Dental tourism: How to find a suitable provider and why to consider Turkey

Paul Ryken Last Updated: Wednesday 15 April 2020 Afford your trip, Travel safely, Turkey Leave a Comment

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If you are thinking about travelling overseas for your dental treatment, this article will explain what to consider, questions to ask and how to determine which dental practitioner is right for you. While I focus in this post on Turkey (simply because I had my dental treatments there), a lot of the considerations apply to dental tourism in general.

How come I write about this topic? In February 2019, just days before our planned year-long trip around Europe, I went to a dentist in New Zealand for my annual check-up. He advised that I needed a root canal treatment, and I shouldn’t delay getting it done. So what did I do? Nothing. Well, at least not for the next ten months. Only as we started to prepare for our return down under in early 2020, did I do some research and obtain quotes for the treatment in New Zealand and overseas.

Maybe I could get the root canal treatment done during an extended stopover? Well, that was my thinking, and in the end, that was exactly what we did. Minus the root canal treatment, but more on that below.

With root canal treatment costs quoted at 10% of those in New Zealand, I ended up seeking dental treatment in Turkey

Dental tourism: What is it and how did it come about?

Dental tourism, a subset of medical tourism, refers to people travelling (overseas) to obtain dental treatments that provide greater value for money than the treatments offered within their home countries, usually coupled with a vacation.

Medical tourism is not a new concept. For centuries, people have travelled to other towns, countries and even continents to seek out the best or most appropriate treatment for their ailments. In Greek mythology, Asclepius, the god of medicine, was said to bring people back from the underworld. His followers built temples and statues in his honour, and people would travel vast distances to pay their respects and pray for miracles to heal their ailments.

In the 17th century, spa towns developed in Europe, providing treatments to people with all sorts of ailments. The word spa is an acronym for the Latin phrase salus per aquam, meaning health from water. Slowly but surely, other continents followed.

Medical tourism is not a new concept but has been around for thousands of year | Photo by Gundula Vogel on Pixabay

Since the turn of the century, we have seen significant growth in medical tourism and specifically dental tourism, largely due to:

  • Medical professionals increasingly studying overseas, then returning to practice in their home countries.
  • The internet making it easier to connect medical/dental practices with potential patients.
  • Easier and cheaper travel options.

The Turkish government has even made medical tourism a key policy initiative.

Seeking medical treatment overseas has never been easier | Photo by Yousef Alfuhigi on Unsplash

What dental treatments can I get overseas?

The short answer: pretty much the same as you can get at home. A general dentist can perform the following treatments:

  • Routine check up
  • Scaling and polishing
  • Fillings
  • Dental crowns, caps, bridges and veneers
  • Root canal
  • Teeth whitening.
Bad teeth can be fixed overseas, including in Turkey | Photo by Mika on Unsplash

If your case is a bit more complicated, you may need the help of a specialist:

  • Orthodontists are specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of crooked teeth, bad bites and poorly aligned jaws.
  • An Endodontist specializes in procedures involving the soft inner tissue of the teeth, including root canal treatments.
  • Look for a Periodontist if you require diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.
  • Prosthodontists specialize in restoring or replacing teeth through implants, veneers, crowns, bridges etc.

It is not recommended to seek corrective dentistry treatment involving braces as these treatments require multiple visits at regular intervals over an extended period, which is not feasible for most patients.

Quality prosthodontists are also available overseas | Photo by Peter Kasprzyk on Unsplash

What are the benefits and risks of participating in dental tourism?

In some western countries such as Australia, the local Dental Association advocates against dental tourism. While not entirely altruistic, there are valid reasons to approach with caution when seeking medical or dental treatment overseas. In New Zealand, dentists have had to pick up the pieces when dental tourism goes wrong.

While dentistry, whether provided at home or overseas, is never risk-free, here are some of the most common benefits and risks involved in dental tourism:

BenefitsRisks
Treatment can be more cost-effective compared to your home countryTreatment could turn out to be more costly than expected if quote received is not comprehensive OR if there are complications that require follow-up treatments in your home country
Treatment can often be performed without being placed on a waiting listDifficult or more expensive to sue an overseas doctor for malpractice if something goes wrong
Increased choice of and ability to compare dental providers
Ability to combine dental treatment with a vacation

Are overseas dental treatments always cheaper?

Unaffordability in your home country may be the main reason you seek dental treatment overseas, but you do need to be careful as the total cost of your trip could well exceed the cost of dental care at home. When comparing a quote from your provider at home with those received from dentists overseas keep in mind that the treatment costs are only part of the whole package. To calculate the total costs for your trip take into account:

Consider more than just the treatment costs when determining if your trip makes financial sense | Photo by Jason Goh on Pixabay

How ethical is dental tourism?

If dental tourism means that dentists are not available to the local population because (a) locals can’t get appointments or (b) treatments become unaffordable for them, it is unethical.

However, dentists, like everyone else need to earn an income. If dental tourism enables dentists to supplement their local income and invest in their practice dental tourism can benefit the community you visit for your dental treatment. Dental tourism can also be beneficial when you visit outside of peak season, stay in locally owned accommodation businesses, eat at locally-owned restaurants etc.

How to go about arranging dental treatments overseas?

Consult with your own dentist

If you trust your regular dentist, you should consult with them first. They are best suited to offer advice based on your dental history. It would also be wise to fill them in on your plans to discuss any pros and cons for seeking dental treatment overseas and to get a quote from them.

Determine what you need to know to make a decision

Before you start your research make a list of all the information you need to make a decision. Create a little spreadsheet to compare providers. Keep in mind both the benefits and the risks involved in seeking medical/dental treatment overseas, for example: Is there a government or non-profit organisation that could assist you in case you become a victim of malpractice?

Make sure you write down all the things you need to know to make an informed decision | Photo by Conger Design on Pixabay

Shortlist potential providers

The most useful sources to identify potential countries, cities, clinics and doctors are

Medical travel planners/brokers

Planners/brokers specializing in medical travel, for example WhatClinic or Dental Departures (or IntraHealth which specializes in Turkey), are aggregators which list practices (including services provided, cost range for services, reviews by patients, contact details, etc).

Medical travel planners/brokers are increasingly advertising all-inclusive travel packages that include dental procedures, hotel room reservations, excursions to tourist attractions and airline tickets to lure international clients. Be warned: not all providers are legitimate. Ensure you do your research before handing over any personal data or money. And never use a website that doesn’t have a valid SSL certificate.

What did we do?

When we looked into dental treatments, we were in Europe, intending to travel to New Zealand. This meant we would incur the cost for airfares in any case, and including a stopover didn’t significantly alter those costs.

We then looked at potential countries – both in EMENA (short for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa) and Asia – where accommodation and local transportation costs were significantly lower than in New Zealand. Countries we considered were Turkey and Morocco (in EMENA) as well as Thailand and Vietnam (in Asia). We could have considered other countries in Eastern Europe for example, but a lack of information available online meant we didn’t.

Medical tourism consultancies and industry bodies

Over the years, various dental and medical tourism consultancy companies, global, regional and national medical tourism associations, and industry bodies have been set up to cater to the medical tourism industry. You would go to them for support, validation and research.

Below are some of the more well-known and established ones:

  • Fly to Cure – Has a fully equipped and NHS accredited medical centre in London. For most treatment packages, several years of free follow-ups are included.
  • Medical Tourism Association – The Medical Tourism Association also referred to as Medical Travel Association was the first membership-based international non-profit association for the medical tourism and global healthcare industry. Made up of top international hospitals, healthcare providers and medical tourism facilitators, members have the common goal of promoting the highest level of quality of healthcare to patients in a global environment.
  • Turkish Healthcare Travel Council – Established in 2005 to strengthen health tourism activities and to unite the national efforts to bring more patients from around the world to Turkey. It is the largest healthcare association in Turkey.

Health insurers

It is quite common for health insurers to send patients overseas (for example if the waiting list in your home country is too long for certain procedures). So, if you are considering medical/dental treatment overseas, your health insurance provider may be a good point of call with established contacts overseas.

Health insurers often send patients overseas for treatment so ask your insurer for provider recommendations | Photo by kalhh on Pixabay

Ask questions – lots of questions

Asking questions doesn’t only help you fill in any blanks about the procedure. How the practice communicates with you tells you a lot about the practice.

Here are some key questions to ask – though this is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • What does the treatment entail (including how many appointments are required over what time-frame)?
  • Who is performing the treatment? What are their qualifications and accreditations? How often have they performed the procedure?
  • How well do they speak English? If not (very well), will there be an interpreter present at the procedure?
  • Is the work insured/guaranteed for a certain period?
  • What happens if I am unhappy with the results? Do you have a complaints system in place? Can I see a copy of it?
  • How often has there been complications with similar treatments in the past? If there are complications and I need further treatment, is this included in the initial cost?
  • What aftercare is provided? Who can I contact for advice after the treatment?
Ask a ton of questions to learn more about the practice and the procedure | Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Check accreditations/registrations

Accreditations can be considered a stamp of approval verifying the authenticity and quality of the services provided. By being accredited, a dental practice or practitioner aims to demonstrate that staff is sufficiently qualified, that the dental equipment is adequate to perform the procedures offered and meet specific safety standards.

Unfortunately, there is no worldwide agency/group engaged in (coordinating) the delivery of accreditation or licensing, or in assessing existing schemes that deliver accreditation. Best is to do some research to gain an understanding:

  • For the country you are considering: What licensing/accreditation is required/recommended? How often does it need to be renewed (and what is required for the renewal)?
  • For the practice/practitioner you are considering: Is their licence/accreditation appropriate and valid?

Be aware that accreditations can also be a marketing tool by dental tourism facilitators, wealthier dental practices and the governments of provider countries seeking to grow their share of the dental tourism business. So, don’t solely rely on accreditations.

Dental certificates, awards and citations help prove the qualifications of a dentist

Arrange an initial consultation

Most dental practices who support dental tourism will offer free initial consultations. This allows you to check out the practice, observe the dentist and their staff, and ask any final questions before booking the appointment for the actual treatment. If you’re not comfortable with your experience during the initial consultation don’t go ahead with the planned treatment.

Make use of free initial consultations to check out the practice and ask any final questions | Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

What did we do?

I first contact the dentist in New Zealand who had recommended the root canal treatment in the first place. I also contacted a few other clinics. The quotes received ranged from NZD1,200 (by a general dentist) to NZD2,275 (by an endodontist).

We then used WhatClinic and Dental Departures to determine potential countries, cities and clinics to consider overseas. Both had a selection of clinics listed on their website whom we contacted for quotes. Once I had narrowed my list down to 2-3 clinics, I provided them with the dental file I’d received from the dentist in New Zealand

The dental clinic we ended up choosing provided a full initial consultation free of charge. They reviewed my dental file (including x-rays). They also took their 360-degree x-ray to support their diagnosis and recommendations.

Why Turkey is a valid option for dental tourism?

On a worldwide basis, Turkish dentistry can easily compete with other industrialized countries. To perform dentistry in Turkey, you need a University Diploma in Dentistry. You also need to be a member of the Turkish Dental Association. According to the Turkish Dental Association, there are nearly 24,000 practising dentists in Turkey.

Turkey is a leading player in dental tourism facilitation and is emerging as the destination of choice for a wide range of dental procedures. According to data of the Istanbul International Health Tourism Association, it is estimated that around 700,000 foreign patients benefited from Turkish health-care tourism opportunities in 2017 (out of around 42 million tourists visiting Turkey every year).

Of the 42 million tourists visiting Turkey in 2017, 700,000 came here for medical treatments

The country offers:

  • internationally accredited dental facilities using the latest technologies;
  • highly qualified general and specialist dental practitioners;
  • significant cost savings (at 30% of the cost, on average) for dental work and cosmetic dentistry compared to procedures in Europe;
  • no waiting lists; and
  • fluent English speaking staff experienced in treating patients from other countries.

Visiting Turkey for dental treatment can easily be combined with a holiday. Antalya and the surrounding area in particular are a gorgeous seaside holiday destination with many ancient sites and natural treasures to explore.

What did we do?

After contacting a shortlist of potential clinics in Thailand, Vietnam and Turkey for quotes, we discarded Thailand as an option as the quotes we received were pretty much the same as in New Zealand.

Airfares from London to Auckland via Turkey or Vietnam were pretty much the same. Cost of living was also comparable.

The Vietnamese clinic we had shortlisted appeared to try and sell us more than we needed. On the other hand, dealing with the clinic in Turkey was pleasant. Their communication was friendly, to the point and not pushy at all. And that’s the clinic we ended up choosing: Beyaz Ada Dental Clinic in Antalya.

My Dental Tourism Experience in Antalya
Beyaz Ada Dental Clinic

Name: Beyaz Ada Dental Clinic

Description: The clinic is located in Antalya, Turkey and has a team of qualified dental surgeons and oral healthcare experts.

Price range: EUR50 - EUR3,800

Payment accepted: Credit Card

Currencies accepted: EUR

Address: Tekelioğlu Caddesi Terracity Midpoint Karşısı 07160 Antalya, Turkey

Telephone: +90 242 324 94 95

[ More ]

  • Friendly ambience
    (5)
  • Up-to-date facilities
    (5)
  • Experienced dentists
    (5)
  • Adherence to appointment times
    (5)
  • Cleanliness and safety
    (5)
  • Communication
    (5)
  • Price
    (5)
  • Care and comfort
    (4.5)
  • Location
    (4.5)
4.9

Summary

Friendly ambience

As soon as you walk through the door, you are greeted by friendly staff (by name if you’ve visited before). The clinic is bright and modern. The reception area has seating for 10 patients. The two dentists and their team are passionate about their work. The clinic prides itself on very personal service, and that’s exactly what you get.

Up to date facilities

On your first visit, you are taken into a small room where your teeth are x-rayed using a Genoray GDP-1 Panoramic x-ray machine that moves around your head. The two dental treatment rooms are equipped with modern dental units.

Experienced dentists

The clinic performs most major and typical dentistry work. I had the pleasure of having Dr Ismail Kargin treat me during my three appointments. His many qualifications cover two walls, and the certificates show that he has taken many courses since he commenced practice in 2007. Apart from the Turkish Dental Association, Dr Kargin is also a member of the Aesthetic Dentistry Academia Association and the International Team of Implantology.

Adherence to appointment times

According to Dr Kargin, one of the biggest challenges the clinic faces is the limited time dental tourists have. Fortunately, most patients only need to be in Antalya for a week, and the clinic does everything in their power to finish the treatments as quickly as possible without compromising on quality.

Cleanliness and safety

The reception area was clean and tidy, as were the bathroom and treatment rooms. While lying on the dentist chair, everything appeared to be clean. However, I can’t comment on the degree of sterility of the instruments used.

Communication

Communication was actually what set the clinic apart from the other clinics we spoke to and was a key reason why we chose Beyaz Ada. Although Dr Kargin speaks English, the clinic employs a Turkish, English and Mandarin-speaking assistant who is present during the treatments and translates as the treating dentist explains each step of the procedure. The assistant also helps patients organise their stay (from arranging dental treatments and seeing other doctors to organizing tours, providing advice on restaurants, etc).

Price

The clinic’s price list is published on the Dental Departures website, so you know what to expect. The prices were accurate for the treatments I received. The clinic offers a best price guarantee among Antalya clinics.

Care and comfort

My initial consultation, teeth cleaning and two fillings (thanks to local anesthetics) were pain-free. After my teeth whitening treatment, I had 36 hours of pain and some discomfort which I treated with normal over the counter pain killers. I was also discouraged to have any dark colored food and drinks for two weeks after the treatment to avoid renewed discoloration and allow the gums to heal.

I was made aware of potential pain before the treatment, but the pain and discomfort was more (and more prolonged) than I had anticipated. I also found that normal pain killers didn’t fully alleviate the pain. This is one area the practice could improve upon, for example by providing adequate pain killers for the first 36 hours after treatment.

Location

The clinic is located in Lara, about 7 kilometers from the Old Town of Antalya, and right across the street from Terracity, a large shopping mall. While not in the city centre, the clinic is easily reachable by public transport, with various buses connecting Antalya’s Old Town with Terracity, taking less than 30 minutes in normal traffic.

Summary

I had come to the clinic to receive a root canal treatment. During my initial consultation (which was free of charge and included a 360-degree x-ray) Dr Kargin discussed my case with an Endodontist whom he had sent my images to confirm his diagnosis and treatment proposal. Their joint recommendation was that a root canal treatment was not required. All I needed were two fillings.

After the initial consultation, I received a cleaning treatment and the two fillings. Given the positive experience I had during my visits to the clinic, I decided to also get my teeth whitened as decades of coffee consumption had left them pretty stained. I was very happy with the experience and would return for further dental treatments without hesitation. In total, I paid TRY2,322 (USD377/EUR330).

Happy with the results: This is before...
... and this is after my teeth whitening treatment

Final recommendations

Before you confirm or pay any money, here are some practical recommendations to consider:

  1. Discuss your dental treatment needs with your regular dentist at home first. Get a quote for treatment in your home country so you can assess whether it makes sense to seek treatment overseas.
  2. If you choose to go through an agent/broker, read the fine print. Know what they will do and most importantly, what they won’t do.
  3. Research the actual dental clinic online.
  4. Check out the reviews thoroughly of both the agent/broker and the actual dental clinic. Pay particular attention to reviews that provide background details on the dentists and their qualifications, and whether complications arose and how they were dealt with.
  5. Ask lots of questions. Ensure you receive a full treatment plan as well as a comprehensive quote for your procedure.
  6. Discuss potential dates with your chosen dentist before you book your trip to ensure they are available and can fit you in as required. Be as flexible as you can when it comes to appointment times. Allow more time after the treatment than beforehand.
  7. Don’t book any activities too soon after your treatment as you may experience discomfort for a short period of time.
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What are your main concerns around seeking dental treatment overseas? What would make you consider dental tourism? Please leave a comment below.

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Dental tourism: How to find a suitable provider and why to consider Turkey
Dental tourism: How to find a suitable provider and why to consider Turkey
Dental tourism: How to find a suitable provider and why to consider Turkey

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