What is turkey teeth?

Kirsty France
Personal Finance and Healthcare Expert
Kirsty is a personal finance and healthcare expert who enjoys demystifying legal and insurance topics for a wider audience. She’s a former solicitor with a personal injury and insurance background.
Kirsty France
Updated on
June 4, 2024

The turkey teeth trend was popularised by Love Island winner Jack Fincham in 2018 after he travelled to Turkey for dental work. You may be wondering whether to invest in some 'turkey teeth' of your own. We examine the advantages and disadvantages.

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Turkey teeth explained

The Turkey teeth trend refers to dental tourism, where people in the UK travel abroad for dental treatments. Celebrities and social media influencers promote the advantages of dental treatment in Turkey. However, 'Turkey teeth' have also become associated with botched dental procedures.

The Turkey teeth trend has been described as providing a 'Hollywood smile'. However, it's been criticised for giving an unnatural, overly white smile with teeth that don't necessarily suit the patient's face. These aren't the only criticisms, as we'll explain later.

What are the advantages of having dental treatment in Turkey?

The costs of cosmetic dental treatments in Turkey are typically a fraction of the cost of similar cosmetic procedures in the UK, with some clinics abroad claiming to be 70% cheaper. The NHS only normally provides cosmetic procedures if there's a clear medical need. Patients must fund their treatment privately, meaning cost is a significant factor when deciding where to have treatment.

While patients seek cosmetic treatment in Turkey, many also go abroad for routine dental care. Recent research found that 90% of NHS dental practices aren't accepting new adult patients; 80% are not taking on children. 

Marketing for dental treatment in Turkey promotes the idea that patients can enjoy a holiday in the sun and have their dental treatment at the same time. In fact, 'Turkey teeth' all-inclusive packages can include accommodation, travel and dental treatments, giving them the convenience of a package holiday.

Some clinics' websites mention their investment in cutting-edge technology, also a selling point for private treatment in the UK.

Disadvantages of having Turkey teeth

While Turkey teeth may seem to be the ideal solution for anyone seeking cosmetic dental procedures at a reduced cost, there are many disadvantages. We examine the potential pitfalls associated with the Turkey teeth trend.

1. Crowns instead of veneers

Having Turkey teeth typically involves being fitted with dental crowns. Crowns involve invasive treatments, including having the natural teeth filed down before dental crowns are applied. 

In the UK, cosmetic dental procedures to improve the surface appearance of teeth typically involve bonded veneers, which are thin layers that fit over the existing tooth. However, you won't often find veneers in Turkey as they're more expensive. Dental crowns are a cheaper option, frequently making Turkey teeth less expensive.

UK dentists only use crowns on broken or otherwise damaged teeth, and they typically last for around 15 years before they need replacing. Veneer treatments leave the underlying tooth intact, but crowns only have a stub of the tooth remaining underneath. With Turkey teeth, healthy teeth are often filed down, meaning you must replace the crown when it fails or face having your teeth removed and dental implants or dentures fitted.

2. Remote consultations

When dentists in the UK perform cosmetic dental treatment, they typically offer at least one face-to-face consultation to examine the patient and discuss their options. This approach lets them advise on the appropriate cosmetic procedure and assess potential risks. They'll also provide a quote and treatment plan so patients can consider their options and book treatment later.

By contrast, many dental clinics in Turkey don't assess patients in person before they book their dental treatment. Patients who have had their teeth done in Turkey describe sending messages on social media, including pictures of their teeth with quotes based on those messages. Dental clinics' websites also describe providing a quote following a telephone consultation, meaning they can't properly assess the patient before taking payment.

3. Short treatment timescales

After a telephone or social media consultation, patients can book to have their teeth done in Turkey within a few days. As mentioned, many clinics offer all-inclusive packages, meaning booking dental care is as simple as arranging a holiday. Once in Turkey, treatment often only takes a few days.

By contrast, cosmetic dentistry in the UK typically takes a few weeks or longer, depending on the nature and extent of the treatment. This is likely for practical reasons. While a patient can travel to a local dental clinic several times, regular flights to Turkey are likely not an option.

While having Turkey teeth can enable patients to complete their treatment during their planned summer break, shorter timescales can mean lower-quality treatment and minimal follow-up care.

4. A lack of informed consent

An investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme found that many patients didn't fully understand the dental procedures they'd paid for. For example, one patient believed she had received dental veneers in Turkey, only to find that her dentist had fitted dental crowns.

Informed consent is vital to patient safety. It ensures the patient understands the risks and benefits of their dental care and any potential issues that may arise in the future. If they aren't happy, they can refuse treatment before it begins.

5. Variable treatment quality

While some dental clinics offering Turkey teeth pride themselves on investing in the latest equipment and technology, many don't. Turkish dentists must undergo five years of training, but standards vary depending on your chosen clinic. 

While many Turkish dentists offer high-quality treatment, this isn't always the case. The Panorama investigation we mentioned previously spoke to many happy customers who received safe dental treatments in Turkey, alongside others with lasting dental issues. Proper research is vital before you invest in turkey teeth to ensure you choose a reputable clinic providing safe dental procedures.

6. A lack of regulation

Dentists in Turkey must undergo training similar to those in the UK. They train for five years in general dentistry and another five years if they want to specialise. All dentists must be members of the regulatory body, the Turkish Dental Association. Those who wish to carry out cosmetic dentistry must also join the Turkish Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry.

Turkish and UK dentists are regulated by the Turkish Dental Association and General Dental Council, respectively. The regulatory bodies have similar remits, such as setting standards to ensure patient safety, good practice, and effective infection control. However, in practice, it appears that Turkish dentists have fewer restrictions on the type of work they can carry out.

The BBC investigation spoke to dentists in the UK about patients' accounts of their 'Turkey teeth' experience and the practice of fitting dental crowns instead of dental veneers in Turkey. They believed they would be struck off if they used crowns for cosmetic dentistry. This suggests that dental procedures in the UK are more highly regulated than those in Turkey.

7. Increased risk of complications

There is limited data on the incidence of complications related to the Turkey teeth trend. Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance on medical tourism refers to six deaths among patients travelling to Turkey for medical treatment during 2023. However, this isn't specific to dental care.

Potential dental work risks and complications can include ongoing pain, exposed nerves, severe infections and ill-fitting dental veneers. Crowns carry a higher risk of nerve damage than veneers, which is why they're typically only used on damaged teeth in the UK.

A British Dental Association survey asked 1,000 experienced dentists about their experience treating patients with Turkey teeth. 95% reported seeing patients who had their teeth done in Turkey, with 86% of those describing complications that needed remedial work. Crowns were the leading cause of complications, with dental implants following closely behind.

Of course, treating complications comes at a price. 40% of dentists who carried out remedial work said the NHS bore the cost. The costs for patients paying privately for their treatment ranged from £500 to over £5,000 in 20% of cases. Anyone travelling for dental care because Turkey teeth prices are lower than those in the UK could find themselves with a hefty bill if things go wrong.

8. Potential issues if treatment goes wrong

Any dental procedure risks complications or failure, so patients should consider what will happen if they need remedial work or experience issues such as infected gums or long-lasting tooth pain. In practice, if you've had dental cosmetic work in a local dental clinic, you can easily visit them for a check-up. That's more complex if your dental clinic is in Turkey.

There are legal implications too. Dentists in the UK must have professional indemnity insurance to compensate patients if anything goes wrong. You can claim against a Turkish dentist for corrective dental work but may end up out of pocket. Most dentists won't cover the costs of additional flights or accommodation. Many will only cover the treatment costs in Turkey, meaning they won't reimburse you if you decide to see your local dentist instead.

In extreme cases, you can claim for medical negligence. However, dental jurisdiction means you must bring the claim in Turkey. This potentially means instructing a Turkish lawyer and travelling to see a medico-legal expert over there to confirm whether you have a claim, adding more stress and expense. Standard travel insurance doesn't typically cover travel for medical treatment or any associated legal costs, meaning you should consider buying a specialist policy before travelling.

Questions to ask when considering dental treatment abroad

Before you choose to have Turkey teeth, you must conduct thorough research. While there are some excellent dentists in Turkey, there are also low-quality and unregulated clinics.

Ask about initial consultations and what follow-up care is available. Some Turkish dentists have clinics in London where you can have a face-to-face consultation and remedial treatment if needed. Check to see what costs your provider covers if you need to travel back to Turkey for additional care.

You can ask to see dentist CVs and check whether the clinic has a licence to treat dental tourists and carry out cosmetic work. It's also wise to check patient reviews. Clinic websites typically sell the benefits and gloss over any disadvantages, so ensure you check independent sources.

5 Ways of paying for cosmetic dental work in the UK

If you're considering Turkey teeth because it's cheaper than dental treatment in the UK, remember there are several ways to fund your treatment.

1. Self-funded treatment

This is the most straightforward way to pay for dental care if you have savings or disposable income. Most dentists can give you a fixed-price quote for your treatment plan. You may also be able to pay in instalments or per appointment if your procedure involves several appointments over a few weeks.

2. A dental subscription

Health insurers and private dentists often have subscription plans that let you spread the cost of your routine dental check-ups and care. These vary in how they operate, but most involve a monthly payment to cover predictable care and give you a discount of around 10% on other treatments. Some also let you spread the cost of these procedures over 12 months.

3. Treatment loans

Some providers have partnerships with private finance companies offering medical loans to help you spread the cost of your treatment. These are found most often with private healthcare companies and offer 0% interest for up to a year, so you don't pay more in interest.

Loans are subject to the usual credit and affordability checks. You can choose a standard loan if you prefer; the most important thing is to carefully compare terms and interest rates to check which is most affordable. 

4. Health cash plans

We mention cash plans with a note of caution, as they often exclude cosmetic treatments. Health cash plans let you claim back the cost of your dental treatment after paying your dentist upfront. They cover various treatments, meaning you can claim for the price of your eye test, physiotherapy treatment and dental care.

While many plans exclude cosmetic work, they can help you save money on other medical expenses and give you more disposable cash for cosmetic treatments.

5. Does health insurance fund cosmetic procedures?

Like health cash plans, health insurance typically excludes all types of cosmetic surgery. However, adding dental coverage to your health insurance policy can be a cost-effective way to pay for routine care. Many dentists offer cosmetic treatments in addition to regular check-ups and treatment, meaning you'll be able to develop a trusted relationship with your dentist before pursuing any cosmetic dentistry.

Getting professional advice

MyTribe guides help you learn more about private healthcare and your treatment options. If you want to explore private health insurance, contact us for a comparison quote, and we'll connect you with a specialist broker for tailored advice.

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

Kirsty France
Personal Finance and Healthcare Expert

Kirsty is a personal finance and healthcare expert who enjoys demystifying legal and insurance topics for a wider audience. She’s a former solicitor with a personal injury and insurance background.