Open Wide: Time for Dental Tourism? – Global Outings™

Fez_DentistI got my teeth cleaned last week. I’m big into dental hygiene and go like clockwork every 6 months.

I mean, have you seen my teeth? They’re big. 17 teeth show per smile. I counted once.

So I’m reclining in the dentist chair and, despite instruments and fingers in my mouth, I’m talking about my upcoming travel plans.

Both the dentist and the hygienist then say I should be sure and get my teeth clean next time I’m abroad.  Say what?!

I’m thinking there is no way I’m letting any of the dentists from the developing countries I visit near my pie hole.

I remember seeing decrepit dental offices in Hong Kong’s famed Walled City (before it was torn down), as well as the signs hanging throughout Moroccan bazaars. No way, Jose.

Dental Tourism

But they’re insistent that places like Thailand and India and Colombia offer great (and cheap) dental care. I think this calls for a little investigation.

So I’m tooling around the web, and I run across some information about “dental tourism.” Here’s what I found out:

• About 500,000 Americans travel abroad for dental care each year.

• About 50% of Americans don’t have dental insurance, so traveling abroad might actually be cheaper if significant dental work is needed.

U.S. vs. Overseas Pricing

Here’s a quick comparison on dental procedure pricing at home and abroad:

• Dental Filling: $300 vs. $20

• Root Canal: $3,000 vs. $100 (dirt cheap)

• Dentures: $1,000 vs. $200

Morocco_Dentist“Hot” Dental Tourism Destinations

Here’s a run down of the “hottest” dental tourism destinations: Costa Rica, Croatia, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Italy, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine.

I’ve been to all but 5 of these countries and I would not seek medical attention in any of them unless in dire need.

Ok, maybe I’d make an exception for Spain and Italy (based on the good medical care I received in Portugal). But let’s face it – those countries have European socialized medicine.

Pros & Cons

The arguments for going overseas – and I’m paraphrasing here – are:

Cheap doesn’t mean poor quality. Hmmmm. In my experience, you get what you pay for.

Your health insurance might cover the costs. Really? I called Aetna, my dental insurance. Their response: Totally! Which, I guess makes sense, because it would be so much less expensive for them.

Aetna mentioned that if you do get a procedure abroad, be sure and get all the information you need (like the tooth number that was extracted — or whatever), because getting ahold of that information afterward is not so easy and its necessary for the paperwork.

The more complex the procedures, the more you save by going abroad. I don’t know about this. What if something goes wrong? What are your options – both legally and medically?

As my dental team was waving me out the door, they offered to forward my x-rays anywhere in the world for me. Well, I certainly appreciate the good hometown service, but I think I’ll keep taking care of my choppers here in the U.S.

On second thought, I wonder if Mumbai offers an Invisalign special…

Have any of you been overseas for dental care? Write in –  I’m dying to hear about it!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 and is filed under What to Pack.

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