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Kelowna Dentists Weigh in on Dental Tourism: There’s Savings, But is it Safe?


A check-up in the Phillipines? $6. Dentures in Mexico? $500. While dental tourism is taking flight around the world, the Kelowna dentists at Okanagan Smiles encourage their patients to take precautions because while dental treatments are cheaper in Bangkok, you might get better service in your own backyard.

You’ve probably heard the stories. Ed and Dar ducking across the Arizona border to get their teeth fixed—a porcelain crown for her, dentures for him. In April, Ed returned to Kelowna with a new, if awkward, smile. Dar was sorry. Her crown came off a week later, and the tooth throbbed even more than before.

Like a lot of patients, Dar had to come back to Canada and ask her dentist to fix the botched dental work she had done abroad.

Dental tourism is big business in second-world countries. Because of the exchange rate, dentists can offer huge discounts on everyday and major dental work.

The Savings

This will give you an idea of the cost of dental services around the world:

The Safety

So, your pocketbook’s a little lighter, but what are the risks? What do you have to lose? Well, for starters, your smile and your mouth.

Before going abroad for dental treatment, the British Columbia Dental Association (BCDA) recommends patients ask the following questions:

  • What are my treatment needs? Make sure you understand what dental treatment you need before you leave. Get a clear description and cost estimate of what you need done from your BC dentist.
  • What tools and technology can they offer? “Be wary of promises or claims made regarding success rates, advanced technologies, and accreditation.” The best dentistry doesn’t always involve fancy tools.
  • Can someone make a referral? Have any of your friends had a good experience with a foreign dentist AND their Canadian dentist said the work was well done? Common dental malpractices in low-cost countries include using poor materials and ill-fitting crowns that can lead to infection and pain.

Read more of BCDA’s tips on what to consider before seeking foreign dental services.

Still not convinced?

Here’s a dental tourism horror story that might change your mind:

Okanagan Smiles’ own Dr. Jonathan Visscher recently surveyed dental work gone horribly wrong after a patient came in who had 8 crowns done overseas.

On one tooth, as you can see on the right image, the foreign dentist drilled a screw into a tooth so sideways it came out the other side of the tooth. It should have been drilled straight down. The crowns, which should fit as snug as a toque, were so loose they looked like sombreros.

In addition, each tooth that was crowned also had root canal treatment done in it, even though there was no evidence of the need for this additional work.

The result? Food trapped under the loose crowns, tooth decay, and the inability to feel decay until the tooth is totally rotten.

Now what? The patient has opted to wait until the teeth rot, the crowns fall off, and then have us pull what’s left of the teeth, probably little more than pricks of white sticking out of the gums.

You know what the worst part is? The rest of this patient’s mouth was perfect, which makes us wonder if the patient even needed most of that work done in the first place.

Whether you’re visiting us for cosmetic or general dentistry, we provide a comfortable experience with results that will last. Contact us to book an appointment today!

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