I have not written an article for Saucon Source for several months, but someone recently visited my office whose situation compelled me to write down my thoughts.
The subject is medical/dental tourism, which involves traveling to another country to have a procedure completed at a much lower cost. In this particular situation, a friend of my wife’s who is visiting from Colorado asked me for a second opinion about some dental work she had completed less than a year ago in Costa Rica.
The treatment was the extraction of all of her remaining upper teeth, the placement of six dental implants and restoration of the implants with new teeth. Sounds good. Well, not so much.
One implant failed within the first month, but they completed the teeth replacement on the remaining five implants, which was a major mistake. The five remaining implants could not adequately support the new teeth, and to make a long story short the teeth replacement is failing and the entire prosthesis must be remade. All of this from a treatment that is less than one year old.
This patient is now facing a serious dilemma, with significant financial implications to the tune of an additional several thousand dollars over what she has already spent.
She has no legal recourse. She cannot sue the provider for malpractice, of which this an obvious case.
The teeth replacement treatment was doomed from the first day it was delivered to the patient. The treatment was hurried because of an implant failure and not taking the appropriate corrective action (see the photo below, with the fracture circled).
So what inspired my writing this post? Many patients are convinced that because something is cheaper in a foreign country, it will be of the same quality. The verification of credentials of foreign providers is highly questionable, there are no standards of materials that are being used, there is no possible legal recourse… Need I continue?
There is no patient or consumer protection that the laws of this country and state provide for us abroad. This patient was harmed significantly. Some may say, “she rolled the dice and took her chance,” and it is all on her. That may be, but we as patients deserve better.
Clarke Woodruff, DMD, has lived and worked in the Lehigh Valley most of his life. He left the region to complete dental school in Philadelphia and to serve four years as an officer/dentist in the U.S. Air Force. A member of Freedom High School’s first graduating class, Dr. Woodruff earned his undergraduate degree from Lehigh University. He received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree (DMD) from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976 and opened his Hellertown dental practice at 800 Main St., Ste. 102, in 1980. He was named a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry in 1987 after successfully completing a comprehensive examination and more than 500 hours of continuing education. Dr. Woodruff maintains active membership in the American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association, Lehigh Valley Dental Society and American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. In addition to his private practice, Dr. Woodruff is devoted to the education of tomorrow’s dentists and as such is currently chair of the Department of Dental Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network. His outside interests include vintage race cars, woodworking and singing. Find him on Facebook and check out the blog on his website, here. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 610-838-6597 or contact him via email.