dental tourists. Common treatments include cosmetic work such as veneers, crowns, bridges and implants.

Lisa Hewer, who got in touch with the foundation, said she had paid £3,500 for major dental surgery during a break in Hungary.