Dental Tourism (or Dental Treatment Outsourcing) is now an acknowledged field in itself. Owing to the huge difference in dental treatment costs between developed and developing nations, it is not surprising to find that dental patients in greater numbers from developed nations are now seeking standardised dental treatments from highly qualified dentists in developing nations, which was otherwise unaffordable.
India, a country rich in beauty, culture and heritage has emerged as a strong contender for dental tourism, given its historical reputation of providing the world with highly skilled man-power including doctors/dentists, engineers and computer professionals etc.
Advanced dental treatment needs like dental implants, all ceramic crowns & bridge, veneers (including procera), precious metal prosthesis, flexible valplast dentures, advanced maxillofacial surgery, children’s dentistry as well as general family dentistry are all available in India as per international standards of care, with effective and efficient autoclave based sterilization at nearly one tenth of their costs in developed nations.
Longer working hours of most private dental clinics in India also mean that total number of dental treatment appointments can be reduced dramatically adding to the comfort of the dental tourists by giving them more days for sightseeing and tours.
Dental Education and the profession in India is regulated by the Dental Council of India (DCI) which was incorporated under The Dentists Act, 1948. The objectives of the DCI are as follows:
- Maintain uniform standards of dental education in India.
- Regulate the curriculum in the training of dentists, dental hygienists, dental mechanics.
- Regulate the level of examinations and qualifications.
The DCI is under the ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, and is aided in its work by the local state dental council branches of the respective states. Each state council also maintains a register of all dentists licensed to practice in that state.
A dentists license to practice dentistry in one state of India allow practice in any other state after the registration is transferred from one state register to another. All issues relating to malpractice or patient grievances are handled by the State Dental Councils. Further information on Dental Council of India is available online at http://www.dciindia.org.
The minimum qualification registrable with the Dental Council of India to be able to practice dentistry in India is the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from any DCI accredited government or private dental college in India. BDS (India) is a five year full time course and includes one year of compulsory internship training.
To be eligible for a BDS course in any Indian University, a 10 or more year of high school education, including the subjects of physics, chemistry, and biology is a pre-requisite. Further, admission to most universities is highly competitive in nature and the language of instruction is English.
Specialization in Dentistry in India is available by means of a taught Master of Dental Surgery (MDS) degree from any DCI accredited government or private dental college in India. MDS (India) is a three year full time course of study and nine branches are recognised. These are, Prosthodontics, Conservative Dentistry & Endodontics, Periodontics, Pedodontics, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Medicine & Radiology, Orthodontics, Community Dentistry, Oral Pathology.
Postgraduate Diplomas and Diplomate of National Board (National Board of Examinations, India) in selected subjects are other postgraduate qualifications which are in the process of being introduced by the DCI. Some overseas qualifications are also recognised by the DCI as higher education in Dentistry and their details can be obtained from the DCI.
Unfortunately, the continuing education as a compulsory pre-requisite for the renewal of a licence is an area neglected by the DCI so far. This means that the onus for continuing education falls on the professional. There are numerous continuing education courses held in different cities of India throughout the year, every year, and while these always attract good attendances, they are not compulsory.
The Indian Dental Association and other International Dental Associations also hold different conferences every year. Most international dental manufacturers and multinational companies have their presence in India and also contribute to continuing education and training on the very latest hi-tech equipment/materials of modern dentistry.
Dentistry in India is practised in both private and public sectors. The public sector includes, but is not limited to, dental departments in central/state government hospitals and dispensaries, and government dental colleges. Treatments offered here are subsidised heavily by the government, but owing to the huge population of India, most public sector establishments have limited resources and huge treatment demands, resulting in over-crowding and huge wait-lists.
Dentistry in the private sector includes private dental clinics, dental departments in private hospitals, private dental colleges and other dispensaries run by various trusts. The standards of care in this sector vary greatly and range from super speciality centres at par with the best in the world, to unfortunately, practices run by unqualified personnel or ‘quacks’.
Quackery in its broadest meaning is an issue for the healthcare profession worldwide, and not just restricted to India. Detailed information on quackery as a global phenomenon and how to safeguard oneself from it is available online at http://wwwquackwatch.com
For any dental tourist, seeking dental treatment away from home can be a challenging and tricky affair. Some points of help include:
- Try to get information on available dentists before you arrive. Get an idea on the qualifications, continuing education updates and registration status.
- Keep your first visit as an informal discussion. Observe the clinic and the dentist to confirm if they live up to your treatment expectations.
- Check the hygiene levels and confirm if autoclave based sterilization is used as per international standards.
- Observe the professional conduct of the staff. Check if treatment needs are discussed and treatment plan explained to your satisfaction.
- Cost of treatment is not the best judge of quality of dentistry. Confirm payment policies of the clinic. Check if mode of payments (cash or card) are acceptable
- If in doubt, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion. If your dentist’s treatment plan is sound, it should hold up to scrutiny by others in the profession.
- Word of mouth referrals are important guides.
- Get an idea on local weather conditions and any festivities.
- Compensate time for jet lag /travel weariness.
One major important aspect of dentistry is regular follow up. With low air fares, cheap travelling options and highly affordable cost of dentistry, there are now many overseas patients who not only visit India for specialized and complex treatment needs, but also visit annually for their follow up checks. This is however, not essential. Standardised dental treatment in India is at par with the best of the world and regular follow up with any other dentist anywhere else in the world is not an issue
With a little bit of survey and an average assessment power, it will not be difficult for anyone to find their kind of a dentist offering them world class dentistry at reduced costs. Dental tourism is mutually beneficial and is here to stay.
Dr. Arun Grover graduated in Dentistry from Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Mangalore (now a constituent college of The Manipal Academy of Higher Education, a deemed university) in 1994 and received the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree of Mangalore University in First Class. He also attended Guys, Kings & St Thomas’ Dental Institute, Kings College London from 1998-99 and was awarded the Master of Science (MSc.) degree by the University of London (UK) in 1999. Additionally, he was also awarded the Diploma in Dental Public Health (DDPHRCS) by The Royal College of Surgeons of England (UK). He was also the recipient of the DFID award 1998-99, given jointly by The Association of Commonwealth Universities (UK) and Kings College London. Dr. Grover is currently a full time consultant at Dental Clinic & Dental Implants Centre, Delhi, India and also a visiting consultant at The Apollo Clinic, Janakpuri, Delhi (An Apollo Hospitals Group Enterprise). More information on him and his work, visit www.delhidentist.in (Contact Mobile: +91-9810850226)