Dental Care While Travelling & Dental Tourism

Reprinted courtesy of American Dental Association.

Are you planning a vacation that includes dental care outside the U.S.? Or are you concerned about dental emergencies that may arrive while you are traveling?

Here are some things you should know before you go. Dental Care Overview A checkup is especially important if you’ll be traveling in developing countries or in remote areas without access to good dental care. Left to chance, emergency dental care may be uncomfortable, dangerous and expensive. And dental care providers in developing regions may not have the resources, equipment or supplies to take all of the recommended precautions for preventing disease transmission.

If you are thinking about going outside the U.S. for your dental care as part of a vacation (also known as “Dental Tourism”), here are some things to consider: Dentists practicing in the U.S. attend four years at an accredited dental school (usually in addition to their bachelor’s degree). They pass national and state dental board examinations before they receive a license to practice. Each state in the U.S. has a board of dentistry that oversees all practicing dentists. The state dental boards have rules and regulations that dentists must follow.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue recommendations to dental offices regarding 1) educating and protecting dental health-care personnel; 2) preventing transmission of blood borne pathogens; 3) hand hygiene; 4) personal protective equipment; 5) contact dermatitis and latex hypersensitivity; 6) sterilization and disinfection of patient-care items; 7) environmental infection control; 8) dental unit waterlines, biofilm, and water quality; and 9) special considerations (e.g., dental hand pieces and other devices, radiology, parenteral medications, oral surgical procedures, and dental laboratories). These recommendations were developed in collaboration with and after review by infection control authorities from the CDC and other public agencies, academia, and private and professional organizations. Dentists in the U.S. are also held to a high standard of care. For example, they must follow infection control guidelines to prevent bloodborne illnesses from spreading. They must abide by regulations for radiation safety (X-ray equipment and its use) and for proper waste disposal. These standards are in place for your safety and for that of dental office staff.

What You Should Know about Dental Care Before You Travel

Before you travel out of the U.S. for dental care, check with the health department or ministry in the destination country to see what national guidelines are in place for dentists. What are the qualifications of the dentist who will be treating you? Some dentists may be trained in countries other than the one they’re practicing in. What happens if something goes wrong during or after treatment? Is there a complaint process or a method for getting a refund if you are not satisfied? If you can’t get a refund, is there meaningful recourse for dental treatment that is unsatisfactory or harmful? Will you have a right to sue? If so, can you do so cost effectively? Will you need to retain a foreign lawyer? Or return to the country where you received care to testify or appear at trial? WIll you get a fair trial? All of these are important considerations before seeking care in other countries.

At the dental office, look for infection control procedures. The dentist should wear clean surgical gloves (that have not been used on other patients), a mask and protective eyewear. Dental instruments should be properly sterilized and other infection control procedures should be followed. You could also check to see if the country keeps records of complaints against health care professionals. If so, you could check with the country’s appropriate oversight agency, such as the Ministry of Health, if you know the name of the dentist who will provide treatment. Here in the U.S., people often ask their family and friends for referrals to health care providers. The same principle could apply when you must travel outside the country. If someone you know has received dental care in a foreign country and seemed satisfied, you could ask for a referral to that particular dentist.

Be Prepared for Dental Emergencies While Traveling The Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures (OSAP) has a Traveler’s Guide to Safe Dental Care, which includes a checklist for safe dental treatment abroad. For more information visit:

Before you travel abroad, ask your dentist if he or she has contacts in dental fraternity groups such as the Academy of Dentistry International, the International College of Dentists or the Pierre Fauchard Academy. The foreign embassy offices in Washington, DC, or a local consulate may also be helpful.

The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, (IAMAT), maintains a network of medical personnel, hospitals and clinics around the world that have agreed to treat IAMAT members in need of care. IAMAT is helpful in referring patients to dentists. Any traveler can belong to IAMAT. There is no membership fee, although a donation is welcome. For more information visit:

If you are traveling in Europe, contact the American Dental Society of Europe (ADSE). The Society’s members–dentists who live and work in Europe–have completed a full-time course of study at a recognized dental school in the United States or Canada. For more information visit:

  • The American Dental Society of Europe Dr. Alastair MacDonald 62 Highburgh Road, Glasgow G12 9EJ Scotlan Phone: 011 44 141 331 0088 Fax: 011 44 141 338 8109

Many countries have dental associations that can provide referrals. Visit the International Directories section for a list of International Dental Associations.

A dental school in another country may also be an option. Check the FDI World Dental Federation Web site:

Dental referrals may be available from a hotel concierge, the American Consulate (see U.S. Department of State) or the American Embassy in the country you are visiting. The best insurance, however, is to have your teeth in tip-top shape before you depart. Reprinted courtesy of American Dental Association

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