You are enjoying the sites of an exotic place far from home when your tooth starts to hurt. You think it will go away, but it just gets worse. You realize that you have a dental problem in a foreign country. You can’t wait until you get home to fix it, you don’t know where to find a good dentist, and you’re not sure if your insurance will work overseas. What can you do?
Find a Good Dentist
This is the first problem to deal with and you might feel very lost. A foreign country may not have the same dental regulations as dentists do in the U.S. The Organization for the Safety and Asepsis Procedures (OSAP) says that “Countries differ in their standards for infection control and safety. The use of fresh gloves, sterile instruments and safe water is not standard practice in all countries.” What do you do?
Luckily, there are some people who can help you find a good dentist. The American Embassy, American expatriates, or members of the managing staff in your hotel may know such dentists. Another important note to remember while looking for a dentist is to try to find one who speaks English. This will ensure that you can clearly communicate details about your dental issue.
Things to Look for at a Foreign Dental Office
You may be unable to find a recommended dentist and have to search for one yourself. There are some key things to look for in their office to see if they follow proper health and safety regulations.
- Water: some areas of the world do not have clean drinking water readily accessible. If you are in such a country, make sure your dentist cleans your mouth with water that is at least boiled or bottled.
- Basic Hygiene: Do dentists and their hygienists wear face masks and gloves? Do they wash their hands and change gloves between patients? Do they clean work surfaces?
- Instrument Sterilization: Make sure dental instruments are disposed or sterilized after use. Injection needles should never be reused and surgery instruments need to be clean with heat-sterilization.
Figure Out Insurance and Money Options
You’ve found a dentist and you’ve had your tooth problem fixed. Now how are you going to pay for that? Health insurance often can’t be applied in a foreign country. To find out what may work where, check out the site for IAMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers). This source can help you figure out your options.