Getting braces abroad, is it worth it?
Braces are a safe and effective way to correct malocclusions including crooked teeth and a misaligned jaw. As with any orthodontic treatment, the cost of getting braces depends on the duration and complexity of your individual treatment. In Australia, the cost of braces may range from around $6,000 to $15,000, depending on the type of braces your orthodontist recommends (e.g. metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces – generally lingual braces are more expensive) or clear aligners.
While braces are an investment in your future smile, their expense has led many Australians to seek orthodontic treatment abroad – a phenomenon known as dental tourism. With dental tourism, people combine orthodontic treatment such as getting braces with the sightseeing and relaxation of a holiday.
So just where are the cheapest countries to get braces, and are the potential savings really worth it? Below, we explore the pros and cons of getting braces abroad.
When it comes to weighing up orthodontic treatment abroad, there are two things to consider: cost and quality.
As you would expect, the cost of getting braces overseas varies from region to region. In developed countries, overheads such as rent and staff and government regulation over practice standards (e.g. infection control) are generally higher than in developing countries such as Thailand or Mexico, where you may be able to undergo the same orthodontic treatment for seemingly much less.
However, braces aren’t a treatment you can set and forget. A typical treatment period lasts 15 to 18 months, with regular appointments (roughly every month or two) required to supervise your treatment progress and to appropriately adjust the pressure applied to your teeth. Meaning? Even if you get braces abroad during a two-week jaunt to Thailand, you will need to link in with an orthodontist at home for regular adjustments. So you will have to deduct the ongoing costs of these maintenance appointments from any initial savings.
It is vital that any clinic or practice follows strict quality controls and sterilisation to ensure their treatment methods are clinically safe and effective. This can be very difficult to verify and confirm. It is also very common for treatment provided overseas to not meet the standard in Australia. It is common for Australian orthodontists to remove or replace appliances placed overseas due to their poor quality, poor positioning and/or poor planning. Such removal and replacement may cancel out any expected “savings” made by seeking overseas treatment.
An orthodontic provider’s training, experience and reputation are also paramount. Were they trained at an international institution which is comparable to those found in Australia? This can be very difficult to verify and confirm for an overseas practitioner. All Australian health practitioners (including all orthodontists) must meet a minimum clinical standard and quality of training to register with Australian Practitioner Regulation Health Agency.
Therefore you can rest assured that all registered specialist orthodontists in Australia have completed extremely rigorous education and clinical training.
There are both pros and cons to getting braces abroad:
- Cost. Even when you factor in flights and accommodation, orthodontic treatment abroad can work out a bit cheaper than having orthodontic in Australia
- Holiday. Combining orthodontic treatment with a well-earned holiday suits many people – hence the popularity of dental tourism. However, this is far less popular for orthodontic treatment compared to other types of dentistry such as implants, crowns and bridgework or false teeth (as such treatment can be done in a matter of days – in contrast, to carefully moving teeth with orthodontic treatment often takes many months to achieve the desired outcome).
- Quality. Treatment quality varies greatly overseas and it’s much more difficult to choose an expert orthodontist when you’re unfamiliar with the language or region. The risk of poor quality or even harmful orthodontic treatment is a significant disadvantage of getting braces abroad.
- Follow-up. As we mentioned above, most orthodontic treatment requires a 15 to 18 month treatment duration and regular supervision and adjustment appointments to keep your treatment progress on track. This is difficult or impossible if your orthodontic treatment provider lives overseas.
- Infection control. While Australian orthodontists follow strict infection control protocols, practitioners abroad may not – increasing your risk of infection with nasty viruses or bacteria.
Given the serious cons listed above, we believe that getting orthodontic treatment abroad just isn’t worth it. Australia is recognised globally for its quality orthodontic treatment and strict infection control and safe practice protocols. Why take any risks? So we suggest having your orthodontic treatment performed close to home. That way you can be confident you will achieve the smile you have always wanted!