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Cheaper prices are driving Kiwis overseas for dental treatment, with a growing number snapping up package deals that include a holiday too.
But the New Zealand Dental Association is warning people to consider the "very real risks" in getting treatment overseas, including the potential exposure to the Hepatitis or AIDS viruses.
A number of Thai dental clinics offer tourism dentistry, and a Kiwi company is starting to reap the benefits of their cheap deals. Roy Watson is the managing director of Absolutely Thailand, a business that offers to organise your travel, accommodation, transport and dental treatment at a "reliable, certified clinic".
Since beginning the business about five years ago, Mr Watson has had 400 customers.
He said treatment cost about a third of that charged in New Zealand and people could often get their treatment and holiday at a cheaper price than treatment alone here.
He began the business after being quoted $20,000 for extensive dental treatment.
"I had heard about dentistry in Thailand, so I checked with a local clinic [in Thailand] and had the work done for $6000.
"I had a dental surgeon friend check what had been done when I got back and he said it was absolutely beautiful."
But Hamilton dentist Dr Steven Pawley said he'd heard about some mishaps from colleagues whose clients had gone overseas.
"And you don't have that follow-up and come back unless you want to have another trip to Thailand."
While he didn't know of any of his patients heading overseas, he said the treatment could be hit and miss.
"From talking to dentists who have [had such clients] some of it comes back and it's reasonable quality, but some of it comes back absolutely rubbish."
Mr Watson agreed that the major problem with medical services in Thailand was that the guarantees only applied to Thailand.
But he'd only had one client who had to go back due to problems and Mr Watson covered the flights.
Like any country, he said there were "cowboys" in the industry, but all the dentists he partnered with had qualifications from America, Germany or Sweden.
Most were International Standards Organisation (ISO) approved, and many dentists had higher qualifications than those in New Zealand.
However, the New Zealand Dental Association is warning people to consider the "very real risks" of getting treatment overseas.
While not available for comment yesterday, in a recent online document on tourism dentistry, the Association warned that New Zealand dentists were "increasingly . . . being asked to pick up the pieces after less than competent treatment has been performed overseas".
They said "price should not be your only guide, and a travel agent should not be your advisor about oral health".
It also asked whether a person considering treatment overseas could be completely confident "that you will not be exposed to Hepatitis or AIDS viruses?"
Waikato resident Colin Williams was aware of these concerns when he decided to head to Thailand for treatment, but said a bit of research paid off.
When his dentist quoted him $8000 for treatment of his abscess, Mr Williams mentioned Thailand, and to his surprise his dentist said it was a good idea.
"I had an abscess in it, and the tooth was broken off at the gum, so there was quite a lot of work to do."
He says the treatment he received at Samui Dental Home Clinic was world class, and was more advanced than clinics here.
"It was totally modern, the guy had actually trained in New York.
"It was just really good service. They emailed after I got back and asked if I was alright. It was just really good."
He and his wife spent 13 nights in Samui. All up he spent $6000, including the $3500 for his treatment. "She had a great holiday, not so much for me because I was busy recuperating. But it is a good place to recuperate."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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