Dental tourism negatively impacts New Zealand’s health care system

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Dental tourism negatively impacts New Zealand’s health care system


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Dental tourism is causing an increasing need for New Zealand dentists to provide remedial treatment. (Photograph: puhhha/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

By Dental Tribune International

Tue. 24. April 2018


DUNEDIN, New Zealand: Overseas travel for dental treatment is said to be the most prevalent form of medical tourism. Up until now, medical tourism has been largely researched from the perspective of the patient. However, a recent study at the University of Otago investigated the impacts of outbound dental tourism on New Zealand. It found an increasing need for New Zealand dentists to provide remedial treatment for patients who had travelled abroad to receive dental care.

The research was carried out by associate professor Dr Brent Lovelock from the Department of Tourism, senior research fellow Dr Kirsten Lovelock from the Department of Public Health and Head of the Department of Oral Rehabilitation Prof. Karl Lyons. The study collected information via an e-mail survey of 337 New Zealand dentists in 2016 and found that 96 per cent had encountered dental tourists at least once or twice a year, usually because they required remedial treatment.

Researchers at the University of Otago have found that typically New Zealanders seek dental treatment abroad because it is cheaper in regions such as Asia. Thailand was the most commonly noted country of treatment, with nearly 90 per cent of dental patients having been treated there, followed by India and Indonesia. While for some patients the treatment is successful, for others the treatment fails and the tourists have to seek remedial work once back in New Zealand.

The dentists surveyed found the most important issue arising from treatment abroad was a lack of follow-up maintenance and a lack of post-treatment availability. About half of the respondents identified lack of treatment planning and lack of treatment records as problems. While about half of the dentists acknowledged dental tourism provides access to affordable dental treatment, just 6 per cent felt it enhances dental health outcomes for their patients and only 1.9 per cent would recommend it to their patients. A considerable number of 21.8 per cent agreed that dental tourism should be discouraged owing to its negative impact upon New Zealand’s dental health care system. Finally, about 15 per cent of respondents considered that dental tourism would negatively affect their practice incomes, whereas 6 per cent felt it would actually enhance their practice incomes owing to the increased demand for remedial treatment.

“Patients are unaware of the poor quality of the work they receive and the difference in standard of care compared to New Zealand dentistry. Patients are often over-treated and inappropriately treated with irreversible damage to their teeth and no apparent discussion or awareness of treatment options,” one surveyed dentist said.

The study, titled “The impact of outbound medical (dental) tourism on the generating region: New Zealand dental professionals’ perspectives”, was published in the August 2018 issue of the Tourism Management journal.

One thought on “Dental tourism negatively impacts New Zealand’s health care system

  1. Comunicacion Multiplicalia says:

    Dental Tourism doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For New Zealanders is difficult, because their option is Asia, but in Europe, you can go and do dental tourism in the Canary Islads, with professional clinics like

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