So, I keep hearing about how crazy it was to travel for my dental work. I guess this is still a topic of conversation among my friends and family. So, I thought I’d put the idea that this was a crazy notion to rest. This was not an impulse decision. Most who know me, know that I agonize over details. It can take me months to decide on a color of paint, on where to hang a picture, on what car to buy, on whether to spend $10 or $8, or whether the book should be hard copy or Kindle! Let me walk you through the process I went through, maybe it will help you understand how the process works or help someone else come to their own decisions.
November 1, I went to see a new dentist here in NH. I had been seeing the same dentist in Maine for 32 years, he retired, so I was forced to see someone new. I had crown and bridge work, some of which was 30 years old. My old dentist literally ‘re-glued’ me every 6 months or so. Well, the new dentist wants no part of keeping me together, the old stuff must go. One is a 5 part bridge, the other a 3 part. Besides, I also need a root canal and the supporting teeth of the 5 part bridge are full of decay, so those need to be extracted and replaced with implants. I’m a mess. So, doing my due diligence, I start calling around and pricing things out. K’ching! Best estimate is $35000, assuming all goes perfectly! I would have to see 2, maybe 3 different dentists. One for the implants, one for the crowns and one for the root canal. I don’t have dental insurance, so in my mind, I might as well move into a dentist office, get a job in a dentist office or marry a dentist to get this all done, none of which are going to happen, so I had to find another route!
I happen across an article in a magazine about folks combining travel with medical, so I start googling. First stop was Amazon for a book, Patients Beyond Borders. Steve and I were heading off for a week away and it seemed like the perfect book to bring, so I loaded the Kindle. I read every single page of that book, feeling like I discovered this underground movement of medical and dental tourism and I must have been hiding under a rock not to know about it before! It helped me feel like this isn’t crazy, other people are doing it and more importantly, it helped me narrow down where to go for dental treatment.
Once we were home, I got busy on Google. I called a couple of Medical Tourism travel companies, Planet Hospital and Healthbase and I started asking around. I spoke with friends in Arizona, ‘snowbirds’, who talked about all the people they know who travel from Yuma, AZ to Algodones Mexico for all of their care. I spoke with friends in Texas who know of folks who also travel into Mexico for care. By the time I was done reading, asking, researching, I had narrowed down to Mexico, Hungary, Thailand and Costa Rica. One thing I knew for sure at this point, is that I would save a bundle of $ by going out of the country for this work.
Next step was figuring out where to go. I ruled out Thailand and Hungary first, not because they weren’t good places to go for treatment and someday, I would love to see those countries, but I felt that the flights were too long and too costly. If anything went wrong, I wanted to be able to get back to the doctor in a) a reasonable amount of time and b) for a reasonable cost.
Now I’m looking at Mexico and Costa Rica. I asked my dentist for digital copies of my x-rays and started researching individual dentists in both countries. I had a couple of names of dentists in Mexico from friends and basically googled my way to find names of dentists in Costa Rica. I emailed the dentists with my x-rays and asked for treatment plans. At the same time, I started researching the travel time and the travel costs. I found I could get from Boston to Costa Rica in under 10 hours. (I can’t even get a dentist appointment here in the states that fast!). Costa Rica wins for travel time. In researching Costa Rica, I came across a Topix board about nothing but dental care and dentists in Costa Rica. I read each and every one of the over 2500 posts by people just like me, trying to make a similar decision. Dentists names were mentioned, treatment plans, costs, travel ideas, I was a sponge trying to absorb it all!
Once I had treatment plans and estimates from a few dentists, I now had an idea of costs. Mexico and Costa Rica were similar and all the estimates were at least 50% less than the costs would be in the US. Sure there were variations among the foreign quotes, but basically all within a few thousand of each other and significantly less than what I had expected. Next step was I asked the dentists if I could contact former patients. 2 of the dentists gave me a list of former patients names, emails and phone numbers. I randomly emailed and called people asking them about their experiences. I did the same with random people who posted on the Topix board. All in all, this helped me solidify my decision.
Steve likes to share that I did more due diligence in researching my dentist in Costa Rica than I did researching the dentist I saw here in NH and he’s absolutely correct. I’ve never researched any medical or dental practitioner like I did making this decision. It was a huge decision for me. It was scary. I was going to a foreign country for major work. Heck, I don’t even know Spanish (thank goodness the doctors are more than fluent).
Finally, what helped me narrow down to make a decision on which dentist, the Costa Rica dentist actually called me at home. His idea. He made an appointment with me! I was able to ask him questions, I was able to realize there was no language barrier and he made me feel totally welcome and more importantly, he made me feel like he really cared. I doubt any US dentist would take that extra step for my business! You’re lucky if you can speak with a medical practitioner directly here in the US at all, especially if you’re not a patient yet and certainly, if you could, you would probably be charged $ for the call! Further more, after going and having my treatment done in Costa Rica, I can say that both dentists (the father did 2 of my implants, his son the third) who did my dental implants probably do more implants in one week than most US dentists do in a year. They specialize in it, that’s all they do and because of their affordability, they do one heck of a lot of them!
Now my dear daughter needs dental work. At the tender age of 19, she needs an implant. She has 4 baby teeth that have no adult teeth in behind them and one needs to come out. One might think I’ll take her to Costa Rica but no, we won’t be going. Why not? Well, she only needs one at this time and cost wise, it just doesn’t pay. The rule of thumb I’ve heard over and over is if the work will cost over $6000 in the US, then it’s worth looking into medical tourism, under $6K and well, the cost just isn’t justified. Her work will run around $6K.
Anyway, put your minds at ease, readers, friends and family. And trust that if I need further medical or dental treatment beyond what I already have had and what remains to be done, I will be looking outside of the US, without any reservation or hesitation. Great medical and dental care is available across the globe. Why isolate ourselves to the US and the rising costs here, when you can combine seeing the world with receiving the same quality if not better care elsewhere? Steve and I can now say we have visited San Jose and we look forward to going back to see many other parts of Costa Rica, and I’ve got a great big beautiful smile!
‘Nuff said, now it’s back to food, till we start getting around to booking our flight back to beautiful Costa Rica!