• October 19, 2011
  • Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

So, if my first article in the series did not convince you to stop packing for that trip to some tropical paradise for a dental makeover/holiday, don’t stop reading, there are four more reasons to go. Here is number 2!

Quality assurance and professional standards

In Australia, all dentists are bound by our ethics, professional standards, occupational health and safety requirements, infection control standards and even the Competition and Consumer Act. The compliance requirements for a dental practice are set out and closely watched by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Authority (AHPRA) which regulates all health practitioners, the Australian Dental Council, the Australian Dental Association (voluntary industry group association), Work Cover Authority and the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), Fair Work Ombudsman, just to name a few. These compliance requirements cover all aspects of providing a health service in a private setting as well as running a business:

  • They ensure every patient is being treated by a registered, competent dental professional, whose training and skills have been verified and recognised by the registering body.
  • They protect patients, dentists and staff from contracting infectious diseases and from serious accidents.
  • They ensure that in case a negative outcome or a procedural accident happens during a patient’s treatment, the affected patient can seek compensation or remedy for their condition.
  • They ensure fair working conditions and remuneration for all employees of a dental practice.

When comparing Australian and overseas dentistry, you may be comparing apples and oranges!

The safety and responsible care of Australian dental practices are second to none. Even though some press publications would have us believe otherwise, adverse outcomes, procedural accidents, mishaps and negligence are relatively rare, even though Australia has thousands of registered dentists. Every dentist in Australia is insured for instances like these and, while we hope we never have to claim this insurance, we understand that mistakes are human and that adverse outcomes occasionally do happen. During these times, the patient’s best interest is paramount and a quick, stress-free and financially acceptable solution is usually achieved. In the developed world, similar quality assurances and compliance standards are used to regulate health services.  In the developing and third world, standards (which may well officially exist on paper) are often poorly enforced and those who fail to meet them may escape any punishment at all, especially in places where there is deep-seated corruption. 

The most serious risk in these poorly controlled environments is the risk of cross infection, especially potential to transfer HIV, Hepatitis and other blood-bourne diseases between patients or staff and patients.Other risks include:

  • Poorly planned and poorly executed treatment, which looks good on the surface, but will later lead to serious complications.
  • Poor construction of laboratory made components, such as crown and bridge work, which can lead to fractures and quick deterioration of such work.
  • Use of biologically incompatible, sometimes dangerous materials and metals in laboratory made components as well as cheap, allergenic elements.

There are often no clear provisions for legal complaints and compensation where things do go wrong.

We have heard stories of people going back to the practice overseas after their treatment failed, only to find that the practice no longer exists and the dentist had disappeared without a trace. Australia’s great track record of quality health care is probably one of the reasons why some people do not have these risks in mind when they embark on an unpredictable journey of dental tourism trying to save a few dollars off their dental treatment cost and have a “holiday” at the same time.

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh
About The Author

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Catherine-Anne is a New Zealand-qualified dentist. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Sydney University and she has a broad range of experiences from working in both the public and private sector.


Keep me updated with news and knowledge
from The Dentist At 70 Pitt Street