Nina McCann: Dental Tourism

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Nina McCann: Brits Urged Not To Travel For Dental Tourism

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has updated its guidance, warning people not to travel to Turkey for dental tourism. Since January 2019, 22 Brits have died as a result of “medical tourism”.

Turkey is particularly famous for its veneers (or “Turkey teeth”), and offers dental treatment that’s 70% cheaper than in the UK. In fact, around 150,000-250,000 tourists travel to Turkey each year for dental treatment – making it one of the most popular dental tourism destinations in the world.

Do your own research

“The standard of medical facilities and available treatments vary widely around the world. As such, British nationals considering undertaking medical treatment in Turkey should carry out their own research; it is unwise to rely upon private companies that have a financial interest in arranging your medical treatment abroad,” the FCO said.

In 2020, Richard Molloy, 33, died after travelling to Turkey for teeth whitening, while Aaron Callaghan and Declan Carson were left in comas. People considering dental tourism should use the list of government-approved providers on the HealthTurkiye portal website.

When deciding on an appropriate dental care provider, it’s also important to consider the dentist’s specialty. A dentist that specialises in orthodontics, for example, is best for braces treatment. Patients should opt for a reputable provider they can rely on to fix issues (such as, broken brackets) promptly.

Although broken brackets aren’t generally considered emergencies, a good orthodontist should repair or replace the damage as soon as possible.

Not worth the risk

"Turkish dentists are the best and the cheapest in the world," comments dentist Türker Sandallı. 99% of Sandallı’s patients at his Istanbul clinic are from abroad. "But, and I am sad to tell you this, 90% of Turkish clinics go for cheap dentistry," he says, lambasting the rise in illegal practitioners.

The owner of another Istanbul clinic also criticised Turkish clinics for treating perfectly healthy teeth. "They put veneers on teeth that only need bleaching or lightening, sometimes they even put full crowns," he says.

Patrick Solera, from the French dentists' union, is horrified by what he’s seen. "You do not put a crown on a tooth that's a little yellow, and trimming a healthy tooth to place a crown, amounts to mutilation. In France, they lock you up for that."

No refunds

"When a patient returns from Turkey or elsewhere with work already done, dentists refuse to touch them because you become responsible," says Solera. The expense required to fix inferior dental work back home also often negates the initial savings.

"If you want treatment, find your practitioner yourself, talk to them directly and don't go without an online consultation," advises lawyer Burcu Holmgren from London Legal International. Holmgren has helped numerous patients who’ve received shoddy Turkish dental care; she’s won 96% of her cases. "The process is very slow, it takes about two years," Holmgren adds.

Nevertheless, Berna Aytaç, head of the Istanbul Chamber of Dentists, reportedly still endorses dental tourism, although she’s concerned about the current influx of dental students. Tukey now has 104 dental practices, up from 35 in 2010.

"We are creating future unemployed dentists," continues Aytaç. "And if they find work, some unfortunately won't be that concerned with ethics."