I have been planning to write about this very hot topic for a long time. At first, I wanted to do a well-balanced article, so that I can show that I understand both sides of the argument. However, there is no point pretending: I DO NOT understand why people do it. In this series of five articles, I will try to talk you out of packing your bags. Instead of having that essential treatment under a guise of a holiday overseas, skip a couple of holidays and have it done here. Here is why! Like most of you reading this, I too have heard the tales of the “Shangri-La” of the dental industry, the gentle bubbling of the foot spa and the silky touch of rose petals being thrown at you as you sit in the dental chair, high on laughing gas, getting the “best service in the world” for the tenth of the cost in Australia. Then you step out of the magical “dental-spa” out into the even more magical exotic destination, armed with a dazzling new set of veneers and ready to accentuate this even more with a deep tan! Let the holiday begin… Oh, what, did I just doze off into my little day-dream, I was really enjoying this scene…
Let’s be serious here: we are talking about DENTISTRY, not massages, facials and pedicures! ( And just to be perfectly frank, I would even think twice about a pedicure in a place I don’t believe to be up to date with their infection control procedures.) Dentistry is a health profession, stemming out of the medical profession, focusing on the mouth, face, head and neck. It is a serious science, taught in the developed world for a minimum of five years as a graduate or undergraduate degree.
It starts with our schools
Only the most eminent universities around the world boast of dental schools equipped with the latest equipment, teaching their students what is at the forefront of dental research, enabling them to start their careers using only the latest technology. This further advances the field of dentistry by setting new benchmarks and standards for the new generations of inventors and researchers to build on.
These universities are rare, even in the rich nations of the developed world. The rest of the universities are constantly scrambling for resources, from facilities and clinical teaching staff to lecturers and academics, who are not likely to abandon their clinical careers and their own thriving practices, unless the university life has something better to offer. Now, picture this situation in a third world country. Picture their universities and facilities, their research, their teaching. I fail to see how these institutions can produce (with some exceptions, of course) professionals of the same calibre and with the same level of experience and exposure to latest techniques as a well-funded university on the other side of the world. Not all dental training is the same. This is not a racist or bigoted statement, it is as true as the fact that not all universities are the same, not all books are the same in their literary value, not all films have the same artistic merit.
Our education is the foundation of our future professional conduct, our skills and our attitude towards constant learning and advancement. If this is not done right, of course, there may be opportunities to learn more and improve, but overall, if the environment does not allow it, the disadvantaged will remain so. The scary thing is if they don’t recognise their own inadequacies and shortcomings. For reasons I will talk about later in the series, by embarking on a dental tourism ‘adventure’ you may fall victim to the latter type of dentist.