Our Guide on the Pros and Cons of Going Abroad to get Dental Treatment and Implants
This dental tourism guide is intended mainly for readers in the UK. If you’re in North America you will find this article more relevant.
It’s no secret that private dental treatment in the UK is expensive. The practice of going abroad for dental treatment, known as “dental tourism”, is a cost-effective way to have more complex dental procedures performed. In particular, many Brits are now getting dental implants abroad and saving hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
But for every story you’ve heard of how someone saved a load of cash on their treatment, you’ve probably heard a horror story from someone else.
In this article we’ll explain the pros and cons of getting your teeth done abroad. You will learn about some of the most popular locations for cheap dental treatment and understand how the process works. Finally, we’ll mention some precautions and considerations for anyone planning to get tooth implants, veneers, or any other dental work done with a dentist abroad.
Table of contents
- 1 Why get dental treatment abroad?
- 2 Types of cheap dental treatment available abroad
- 3 How to arrange overseas dental work
- 4 What are the best places for dental tourism?
- 5 Visiting a dentist in Hungary
- 6 Getting dental treatment in Poland
- 7 Visiting a dentist in Spain
- 8 Dental trips – get your teeth done on holiday
- 9 Getting dental implants abroad
- 10 Potential risks and things to consider before visiting a dentist abroad
Why get dental treatment abroad?
The main reason why so many people are getting dental treatment in Poland, Hungary, and other European countries is the cost. Patients can save thousands of pounds on cheap dental implants abroad if they need several teeth done, even once the cost of flights and accommodation is factored in.
Why is it cheaper?
The reason why people can get cheaper implants and other treatment abroad is not, as many may believe, because of a lower standard of care. If anything, the quality of service and care provided by many dental clinics in Poland and Hungary exceeds UK standards. It’s easy to find clinics kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment operated by fully trained dental professionals.
In actual fact, dental tourism prices hinge more on the cost of living in each country. When property prices and wages are lower, dentists don’t have such high overheads and so can offer their services for less.
Some clinics, particularly those located outside of the big cities, offer spa facilities and 4-star hotel accommodation for their patients to enjoy while they recover – and the package cost is still less than you’d pay in the UK for the treatment alone.
Quality of care
Many patients say they can actually find better dentists abroad than in the UK; the clinics are more efficiently run, and the overall experience is much more pleasant for the patient.
It’s possible to book cosmetic dentistry packages which include airport pickup, hotel accommodation, transport with a private driver, and an executive lounge to relax in while you wait (with free wifi, of course). With hardly anything left to arrange yourself, the process is smooth and hassle-free.
Some people choose to get dental work done in conjunction with a holiday in a more exotic destination like Thailand, Mexico or Costa Rica. There’s more about this in the section on dental trips further down.
Types of cheap dental treatment available abroad
Since the NHS only covers dental work that is medically necessary, the only option for for people wanting aesthetic dental work is private treatment.
Getting cosmetic dentistry abroad can work out more cost effective for things like:
- Dental implants
- Crowns (porcelain, zirconia or gold)
- Teeth whitening
- Fillings, extractions and root canals
- Certain types of braces
It might not make sense to jump on a plane for a root canal alone, but with dentists in some countries offering the procedure for significantly less than the cost of NHS-subsidised treatment, it can be worth it if you have a few teeth that need work.
Implants and veneers, being the most expensive types of dental treatment in the UK, can be fitted for 50-70% less if you travel abroad – meaning you save money even taking into account the cost of flights and accommodation. Our cost comparison table further down shows just how much you stand to save by visiting a dentist abroad.
How to arrange overseas dental work
There are two main ways you can arrange your dental treatment overseas; either directly with your chosen clinic, or via a medical travel agency.
Agencies may offer a wide choice of clinics and be able to identify the most suitable one for your needs; however they will take a cut of your payment which could increase the total cost of your dental treatment.
Both individual clinics and agencies offer dental tourism packages which may include accommodation, airport pickup, and transport to the clinic. Having all of this arranged for you can help make the process run more smoothly. Even though you can probably find cheaper accommodation if you book it yourself, it can be worth paying the extra to make your dental holiday hassle-free.
Before you book
Whichever way you choose, you should research the company, clinic and dentist responsible for your treatment. If possible, find out what qualifications the dentist has, and verify them with the issuing body.
Internet forums and review sites are great places to get honest opinions from other people who have had the same work done. The clinic may provide its own reviews, but you can’t be sure that these are completely impartial.
Finally, it’s essential to have a consultation with a qualified dentist before receiving a treatment plan and a quote for work. Any clinic that bypasses this step should be avoided.
Your consultation may take place once you’re at the clinic, or you may be referred to a dentist in the UK. If the latter, check that the dentist is a member of the General Dentistry Council – this is a legal requirement for practising in the UK, even if working on behalf of a dentist in Poland, Hungary, or some other country.
The country you visit will have its own regulatory bodies for dentistry and it’s worth finding out about these so you can check your chosen dentist is operating legitimately.
What are the best places for dental tourism?
|City/country||Flight time from London||Approximate flight price (return)||Cost of single tooth implant||Cost of porcelain veneer|
|Budapest, Hungary||2 hours 25 minutes||£55||£470||£240|
|Krakow/Warsaw, Poland||2 hours 25 minutes||£50||£560||£200|
|Istanbul, Turkey||3 hours 55 minutes||£103||£500||£130|
|Various cities, Spain||2 hours 20 minutes||£55||£750||£200|
|Phuket, Thailand||15-16 hours with a connection||£470||£780||£120|
|San Jose, Costa Rica||11 hours 15 minutes||£630||£620||£320|
|Mexico City, Mexico||11 hours 35 minutes||£455||£630||£270|
|All prices are indicative only and will vary from one dental clinic to another. Accommodation and insurance not included.|
Although these prices make cosmetic dentistry abroad seem quite cheap, there are many other costs involved in the process. These include:
- Initial consultations
- Flights (for each trip required)
- Someone to accompany you, if necessary
- Time off work
- Aftercare in the UK
And price is not the only thing you should factor into the equation. Later in this article we cover some of the main risks involved with going abroad for dental work, and other things you should consider before going ahead.
There are many countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as parts of Asia and South America, that offer low-cost dental treatment. British patients often prefer to visit European countries as the travel time is shorter and there is no need to worry about visas.
We’re going to concentrate on three of the most popular destinations for dental tourism – Hungary, Poland and Spain – but countries like Slovakia, Romania, Portugal and Latvia also offer competitively priced dental treatment.
Visiting a dentist in Hungary
If you’re looking for places to get cheap teeth implants abroad, Hungary should certainly be on your shortlist.
You’ll find top quality facilities in many cities, but for dental implants in Hungary most people choose the capital city, Budapest. This has the highest concentration of dental clinics and is just 2 1/2 hours away from the UK by plane. 3-star hotels are available from £20 per night.
Prices may be slightly higher in the capital than in quieter towns such as Mosonmagyaróvár on the Austrian border, which has an amazing 160 dental clinics despite only being home to 32,000 residents.
Budapest itself is a city full of history and culture, so it’s worth allowing a few extra days for sightseeing during your trip. Your clinic may even provide city tours or cruises on the Danube as part of your package.
It’s not just Brits that are flocking to Hungarian dentists; it’s also a popular destination for residents of nearby Germany and Switzerland who are seeking cheaper dental care.
Hungarian dentists must undergo five years of medical training and register with the Hungarian Medical Chamber before being allowed to practice.
Since there are so many dentists in Hungary to choose from, prices, standards of care and levels of English can vary greatly. It can be helpful to consult a health travel agent for advice on the best dentist for teeth implants, veneers, or other treatment in Hungary. You can also read our full article on getting dental implants in Hungary.
When reviewing Hungary dentist prices, ensure you’re comparing like-for-like in terms of treatment, materials and brand. Also check online reviews from other people who have visited Hungary for dental implants, veneers, and other procedures.
Getting dental treatment in Poland
The large number of private dental clinics in Poland, particularly in the major cities of Krakow and Warsaw, ensures healthy competition between dentists. They are always pushing to offer the best treatment with the newest equipment at the lowest price, which is good news for you if you’re looking for dental implants, veneers, or other dentistry in Poland.
The dental tourism industry in Poland is relatively new, but visitors from the UK have been increasing steadily over the past ten years or so. It’s also a popular destination for German and Russian visitors seeking high-quality dental care at low prices.
Dentists in Poland must train for seven years before they begin to practise; this includes two years of clinical experience. They are regulated by the Polish Chamber of Physicians and Dentists, with whom they must be registered in order to practise legally. The Chamber renews this licence every five years providing the dentist is meeting certain standards and can demonstrate the latest skills and knowledge.
The cities of Warsaw and Krakow are both popular tourist destinations in their own rights, and are pleasant places to enjoy the few days you have free during your stay. 3-star hotels cost from £30 per night in Krakow and £40 per night in Warsaw.
Visiting a dentist in Spain
Spain is one of the longest-established dental tourism destinations in Europe. As well as being home to many world-class dental clinics, Spain is also a popular holiday destination.
So whether you’d rather stroll around Barcelona or soak up the sun in Costa del Sol, you can do so while saving money on your dental work.
Many people get dental implants in Spain because of the big cost savings, but you can save on work like crowns, veneers and other cosmetic work as well. With flights taking around 2 1/2 hours, you could conceivably visit for just a day – many clinics offer airport transfers to make your trip run smoothly.
Read more in our Spain dental tourism article about the best places to go and other things to consider.
Dental trips – get your teeth done on holiday
For some people, travelling to a foreign country for dental work is a great excuse for a holiday. Known as “dental trips” or “dental holidays”, these visits usually take place in exotic countries and allow the patient to come home with a tan as well as nicer teeth.
Patients can enjoy a holiday lasting several weeks, plus get their dental work done, for less than the cost of having the work done in their home country.
Popular destinations for dental trips include Costa Rica, Thailand, Bali, India, Mexico, Turkey and the Philippines.
If you’re considering a dental holiday, do take into account your recovery time. Be realistic about how much time you’ll want to spend by the pool if your mouth is swollen and tender. And will the local cuisine taste so good if it has to be pureed?
One solution is to plan a few days of ‘proper’ holiday time before your treatment, but be sure to allow more than enough time for your recovery before you fly home. If you’re having veneers fitted, the time it takes to have them made can present a good opportunity for sightseeing or relaxing.
Getting dental implants abroad
With implants costing upwards of £2,000 per tooth in the UK, it’s no wonder that people are searching for cheap implants abroad.
The cost of your dental implants, wherever you go, will vary depending on a number of factors. This includes the brand of implant and materials used, the type of anaesthesia used, and your overall oral health. You may also need preparatory surgery such as a sinus lift or bone graft.
Be sure to research the brand your dentist is proposing to use, and check that it meets the same quality standards as those in the UK (if it’s one available in the UK – even better).
Implantology involves drilling into the jaw bone, inserting the implant, and then attaching a crown (replacement tooth) via an abutment.
With traditional implants, an initial surgery is done to install the implant roots, then the gum is allowed to heal over these while they settle. 4-6 months later, the gum is re-opened and abutments and crowns are fitted to complete the procedure. You can read more about the full process in our dental implants article.
If you have teeth implants abroad using this method, you’ll need to allow 2-4 days including your consultation and initial assessment.
‘Teeth in a day’ with All-on-4 implants
The name comes from the idea that all the new teeth are supported on just four implants in the lower jaw, and six in the upper. This makes the process quicker and cheaper than traditional treatments which require 8-10 implants in each jaw.
But the main benefit of this treatment is it offers ‘teeth in a day’. Whereas some types of implant have to be fitted during surgery and then left for 4-6 months to fuse with the bone before abutments and crowns are fitted, immediate implant treatment allows patients to walk away the same day with teeth fitted to their implants.
A temporary fixed bridge or denture is attached to each arch as part of the initial treatment, and after 6-9 months this is replaced with a permanent prosthesis. This means that patients needn’t suffer the embarrassment and inconvenience of living with no teeth for several months.
Immediate implants are also available in cases where one or several teeth are missing, however this option is usually more expensive than the traditional method.
It’s normal to experience some pain and swelling after having teeth implants. Your clinic should provide you with medication to manage this, but you may not feel like travelling for 2-3 days after the surgery.
It can be a good idea to stay in your chosen city for a few days anyway (even if your dentist doesn’t recommend this), as this will allow time to check for any complications.
Getting veneers abroad
The process will take longer if you are getting porcelain veneers abroad since these are made to measure. After your initial consultation, your dentist will take measurements of your teeth and create a plan for your veneers.
You’ll probably have to stay for around a week – but it may take up to two weeks if you’re having a large number of veneers fitted.
Composite veneers are moulded by the dentist as they are applied and can be done in a day, but the downside is that this material doesn’t last as long. If you need your veneers to last more than 5-10 years it might be worth paying the extra (and taking the extra time) for porcelain.
Potential risks and things to consider before visiting a dentist abroad
The language barrier is an obvious factor to consider. Although many foreign dentists speak great English, others do not. Should you experience any complications during your treatment, the last thing you want is to have trouble understanding what’s going on.
But communication problems can run deeper than just the language. When you have a complex procedure like implants or veneers abroad, you will probably want your dentist to:
- Prepare you for the treatment
- Tell you what to expect during treatment
- Explain common side-effects or discomfort you’ll likely experience afterwards
- Show you how to care for your new teeth
Unfortunately, some dental tourists have experienced issues with dentists who didn’t communicate enough about these things. The ‘in-and-out’ approach does little to put you at ease, especially if you’re already nervous about receiving dental work abroad.
Thoroughly research the procedure you’re having so you know what kind of aftercare will be required. Questions to ask the company organising your treatment include:
- Will I need to stay overnight in a clinic or hospital?
- If I stay in a hotel after that, will any special measures need to be taken?
- What pain or discomfort will I experience after the procedure, and how long does it usually last?
- Will I be able to care for myself during my recovery?
- How long after the procedure will I be fit to travel home?
- What if I’m unhappy with the results?
Dealing with complications
Consider taking somebody with you on your trip – not only to help look after you immediately after your treatment, but to step in and help if there are any complications.
Although relatively rare, possible complications with treatments like implants and veneers include:
- Infection in the area treated
- Damage to other teeth
- Nerve damage, causing tingling or numbness in your mouth
- Sinus problems (from implants in the upper jaw)
- Increased sensitivity in teeth (from the enamel removed to fit veneers)
Speak to your clinic or agency to find out what support they would offer in such a situation.
Also check what would happen if you experienced problems after returning home. How long is your treatment guaranteed for? Would you have to travel back to the dental clinic abroad to receive further treatment, or does the company have a clinic in the UK that you could use? Would the cost of this be covered by your package or would you have to foot the bill?
Treatments like implants will require regular follow-up care for the rest of your life. Because there are so many different systems used for implants (more than 50), it can be difficult for a UK dentist to provide this care without having all of the documentation related to your treatment.
When choosing an overseas dentist, ask what systems they use for treatment and what documentation they provide. If they use a brand available in the UK, that should make your follow-up care more straightforward. Also ask whether they can provide your medical notes in English so your dentist back home has a full record of your procedure.
If there is certain scheduled work required after your treatment, find out where in the UK you can have this done and whether it is included in the cost of your package.
Most travel insurance policies only cover you for emergency dental care – not procedures you choose to have (known as “elective treatment”). This means that if something goes wrong during a planned visit to a dental clinic abroad and you require additional care or have to postpone your flights, you could end up heavily out of pocket.
Check with your chosen clinic to see if they offer any kind of insurance for cases like this, and also speak to your travel insurance company to see how your policy will be affected.
If you have a dental insurance policy in the UK, find out whether that will cover you for any follow-up treatment from work carried out overseas (routine or emergency).
Finding a reputable dental clinic abroad
To minimise the risk of any of the above problems, you’ll need to do plenty of research before visiting a dentist abroad. This should include:
- Verifying the qualifications and certification of the dentist(s) you’re considering
- Checking online forums to find reviews and feedback from other patients who have used the same clinic and dentist
- Understanding the procedure you’re having and what your recovery will involve
If possible, arrange to speak directly to your chosen dentist before you commit to anything. This will let you gauge their level of English and will also give you a chance to ask any questions you have.
You might want to ask how many times they have carried out this particular procedure, what their success rates are, and what risks are associated with the work. Don’t be afraid to ask to see samples of their work; they may even be able to put you in touch with a past patient who has undergone the same work that you’re planning.
You should also have a consultation with your own dentist at home. He or she knows your dental history and can advise you on the work you’re planning to have done abroad. In addition, make sure you understand how much he or she will be involved in your aftercare.
Doing your research and getting as much advice as possible beforehand means you can minimise the risk of complications and feel more confident about your dental treatment abroad.