We all know it’s important to take care of our teeth, but we’re also familiar with the costs involved.
Dental Tourism by Brandon Green Published November 01, 2013 FoxNews.com
For Americans willing to hop on a plane, visiting a dentist in another country could save travelers over 70 percent on dental procedures such as dental implants, crowns and root canals.
Some 130 million Americans live without dental insurance, according a 2012 report to Congress called Dental Crisis in America from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Because even the insured face out-of-pocket costs, it might make financial sense to fly to your next dental appointment.
You Won’t Be Alone
It is estimated that in 2012, 400,000 Americans crossed international borders for dental care. For 2013, a projected growth rate of approximately 20 percent is expected by medical industry analysts.
While procedures abroad may be cheaper, there are a number of things you'll want to consider before traveling internationally for dental care.
Dr. Maria Lopez Howell, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association, says, “If something goes wrong, what is the recourse? Is there a ministry of health? Is there a forum for complaints in the country that you’re going to visit? You really have to do your research.”
Yet, Dr. Howell says it’s important to remember that there are good dentists everywhere. “We all have colleagues across this planet who are very capable and knowledgeable experts in their fields. No dentist [in any] country is perfect.”
It’s understandable to be a little worried about visiting a dentist in another country. Before I quit my job on Wall Street and started traveling, I was a little worried myself.
My last visit to a dentist outside of the U.S. was in the lakeside town of Ohrid, Macedonia (FYROM). I knew that I needed a crown, and I had heard that people often find inexpensive dental care in Eastern Europe, so when I saw a brochure, I did some research. Though the office was not registered with common dental tourism search engines, it did have some online presence.
Next, I gave Dr. Gabriela Kalanoska a call. On the phone we discussed the procedure I needed and the price, and I made sure I was comfortable having her work on my teeth. After examining my teeth and discussing my treatment options, she replaced a crown that had cost me thousands of dollars in the U.S. The cost: about $380, including x-rays. I was so happy with the results that I had her replace another crown later that week.
Finding the Right Dentist
To find the best dentist for you, begin your search online. For most destinations, a quick Google search will bring up a number of dentistry sites and dental tourism search engines. You cannot go wrong when you go direct to Board Certified Dentist Associations in Asia and Mexico.
Call potential dentists and speak with them directly about your care options. If you are most comfortable receiving dental care from a professional who speaks English, insist on it.
Know the Procedures
Before flying, have a basic idea of what is involved in dental procedures, such as crowns, implants, and root canals. Once you arrive at the office, discuss all of the procedures and options with your dentist one last time and clarify the total cost.
You need to go and get the exam, get the x-rays, get the treatment plan. I would want to know very clearly what each step of the treatment plan is. Are you prepared to stay for a length of time required to get the best care possible
Never undergo dental procedures because you feel pressured to do so. I have never felt pressured by dentists outside of the U.S., but should you, know that you can leave and find another dentist.
What to Expect From Your Visit
If you are already worried about traveling overseas without the added stress of dental care, international dental travel will not be for you. However, if you do decide to travel for dental procedures, you may find yourself pleasantly reassured by the familiarity of the dentist’s office.
In my experience, dental offices overseas look more or less the same as those in the U.S. Many have the same dental chair, too-bright lights, and little sink for you to spit in. Dr. Howell recommends taking a careful look around the dentist’s office before undergoing treatment to make sure the environment is similar to what you would expect at home. Where is the sterilizer? Are the instruments coming out of a sterile packet? Are they wearing gloves and masks?
But experts say, don’t forget about the recovery time, especially if you want to hit the beach afterward. I have undergone dental procedures and then later in the day went paragliding in Colombia, took in rock concerts in Costa Rica, and soaked up the sun on a lakeside beach in Macedonia.
Your recovery experiences may vary. It is important when planning your trip to know how you normally recover from dental work and have relaxing options for post-care activities.
Follow up and Recourse
One drawback of dental travel is that should you require additional care, your dentist may be on the other side of the planet. If the need for emergency care arises while you are at home or you don't want to make a second trip, you will need to make an appointment with a local dentist, who may not be familiar with the materials that were used abroad.
Keeping careful records of any procedures you have undergone domestically or abroad will aid your next dentist in providing you the best care.
If visiting a dentist during your vacation, be sure to schedule your appointment as early in your trip as possible. Your procedures may require out-of-office processing or follow-up, or you may elect to undergo additional work once you’ve completed your original procedure.
If something goes wrong with your dental procedure done in a foreign country, U.S. citizens can try and seek recourse through malpractice lawsuits, but experts say it’s not always an easy route. It’s worth researching what rights you have before something goes wrong, as these options will vary from country to country.
Keep in mind that when traveling overseas for dental care, you will incur costs typically associated with international travel. Remember to budget for hotels, visas, food, and airfare, as you would for any international trip.
Also, be sure to discuss all costs associated with your dental work with your dentist prior to beginning any procedures.
If price is your biggest consideration, research dental professionals separately from accommodations, as dental tourism vacation packages that include hotels or attractions will likely be more expensive.
Remember that, even if your primary objective is dental care, you’re on vacation, so plan to go out and have some fun.
Brandon Green is a former investment banker who now travels the world full time.
Re-posted by Dental Tourism News Co.
Phoenix Editor - India and the Philippines are dental tourism destinations where English is the official language. The Kings English in India, American English in the Philippines. Contact the Board Certified Asia Dentist Association for recommendations for dentists accredited for advanced dentistry in Manila and New Delhi. Their affiliate in Mexico says all their dentists are bi-lingual Spanish (natch) and English.
The Board Certified Asia Dental Association
The Board Certified Mexico Dentist Org.