Nicholas Ehmann, DDS, BMSc
Ann Ma, DDS, BMSc
I’m sure you’ve heard the story before; a friend goes outside of Canada and gets their dentistry done for a fraction of the price.
While that statement may be true, you might not often hear the outcome of their experiences. While it may look great on the surface, what is going on under the gums, in the bone, and in the tooth may not be quite what you expect (or want).
Dentistry Standard in Canada
Let’s take a step back, and look at what Canadian dentistry assures us, as patients. Canada has one of the most comprehensive set of standards in the world regarding dentistry techniques and materials. The standards for hygiene are also top notch, with Alberta having some of the highest sterilization standards in the country. When you pay for dental work, you’re paying to ensure that you get the best quality of treatment that we can offer. You pay just as much (and possibly more) for Canadian healthcare (through taxes) for the same reasons. In cases where patients get treatment done while on “vacation”, it’s often in places where medical standards, and therefore dental standards, are much lower. Often, most cases have come from Latin America, Asia, and Eastern European countries.
Issue #1: Hygiene
The first issue to tackle is simply sterilization and hygiene. In Canada, unless dental materials can be properly sterilized, they must be one-time use. From routine changing of gloves and masks, to properly washing hands, the regulations on this topic are incredibly strict, and if proper practices aren’t followed, it can mean closure of a clinic and the dentist could possibly lose their license. These regulations simply aren’t present everywhere in the world. The average Canadian may perceive a vacation dental clinic as clean, proper, and professional; however, what goes on behind the scenes is far more important with regards to infection control. HIV and hepatitis are some of the most commonly known diseases that can be spread to patients in this way. It only takes one infection breach for someone to acquire HIV, hepatitis, or another serious illness. Is it really worth it?
Issue #2: Accountability
The second issue is that the foreign dentist usually has no responsibility towards a patient after they leave their office. If you have work done, and it fails, the chances of you flying back to have it redone are low, and you’re unlikely to be compensated for the failure. This also means there is no follow-up. If a problem is apparent and is caught early, it may only require minor intervention. However, after treatment overseas, Canadian dentists tend to avoid attempting to correct vacation treatments, as doing so means they must take ownership of the entire case. Usually, you’ll require the work to be re-done to meet Canadian standards (that is, if it can even be re-done at all).
Issue #3: Materials and Techniques
The final issue we’ll discuss pertains to the materials and techniques used in other countries. Titanium, gold, and zirconia are some of the most frequently used dental materials (they are anti-bacterial, corrosion resistant, and soft tissue friendly), but they come with a cost. Using sub-par materials is a quick and easy way to save on costs, but can be hazardous to your health. The use of weak porcelains, hazardous root canal materials, and cheap fillings are common causes of dental work failures from overseas dentistry. An example would be implants. Implants are expensive for a reason (a topic for a blog in the future), but if a foreign implant placed in another country fails here in Canada, we may not be familiar with the system they used, so saving the implant would be impossible. The list of techniques that could be lacking in order to save on time and costs is endless.
The Bottom Line
Although this doesn’t mean you can’t get high quality and modern dental care in these places, most people aren’t able to tell the difference between good and terrible dentistry. That is, until you start to have pain or an infection, you may think everything is fine. Now that you know the risks, will you take the chance?
We hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at email@example.com with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Effect of prosthetic material on the outcome of dental implants supporting implant-supported dentures: a Meta analysis. (2017). Clinical Oral Implants Research, 28, pp.51-51.
- Makhija, S., Lawson, N., Gilbert, G., Litaker, M., McClelland, J., Louis, D., Gordan, V., Pihlstrom, D., Meyerowitz, C., Mungia, R. and McCracken, M. (2016). Dentist material selection for single-unit crowns: Findings from the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. Journal of Dentistry, 55, pp.40-47.