With over 31 billion views on TikTok, #turkeyteeth is a worrying new cosmetic dental trend that has swept the UK. Now, it appears young Aussies are also looking to fly overseas for cut-price dental work, tempted by the promise of a ‘Hollywood smile’.
However, many of the young people seeking this procedure are usually unaware of the risks involved. And often, their pursuit of perfect pearly whites ends in disaster.
What is the ‘Turkey Teeth’ trend?
‘Turkey Teeth’ is the name for the trend of travelling overseas to countries like Turkey for cheap dental treatment. The procedure promises a perfectly shaped, perfectly symmetrical, super white smile — at a fraction of the price of clinics here.
This new cosmetic dental fad has become extremely popular on social media, originally gaining momentum in the UK after celebrities and reality TV stars like Katie Price and Jack Fincham from Love Island publicly shared their experiences with the procedure.
Would you trust an Insta-plan?
Here lies the first red flag of the ‘Turkey Teeth’ procedure. People often find a clinic and book their treatment via Instagram. But how does the Turkish clinic prepare the patient’s treatment plan, you ask?
They simply get them to send through a few photos of their teeth.
No in-person examinations.
No discussions about alternative treatment options that may be better suited.
Just a few iPhone photos later and you’re presented with a full treatment plan — usually involving dental crowns.
Why is this so concerning? Let’s dive a little deeper…
Healthy teeth shaved down to stumps
Most people are simply hoping to improve their smile with cheap dental veneers in Turkey, but often they get a lot more than they bargained for.
In many cases, these clinics are telling young people — with perfectly healthy teeth — that they need dental crowns to achieve a beautiful smile. For some patients, they even ‘recommend’ up to 20 dental crowns.
To give you an idea of how drastic this approach is, dental crowns require 60-70% of the tooth tissue to be shaved down before the caps are placed on top. In Australia, dental crowns are typically only recommended when there is a medical need for it, such as restoring an already broken or cracked tooth.
This means that young patients travelling to Turkey for this procedure are getting their healthy teeth filed down to tiny pegs and replaced with unnecessary dental crowns.
Belfast woman Amanda Turner shared her experience of travelling abroad to Turkey for cheap dental work on TikTok, hoping to change others’ minds about getting this risky treatment.
What’s worse is that many of these patients aren’t aware of the risks involved in this treatment, nor do they realise there are far less invasive procedures available that could help them achieve better results for their smile, such as composite bonding or even teeth whitening.
In countries like Australia and the UK, there are regulatory bodies that do not permit such extreme dental work. Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann, director of a dental clinic in Liverpool, told the BBC in July, “If I did 20 crowns on a 21-year-old for the purposes of improving the colour, I would have my licence revoked, I would be struck off.”
The dangers of budget dentistry
Of course, not all Turkish dental clinics offer unnecessary crowns and not everyone who receives dental treatment abroad has a bad experience.
But others aren’t so lucky.
More often than not, those who travel to Turkey for cheap dental work are left facing some painful (and expensive) complications, such as severe nerve sensitivity, infections, rotting or dying teeth and “Lego teeth” where the crowns are fastened in a row instead of individually, making it impossible to floss and keep the gums healthy.
In July this year, the British Dental Association conducted a survey of over 1,000 dentists which found that 86% had to treat patients with adverse outcomes from getting treatment abroad.
Among those patients is 34-year old Amanda Turner from Belfast, who set off to Turkey for the smile of her dreams but ended up living through a complete nightmare.
Amanda Turner returned home from Turkey with a severely infected mouth which landed her in hospital.
When Amanda returned home after her treatment, she ended up in hospital with a severely infected mouth. But the nightmare didn’t end there. She now faces a long and costly battle to fix the damage caused by the Turkish clinic.
“I’m still undergoing treatments now. 50 hours down and still about 30 or more hours left to go… It’s been a long road and [there’s] still a lot more to come,” said Amanda.
Since dental crowns require so much of the tooth tissue to be filed down, there is an increased risk of nerve damage with this type of treatment. When this happens, the only treatment option is root canal therapy or tooth extraction. For those unlucky patients who went ahead with getting 20 dental crowns, that’s *a lot* of costly dental work and potentially catastrophic tooth loss in future.
Plus, dental crowns have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. So, these patients — many aged in their 20s or 30s — are looking at a lifetime of upkeep and expensive dental restorations.
No help back home
Here’s the thing: if you opt to get budget dental work overseas, it’s highly likely that most dentists back home will refuse to treat you in future. This means if you suffer with any complications, you’ll have very few dental professionals to turn to for help.
Once a dentist takes you on as a patient and does any work, they become liable for your dental health. And the truth is, most dental practitioners in Australia won’t be willing to take that risk once they know you’ve received treatment overseas.
The real price of a ‘perfect’ smile
Cosmetic dentistry is an investment. It’s not a procedure that should be done on a whim or booked and planned via social media. It requires extensive research and thorough assessment by an experienced dentist.
It may be more expensive to receive treatment from a reputable dentist here in Australia, but it pays to know you won’t be left footing a huge bill in future to fix any damage from poor quality dental work.
If you’re considering travelling overseas for low-price dental work, ask yourself:
Do the savings of cheaper dental treatment really outweigh the risks?