Medical tourism: UK government issues a travel warning for Turkey

An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 foreign patients travel to Turkey every year to receive dental surgery. It’s one of the world's most popular dental tourism destinations, but at what cost?
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There’s something unnerving about receiving medical attention in a foreign country. Different customs, languages, and healthcare practices make for a lot of confusion and fear. That’s why I remain baffled at how people travel abroad for cosmetic procedures. Recent news out of the UK is only adding to my skepticism.

The UK government has issued a Turkey travel warning in response to the growing number of British nationals dying while receiving medical procedures abroad.

At least 22 Brits have died

Since January 2019, there have been a reported 22 deaths associated with British nationals and medical tourism in Turkey. The term “medical tourism” refers to any medical procedure received outside of your home country, including cosmetic surgery, dental procedures, and cardiac surgery. For many, it’s the allure of low costs in other countries that have tourists seeking medical help elsehwere. But there’s also a large need for people to find treatments that simply aren’t available at home.

The term “Turkey teeth” is trending

Unfortunately, the term “Turkey teeth” has been trending in recent months in response to botched dental treatments occuring in the country. A woman from Manchester who traveled to Turkey for teeth implants, is one such victim.

She woke up from the procedure with big gaps underneath her gums. “And you could see all the metal bits (of the implants). It was done so badly it was unbelievable,” Rida Azeem said.

Azeem originally agreed to five implants in hopes of achieving a perfect smile at an unbeatable price. But when the treatment was about to start, the dentists informed her they had to remove all of her teeth.

An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 foreign patients travel to Turkey every year to receive dental surgery. It’s one of the world’s most popular dental tourism destinations, but at what cost?

A tough pill to swallow

Despite attractive pricing, there are major key risks of medical tourism in countries like Turkey where rigorous licensing and regulation is scarce. There’s also a lack of follow-up care, with patients returning to their home countries following their procedures. Key risks include infections and antibiotic resistance.

“It is unwise to rely upon private companies that have a financial interest in arranging your medical treatment abroad,” warns the UK government. The recent warning advises tourists to stick to medical providers who are approved by Turkey’s Ministry of Health.

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