Dental Tourism: Taking Your Teeth Abroad
Combining Your Vacation With Your Dental Work
By Margaret Gaby
Imagine enjoying a restful afternoon lying on a beach in the Costa Rica or the Philippines. Does that sound too expensive and out of reach? Well, for the average American it can now be a reality.
It is no secret that the rising cost of healthcare in the United States is hurting many of its citizens. Many Americans are without health insurance. Therefore, many do not seek the proper care they would've if they could afford it. They usually hold off with treatment until it's absolutely necessary. There have been many cases where people who do not have dental insurance or the right kind of coverage actually die from infections.
For people that need specialty services (beyond standard preventive care) such as root canals, implants, braces, dentures or veneers it can be very expensive in the good old USA.
However, there is hope. The new trend is instead of spending $2,900 to $4,700 on dental implants a patient could spend just $900. For other procedures such as prosthodontic works, restorative dentistry, dental implants, orthodontics people are saving literally thousands by engaging an overseas dentist.
Dental crowns can cost between $800 and $2,800 in the US, while in Israel you pay on average $500, in Hungary as little as $270 and in Mexico between $450 and $500. At some clinics you can get a consultation for free and a routine cleaning for just $25!
Finding Dentists Abroad
But it can be tricky trying to find dentists in other countries that will do dental work for foreigners. When the thought comes to mind many do not even consider it because they are used to going to the dentist and using health insurance. The average person does not really know how much dental care costs until they have to get care that are not covered by their insurance company. One good source to look at is Dental Health Magazine (www.worlddental.org).
Mentioned in Dental Health Magazine, Tooth and Go dental Clinic in Manila, Philippines is one of the leading promoters of dental tourism. They include dental vacation packages on their website. Their services are impressive.
They are very skilled and professional about their practice. According to the article in Dental Health, "Our hygienic standards are very high, we are using an autoclave and chemical sterilizer to prevent cross-infections. Our sterilized materials are sealed by a dental sealing machine which prevents a contamination of the sterilized materials before usage".
One reviewer said "The tools and technology used by this clinic are very new and I've never seen or heard of these type of services in Australia." "The hotel the patient chose had an "unbeatable price if 10 nights or longer stay, free buffet breakfast and to top it off, a free shuttle service to use at any time within a 3-5km radius. This is a 5 star hotel!!! Can't wait to go back."
What Patients are Saying
People from all over the world have also gone to many South American countries to get dental work done. At first, they were skeptical because it was a foreign country and that they were going under the needle.
The fact that they have to get dental work done is the second reason why people do not get the care they need (the first being the health care). However, these dentists are very professional in their practice. They use anesthesia before needles for an advanced numbing of the gums/face so the patient will not feel it at all. Some patients have reported that they even fell asleep during their procedure. However, they all guarantee that it is safe even though it is cheaper.
Dinora Gonzales from Atlanta, Georgia went to Costa Rica to receive dental implants. She says that the people were very nice. "They picked me up from the airport and brought me to the clinic." In the United States her procedure would have cost around $60,000 which she was sure she couldn't afford.
"The doctor said it would only be around $11,000 for the whole thing. It sounded too good to be true but he went right to work and in a couple of hours I had a brand new smile. My husband said they looked great but not to eat right away."
Getting dental implants can greatly increase a person's self esteem. Saving money usually has some of the same effect. Both leave the person feeling good about themselves.
Gerald Stauss, a 69-year-old retired man from southern California went to Tijiana, Mexico for his dental bridges.
He says that the staff were very professional and "They all spoke English. They went through everything with me and I felt very confident with my decision to have them do my procedure."
He says that it was easy to cross the Mexico border (he walked over and there caught a shuttle bus to take him to the clinic). He says that once there the facility was very nice. He got to look at his X-rays and could choose between which kind of modern bridges (cantilever bridges or resin bonded bridges ) he wanted. Mr.Stauss will be going back to Tijuana for years.
Bill Burton, El Centro, Ca, said, "I live along the Border nearly year around. I have begun going south of the border because the costs are a quarter what they are in the States, and the treatments use exactly the same equipment and techniques. I use Mexicali, Mexico. Across from Yuma, Arizona is also a large number of dentists and other legitimate medical treatment available. I recommend the concept without qualification."
Patients on Vacation
Many patients have enjoyed their savings on relaxing vacations. Some might say that getting dental work done is an excuse to go abroad. However, it just costs the same as not going abroad and just getting work done at a dentist back home.
Worlddental.org says "The cost for affordable dentures is between $500 and $2,500 for a full upper or lower arch. If you think about it, with the money you would pay in the US for such a procedure, you can get yourself a full set of dentures abroad, and have some money left for sightseeing tours in Mexico, India or El Salvador."
Costa Rica, about 14% of the tourists have had some dental work done. Since, these dentists are getting about 85% of the patients from abroad they are able to work efficiently in a short period of time. Patients get their teeth done in a vastly shorter period than it would have taken in the United States.
Artificial implants usually take around eight months of surgery and up to a year to heal. In Costa Rica they have same day implants at a cost of only $675 compared to $2000 in the US.
Due to the combination of high tourist locations where the clinics are located many patients plan sightseeing trips, vacations with the family, and other holiday activities to go along with their dental work.
Many clinics offer dental trip packages that allow for a discounted trip that included with their dental visit. Thailand has become one of the great dental tourism destinations as well. Bangkok has a prosperous dental industry as well as lively culture that travelers can enjoy. Other places such as Hungary and Isreal are great places to go for dental care as well.
Patients get to enjoy the tropical beaches, colorful wildlife, experience a bit of culture with a brand new smile. They will be smiling all the time.
For more information please visit: www.worddental.org, medicaltourismco.com, Dental Procedures
Margaret Gaby is a former editorial assistant for GoNOMAD.com and a student at the University of Massachusetts.
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