With Hollywood smiles no longer reserved for America’s rich and famous, cosmetic dental treatments are becoming increasingly popular for young people in the UK.
However, cosmetic dentistry isn’t available on the NHS without a clinical need for it – and smile-enhancing treatments like teeth whitening and veneers don’t come cheap.
Rather than pursuing private cosmetic dentistry in the UK, many people have been influenced by reality TV and social media stars jetting off for ‘dental holidays’, where they travel to another country to undergo cosmetic dental procedures for lower prices.
Even with flights and accommodation, the cost of dental travel can still be cheaper than cosmetic dentistry in the UK – but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Dental tourism comes with plenty of risks, and potentially life-changing consequences if things go wrong after getting cosmetic dental treatment abroad. You have to ask yourself: how much is your smile and your overall wellbeing worth to you?
Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of overseas cosmetic dentistry, and why going to a trusted UK dentist is much safer than cosmetic dental tourism.
Though there are undoubtedly legitimate dental practices offering cosmetic treatments abroad, there are also many less scrupulous practitioners taking advantage of the dental tourism boom and uninformed patients looking for a budget deal.
Planning a little holiday around travelling to get affordable dental treatment done in just a few days may seem like a great advantage at first.
The reality is that you are more likely to experience rushed and poor-quality treatment, which may not achieve the results you were hoping for.
Without a proper consultation to determine your suitability for the treatment, and no follow-up appointments with the dentist for aftercare, there is a higher risk of developing complications that will require further treatment back in the UK.
Standards of dentistry vary across the globe, so you can’t always be sure that the clinic and dentist carrying out your cosmetic dental treatment is actually qualified and experienced enough to do so, or that the equipment and materials they use are high-quality.
In the UK, dentists must register with the General Dental Council (GDC) and follow the clinical hygiene requirements set by the Care Quality Commission. This ensures that all procedures are carried out correctly with a minimal risk of infections.
When considering cheap cosmetic dentistry abroad, think about what has been sacrificed to reach that lower price – and just how much a slip in standards could end up costing you.
Before you agree to undergo any medical or dental procedure, it’s essential to understand exactly what the treatment entails and what you can expect to happen in preparation, during the procedure, and afterwards – which also applies for cosmetic dentistry.
In many of the countries that are popular for dental tourism, English is not the first language. If you aren’t fluent in that country’s language, this immediately creates a language barrier that can cause communication issues, potentially resulting in serious errors.
While a cosmetic dentist in the UK can access your medical history and determine the most suitable cosmetic procedure to achieve the look you want, a dentist abroad may not get the full picture. In some cases, they may only care about selling you a treatment package and not about what’s best for you and your health.
You need to be able to communicate clearly with the dentist to make sure you’re getting the treatment you expect, and what the long-term outcome will be.
Without full transparency, you could end up being the star of a cautionary tale about teeth being filed down too far to fit mass-milled crowns when you simply wanted veneers – an occurrence that is far too frequent, if viral social media stories are anything to go by.
From severe gum irritation after unregulated teeth whitening treatments to quickly damaged crowns due to low-grade materials, there are many complications that can arise from going abroad for cut-price cosmetic dentistry.
Common symptoms experienced after cosmetic dental tourism include increased sensitivity that makes it difficult to eat and drink, intense pain that doesn’t go away, and infections caused by bacteria building up around ill-fitting dental appliances.
In many cases, there’s simply the upsetting reveal that your new teeth don’t look the way you wanted them to, because the crowns or veneers weren’t matched and fitted properly – denting your confidence even more than before.
There is also the alarming risk of your teeth being over-prepared, which happens when too much of the tooth is removed to fit a crown on top. Shaving away too much enamel can leave nerves exposed, increasing the risk of pain, infections, and tooth decay.
This damage is unfortunately irreversible, and if it is too severe, the only option could be a root canal or even total extraction of the natural tooth.
Dentists in the UK would never recommend or perform an invasive procedure or risk damaging natural teeth if alternatives are available, such as veneers and composite bonding, which can whiten and reshape teeth without removing excessive amounts of enamel.
When you undertake any kind of medical or dental procedure in the UK, you are protected by high legal standards for continuity of care. If something were to go wrong, you could make a medical negligence claim for compensation to help you recover.
However, if you go abroad for dental treatment, you are unlikely to have the same level of legal protection there. Making complaints and seeking redress can be especially difficult if there is a language barrier, and you won’t be able to make a claim in the UK against a practitioner in another country, as they will be bound by different laws.
There is also the expectation that patients with problematic cosmetic dentistry results can get ‘like for like’ replacement treatments in the UK, but these may not be available on the NHS – and if a private dentist agrees to treat you, you’ll have to pay private dentistry fees, anyway.
According to the British Dental Association (BDA), which surveyed more than a thousand dentists who treated patients after dental tourism, over half of these patients had to spend at least £500–£1,000 to fix their teeth. In a fifth of cases, the repair costs exceeded £5,000!
Given the high risk of something going wrong with cosmetic dental treatment abroad, and the financial, physical, and emotional expense of restoring your teeth – it really isn’t worth trying to skimp on cosmetic dentistry with dental tourism.
If you have issues with the appearance of your teeth that are negatively affecting your self-esteem, there are many ways to address this.
Teeth whitening, orthodontics, or veneers can give you a whiter, straighter, and more uniform smile, all without having to dramatically file down your teeth for unnecessary crowns.
Why risk going abroad when you could receive high-quality treatment here in the UK, from qualified professionals who speak your language and follow strict industry standards?
We understand that the higher cost of private dentistry in the UK may be off-putting, but that’s why we offer flexible dental finance options here at Dental Solutions – helping you to spread the cost with affordable monthly payments.
This way, you can be confident in the quality of treatment and aftercare you’ll receive, and the investment in your smile will be worth every penny.
To book a cosmetic dentistry consultation at our clinic in Warrington, call our reception desk on 01925 756 565, or email our team at [email protected] for more information on our cosmetic dental treatments and payment plans.