Turkey teeth: What is the worrying dental trend sending Brits abroad?

Woman undergoes dental procedure as the 'Turkey teeth' trends is seeing Brits travel abroad in a bid to get straighter, whiter teeth. (Getty Images)
The 'Turkey teeth' trend is seeing Brits travel abroad in a bid to get straighter, whiter teeth. (Getty Images)

A dentist has blamed social media and shows such as Love Island for the rising number of young Brits seeking a 'Turkey teeth' treatment abroad.

Dr Jon Hewitt says that the most commonly requested smiles include those such as Love Island’s Molly-Mae Hague or Jack Fincham, but that many Brits are jetting off to places such as Turkey for the treatment –as it can cost £3,000 compared to £16,000 in the UK.

“When I do cosmetic work, people often come to me saying they want the 'Love Island look,'” Hewitt explains.

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“In Turkey they do it for much cheaper and faster upfront compared to the UK, so people go there. But they don't realise there can be real long-term damage using that method.

"When you get a full set of crowns, the teeth are permanently filed down to pegs. It might be cheaper upfront but people going to Turkey also don't think about having to get them restored every 10 to 15 years.”

According to Turkish provider Dentakay, which is planning to open a London-based consultation centre after it's seen demand for Brits seeking cosmetic dental care in Turkey soar, it expects to fit up to 23,000 crowns in 2023 alone, along with 3,800 implants.

The trend has also taken off on social media, with videos including the term 'Turkey teeth' having 31.7 billion views on TikTok as many Brits share their experiences of having the cosmetic procedure done.

However, it doesn’t come without consequences. Figures released by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) last year showed that at least 22 Brits have died in Turkey since January 2019 following medical tourism visits.

A 2022 study from the British Dental Association also found that 95% of British dentists have examined patients who have travelled abroad for dental treatment, and of these 86% say they have treated cases that have developed complications.

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So are Turkey teeth really worth it? Read on for everything you need to know.

What are ‘Turkey teeth’?

'Turkey teeth' is the term used for people who travel to Turkey for cosmetic dental surgery or treatment. The most common treatments are crowns and implants.

Hungary is also a popular destination for this kind of dental work, but the more common country to visit is Turkey.

Patients who visit these countries for dental treatment are generally seeking brighter, whiter smiles and straighter teeth.

Molly Mae-Hague attends the Pride of Britain Awards 2022
Celebrity smiles like Molly-Mae Hague's are being used as inspiration for Brits seeking straighter, whiter teeth. (Getty Images)

What does a ‘Turkey teeth’ procedure involve and how much does it cost?

One of the most common dental procedures British patients receive in Turkey is having crowns fitted. This involves having your natural teeth filed down to stubs before a tooth cap is glued on top.

Some patients may be promised veneers – which sees the teeth slightly shaved down before thin shells are placed around the teeth – but will actually have crowns fitted instead. If you are only hoping to have veneers, it’s essential that this is fully clarified with the dentist performing the procedure before it begins.

A full set of crowns costs around £3,000 in Turkey compared to £16,000 in the UK, yet comes with multiple risks.

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“If you get crowns from Turkey, they will need re-doing every 10 to 15 years,” Hewitt says. “While the initial procedure might be cheap, they can cost from £800 per crown to replace if you get them done in the UK rather than going back to Turkey.

“If someone gets 'Turkey teeth' at 18 they might need four restorative cycles in their life.”

What are common side effects of ‘Turkey teeth’?

According to the Gentle Dental centre, some of the most common complications from patients who have gone to Turkey for dental work include severe infections and long-lasting tooth pain, infected gums, exposed nerves, rotting teeth, sensitive teeth that can make eating and talking difficult, and even some crowns that fall off.

Hewitt says long-term damage of cheap dental care can even result in needing dentures later in life.

Dental teeth model on white background
Long-term damage of cheap dental care can even result in needing dentures later in life. (Getty Images)

What does the British Dental Association say about ‘Turkey teeth’?

Of its survey of 1,000 dentists, the British Dental Association (BDA) said that two-thirds of respondents said it cost patients at least £500 to repair damage done to their teeth, and half said it had cost patients over £1,000. One in five dentists said this cost exceeded £5,000 with 40% saying the remedial treatment was provided by the NHS.

“Dentists are aware that many people are struggling to access care and may be tempted to go overseas for cut-price treatment,” BDA chair Eddie Crouch said.

“Patients need to provide informed consent for any treatment they have and be wary of a hard-sell, as the reality is rarely as simple as it appears on Instagram. Sadly, many UK dentists are now picking up the pieces when things go wrong.”

NHS advice on cosmetic dentistry

The NHS has issued a checklist that it advises all people considering treatment abroad to read so that they can make an informed decision.

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It says patients should think carefully about their reasons for going, know the warning signs to look out for (lack of information, pressure to make a quick decision, no talk of aftercare), get a second opinion, and look into side effects, among others.

It has also issued guidance for those considering going abroad for a medical treatment that it advises you to read as well.

What is the government's advice?

Under the health section on the governement's FCDO’s Turkey travel page, it says that “cosmetic surgery, dental procedures and cardiac surgery are the most common procedures that medical tourists undertake” in the country.

Along with the warning of the Brits who have died from medical tourism, the FCDO says Brits considering travelling to Turkey for a dental or other cosmetic procedure should carry out their own research as it is “unwise to rely upon private companies that have a financial interest in arranging your medical treatment abroad”.

It also recommends referring to the HealthTurkiye portal website as this has a list of medical providers that are approved by the Ministry of Health.

It adds: “Individuals considering travelling for treatment should discuss their plans carefully with their UK doctor, dentist and/or hospital specialist before committing to any procedure abroad.”

Woman wearing invisible braces.
Braces or Invisalign could be a good option for those wanting a longer-term solution to straightening their teeth. (Getty Images)

What’s the best way to improve your teeth without invasive treatment?

While some may think that veneers or crowns are the easiest way to get straight, white teeth – there are other procedures you can look into which will be better for your tooth health in the long term.

If you are wanting to straighten your teeth, you can get braces or Invisalign. For whitening, speak to your dentist about whitening treatments or procedures. While these options will cost you money – Invisalign tends to begin at £2,000, while professional teeth whitening can start from £200 – it will still work out cheaper in the long run over quick fix options like crowns or veneers.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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