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Wales: The Risks of Dental Tourism

15 November 2022

Russell Gidney, Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee (WGDPC) has featured in the latest episode BBC Wales Xray (starts at 09:47), reporting on dental tourism and highlighting the risks involved.

Many patients searching for the perfect smile are deciding to have dental treatment abroad, seeking the same treatment provided in the UK but at a lower cost. Unfortunately, some treatments do not go to plan, leaving patients in pain with dentists apprehensive and in a difficult situation clinically, ethically, and legally.

Dental tourism for cosmetic work is on the rise among the Welsh population. An increasing number of people are choosing to fly to Turkey for the promise of cheaper cosmetic dentistry and are sharing the results on social media. #TurkeyTeeth has over 200 million views on TikTok, however, this trend does not come without some significant risks.

While dentists in the UK would utilise a treatment plan of straighten, whiten, and bond to cosmetically improve a patient's teeth, dental tourism typically involves resorting straight to veneers, a process which involved the original teeth being shaved down. Many treatment plans will already be underway before the patient has even arrived in Turkey.

"If I was doing some of the treatments I have seen, I would absolutely expect to be struck off," says Russell Gidney, chair of WGDPC.

The programme highlights the difficult situation this puts dentists in when patients return home from Turkey with serious problems. For one patient who was left in severe pain after returning to the UK a trip to the dentist showed dental silicone embedded in their gums, which could not be safely removed. Dentists can be reluctant to become involved in cases such as these as they take on a degree of culpability.

Dentists need more guidance regarding the ramifications of treating patients who have sought dental work overseas. The General Dental Council offers advice for patients considering having treatment carried out abroad, highlighting what to expect and the risks that are involved.

The BDJ has previously covered the issues dental professionals face when considering whether to treat, re-treat or not to offer treatment to UK patients experiencing complications from treatment abroad. We will continue to work with the Government, regulators, and the indemnity sector to help bring clarity to these issues, and ensure our patients are fully informed of the risks they face.