Medical tourism refers to the practice of traveling to a foreign country to receive medical treatment. Previously, this was done almost exclusively by those in less developed countries, who would go to countries with larger medical centers to receive treatments not available in their countries, but this is no longer the case. More and more, people are seeking treatments across the globe, hoping either for reduced cost, or a treatment that is illegal in their countries. South Africa has seen an increase in tourism as a result of the superior quality of dental care available in combination with its general tourism appeal. With over 4,500 registered practitioners of dentistry in the area, there is no shortage of providers for this increased influx of dental care seekers.
Cape Town is one city that has seen the effects of this trend. The city is convenient to access from both the United States and Europe and has incredible appeal to typical tourists and medical tourists alike. The quality of care is extremely high all over South Africa. Combine this with the lower cost of care, and you have the recipe for a booming medical tourism industry. Insurance coverage for local residents still remains a problem.
Many people have concerns regarding their health when it comes to traveling abroad for any medical treatment. There are risks involved with this trend including bleeding gums, loose implants, ulcers, cysts, infections, and bleeding gums. These risks, for some, outweigh the cost savings that are afforded by medical and dental tourism. In the long term, the mistakes that cause these problems can result in even higher medical costs. These problems can arise as a result of improperly trained technicians and dentists, non-sterile tools, lack of regulation, and inappropriate materials for implants.
Fortunately, this is not the case in South Africa, where dental regulations are strict and well thought out.
In Cape Town, patients receive state of the art dental care, including CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics,) and “The Wand,” a painless computer aided anesthetic injection system. In fact, all dentists in South Africa are required to continually develop, train, and increase their knowledge in the field. As a result of these high standards, most dental insurance will cover any treatments received in South Africa.
The decreased cost of care, combined with the high-tech quality, are not the only things driving dental tourism in the region. Once patients have received their dental treatment, they often check out the diverse culture and activities that abound in the area. After recovering in incredible comfort and privacy, or even before the procedure gets under way, dental tourists are welcome to enjoy activities like exploring the South African bush or visiting any number of South Africa’s World Heritage Sites.
South Africa is home to year-round sunshine, a wide variety of flora and fauna, and beautiful scenery. These attractions, combined with the relaxing nature of an exotic vacation, have been shown to have an incredible impact on the recovery process. Well-known studies have shown that stress can be detrimental to the recovery process, while relaxation has a positive effect.
Medical tourism is a lot simpler than it sounds regarding logistics as well. The mental preparation, which involves the patient deciding whether or not medical tourism is for them, considering any special needs, choosing which location to travel to, determining the cost, comparing treatment options, finding the proper dentist or surgeon, typically takes more effort than actually arranging the necessities of the trip. Once all of those things have been considered, the patient simply needs to make arrangements with their insurance provider if necessary, set an appointment, and book the trip.
There are a wide variety of clinics and dental offices in South Africa that can meet a myriad of needs. Both cosmetic and medically necessary treatments are available in the region and performed by exceptionally qualified dentists. People aren’t just visiting for simple treatments like fillings, whitening, dentures, and implants, either. Many people come to South Africa seeking wisdom tooth extraction, cleft lip and palate surgery, and even surgery for the replacement of damaged or lost bone.
The tourism goes both ways. South African dentists also frequently travel abroad to obtain further training in their respective fields and to familiarize themselves with the advancement in dental practices and with the novel techniques and procedures.