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Monday, 06 April, 2015, 16 : 00 PM [IST]

Dental Tourism: An Emerging, Lucrative Segment

“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” - Hilaire Belloc

Medical and Dental Tourism is a budding concept that provides customised, effective, and world-class quality care and treatment, along with a planned vacation at very affordable prices. High-quality medical and dental services that are at par with those in European and North American cities are now widely available in India; though at vastly reduced costs. This makes India an ideal destination for medical and dental tourists.

India - The Preferred Dental Tourism Destination
The Indian dental market is expected to become one of the largest hubs for overseas dental services. According to recent studies, India's Dental Tourism industry is estimated to be worth a whopping USD 2.2 billion annually. There are more than 180,000 dental professionals, 297 dental institutes, and over 5,000 dental laboratories in India. Moreover, India enjoys the advantage of skilled dental professionals who are fluent in English, and well-versed in the latest technology and the most advanced procedures.

Sophisticated cosmetic dentistry and laser dentistry treatments, instant teeth whitening, and smile makeovers are now widely available. Dental implants, crowns and bridges, full-mouth rehabilitations, gum contouring and surgery, and surgical extractions are common. Bone grafting and augmentation, and maxillofacial surgery (the surgical replacement of facial features lost due to accident or disease) are some of the more advanced and complicated treatments available in India. International standards for hygiene and clinical safety are applied more widely in Indian dental clinics, which make them very attractive options, not just for dental tourists, but for Indian consumers as well.

Many dental procedures are not reimbursed by national health schemes and insurance programmes in some countries and treatments, particularly elective treatments, which are often way too expensive for many patients. The waiting periods for treatments that are covered by insurance also act as a deterrent for patients to undergo treatment at home. Furthermore, ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care, make dental care of the highest international standards available to anyone who is willing to travel.

A particularly appealing aspect of Dental Tourism is the ability to combine tourism with medical care. Fortunately for the Indian dental industry, the country is well suited for this. Tourist packages can be created to allow patients to experience Indian culture, diversity, food and its famous landmarks, resulting in an overall enriching and fruitful experience. Famous places like the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, the backwaters of Kerala, sun-kissed beaches of Goa, ice-clad Kashmir, Udaipur, and Varanasi are well-established on the tourist route.

Points to ponder
Though Dental Tourism seems like a boon for international patients facing financial or time limitations, the patients – tourists and residents alike – should weigh all their options by checking the following guidelines before taking a decision:

Credentials and qualifications of the dental care-provider and the team
Previous patient feedback and testimonials
Sterilisation methods and protocols being used by the dental care organisation
Standardisation and range of treatments offered
Ideal time to visit
Location and accessibility
Safe and adequate patient guidance and support services in the foreign land
Adequate after-care follow-up and support for the patients

Within the global tourism industry, Dental Tourism is increasingly viewed as a fresh source of foreign exchange income for countries through the encouragement of cross-border patient inflow. Government incentives and encouragement are critical for the development of Dental Tourism services in emerging markets.

Today, Dental Tourism is no longer about cheaper procedures and holiday trips. It is also about the quality of doctors, technology, and care models available. As a Dental Tourism destination, India is now capable of competing in all of these areas, and service providers must find effective ways to market their capabilities to a global audience. The organisations providing Dental Tourism services need to adhere to global standards for dental care and high-quality hospitality services in order to achieve and maintain patient satisfaction.

Having dealt with international patients for over five years, my observation has been that the majority of the procedures that international patients are desirous of, include implants, smile makeovers, and teeth whitening, along with teeth fillings and root canals. It is very important to make patients feel extremely comfortable with the healthcare team before the onset of treatment. Spending sufficient time with patients to discuss their treatment plans with complete transparency, a good discussion of the real and attainable outcomes of the treatments, and setting realistic expectations and goals out of the treatment is imperative for good patient satisfaction and compliance with aftercare instructions.
 
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