What Happens When Dentistry Abroad Goes Wrong?

What happens when dentistry abroad goes wrong? A frequently asked question that opens an interesting debate…

Over 50% of patients seeking dental treatment abroad have the same question… “What happens if something goes wrong with my dental treatment abroad?”

Surely the question must be the same if the patient is seeking treatment in their home country. Dentists all around the world make mistakes! Some include fraud: Dental fraud hits the UK news while others are related to the unethical practice of the dentist themselves: UK Dentist suspended by General Dental Council not to forget the fake dentists who are carrying out treatment without any qualifications: Fake Texas dentist faces 20 years in prison.

It seems a little unfair that dental care abroad gone wrong makes front page news in the UK yet if you want to uncover dental horror stories that occur in the UK itself you have to dig much deeper online. If you search the news for dental horror stories you will find them in all corners of the globe. The right question that needs to be asked is “How do I choose the right dentist or dental clinic for me?”

Searching the internet and finding the right dentist for you is not an easy task, especially if you do not know how to find the answer to the question.

Dental marketing strategies are fierce in today’s society. Dentists and clinics abroad are some of the worst culprits for employing sales strategies to meet increasing targets. We want to disclose some of the tricks of the trade so patient can make an informed decision about their treatment…

Non-transparent Pricing:

Some clinics have a pricing policy that is non-transparent. When a patient arrives at the clinic the costs increase dramatically and new items are discussed that should have been talked about before the patient set foot on the plane! There are many ways that clinics are hiding these extra costs. Here is a classic example: A patient makes an enquiry in relation to dental implants. The response quotes the price of the Dental Implant ONLY. What the clinic is not explaining is that in order for the patient to have a tooth on that Implant there are three costs involved. 1: The cost of the Dental Implant (the small screw that sits in the jawbone). 2: The Abutment (the small attachment that connects the Implant to the tooth or dental crown). 3: The Crown or artificial tooth.

The clinic is essentially playing with the truth by hiding the full costs and not explaining the detail of what the patient actually needs to fulfil their treatment.

Other clinics charge for each injection or other small materials needed to carry out the procedure. It is fine to charge for each item separately as long as the clinic elaborates on all the costs involved before the patient arrives in the clinic waiting room.

Patient Tip: In the case of Dental Implants, ask the clinic for the cost of the Dental Implant, the Abutment and the Crown. You will also need to ask how many visits are required to complete the treatment and the number of days for each visit so you can evaluate the full cost of your treatment. In the case of other treatments make sure you have it in writing that the cost(s) quoted is the full cost to complete the treatment(s) listed and no hidden extras will be charged.

Unethical Treatment Information:

Every year hundreds if not thousands of clinics abroad open and close their doors. This is the same as they do in the UK. As sad as it is, some clinics/ companies have the sole intention of making a quick buck and then closing down or reinventing themselves under a different name the following year!

With this in mind the clinic will carry out as much treatment as possible in order to make as much money as possible in a short space of time. Not all patients know what treatment they need, dentistry can be complex at times and most patients simply want to restore their smile and their dental health. The dentist/ clinic on the other hand may have other ideas! Here is a classic example: Many patients ask for a smile makeover and request 28 Dental Lumineers as it seems to be a non-invasive procedure. Whilst Lumineers are a fantastic treatment for a smile makeover on the front teeth they are not suitable for use on your back molar teeth.  They are an expensive treatment so the dentist/ clinic may simply go ahead and agree to the treatment knowing full well by the time the patient has a problem the practice will be closed. An honest dentist/ clinic will tell you what treatment is suitable for what teeth and the facts surrounding the treatment when you make your initial enquiry. They may offer a different treatment or tell you that you do not need the treatment you are requesting at all.

Patient Tip: You need to check how long the clinic has been operating. If they have only been open a few weeks/ months or less than a year you need to ask further questions or become an FBI agent to learn a bit more information before making a commitment. If they have been operating a number of years and you cannot find any negative press or reviews the chances are they run a good clinic and you can trust that the treatment recommended will be ethical.

In the News/ Press Statements:

Any clinic can be featured in the news. It is simple, you pay the newspaper a fee and they will publish an article or for a little more money they will run a large editorial. Some clinics are featuring press and media on the homepage of their website in order to gain trust from patients.  This does not make them any better or more credible than a dental clinic or company that has not paid for media attention. In most cases where a clinic has a huge advertising budget those costs are also proportioned into the treatment costs which are covered at the patient expense.

Patient Tip: Do not take it as gospel that a clinic is trustworthy just because they have been featured in the newspaper or press. Make at least 3 enquiries to clinics in the country/ region you want to travel to and measure the response. If you feel a rapport with one clinic in particular and the information adds up make an informed decision on where you feel most comfortable for your dental treatment.

Fake Patient Testimonials:

Fake testimonials, where to start…

Written Testimonials:

Make no mistake, written Testimonials on a website mean absolutely nothing. The dental clinic or web developer can simply fabricate false information and incorporate it into the website design. I would not recommend paying any attention or giving any credibility on the basis of a written testimonial.

Video Testimonials:

Most dentists are educated, professional and ethical. That said there is always a few dentists/ clinics or companies that try to cheat patients into trusting the practice via fake video testimonials. It is such a shame, as a business owner working like a horse to spread the good word about our clinic it is hard to know there are other clinics paying a small fee to beat the system. Some high end clinics are now paying for fake reviews to rank higher in Google and to appear more credible. I have personally found video testimonials in India the UK and USA all with the same ‘patients’ who had the same treatment at all of the clinics… hmm strange! The cost of a fabricated video testimonial is very cheap with companies offering the service for as little as $5. They are available in most languages and the clinic simply writes the script and waits a day or two for the video to be sent to them, a day later and hey presto they are the best clinic in the country!

Patient Tip: If you are looking at a video testimonial ask yourself if the person portraying themselves as a patient appears to be sitting in a dental clinic. Are they reading from a script or are they naturally thinking and speaking their own thoughts? If it appears too professional (hair, make-up, lighting scripted etc) the chances are it is fake.

Google is getting smarter and several clinics have been reported and heavily fined, one clinic as much as $100,000 for publishing fake video reviews. So what do you do if you are shopping around for dental treatment and you notice a fake review? Simple, report it to Google or the website where the review is published!So after much information… to answer the question “How do I choose the right dentist or dental clinic for me?”


Ask the dentist/ clinic for contact details of the patients who have had treatment at their clinic. Phone number and email addresses. If the clinic is as good as their website is saying they are, they will be more than happy to share previous patient contact information. The satisfied patients will be more than happy to talk about their experience (most of our patients are!). The internet is a fantastic resource tool but human interaction, thoughts and opinions are invaluable in making an informed decision about the right clinic for your dental treatment.

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