Dental travellers: “do your homework”

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has recently advised people seeking treatment abroad to be more discerning before travelling abroad, as dental tourism destinations are back open for business. They warn that a previous survey found that as many as three out of four Irish dentists treated patients for problems arising from procedures they had received overseas.

A number of dental clinics across Europe have noted a surge in bookings from Irish customers since the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Most clients who go abroad for dental treatment need significant procedures, such as implants, root canal treatment and crowns, which often cost a fraction of the equivalent treatment in Ireland.

The IDA is concerned about the quality of dental care in other countries and urges people to get consultations at home first, stating “We need to encourage people who may be travelling abroad to focus on the quality of work they receive, and whether that work is really necessary – not just the price of that work.”

A number of practices in Hungary, which are popular with Irish patients, insist that opting for cheaper treatment in their clinics does not mean lower quality.

Access Smile has a clinic in Budapest, Hungary and a sister clinic in Dublin.  It reports that interest has started to return now following a very quiet two-year period. It expects to return to 2019 levels soon.

Kreativ is a Budapest practice, which provides an aftercare service in Dublin.  It says it is seeing Irish patients flying out daily for treatment since the easing of restrictions. Before the pandemic it treated 150 people from Ireland every month for major treatment, and says the numbers are increasing again every month.

A key reason for Irish patients going abroad is that the current dental healthcare system in the country is failing. The IDA has published an independently commissioned research paper outlining an alternative proposal to the medical card scheme or Dental Treatment Service Scheme (DTSS), to bring about urgent reform.  It says dentists want an entirely new scheme that reflects modern dental practice and care, and one that allows vulnerable groups to access routine dental care in their community.

The current medical card scheme does not work as only 750 dentists across Ireland will accept cards.