There isn’t anyone who isn’t challenged by higher prices these days. Inflation touches everything, from groceries to gas to insurance. Some people seriously consider what is commonly known on the internet as “Dental Tourism”. It’s a subset of the more popular term “Medical Tourism”, where individuals looking for a “deal” seek and receive high ticket health care outside of their country in a location where it typically is cheaper. After the economic crash of 2008 dental tourism became much more common. As dental techniques, procedures and equipment become more sophisticated and expensive, and the world becomes more interconnected, it has sparked competition among international dental care providers. People looking for dental care at a significant cost savings may have found what they’re looking for, but are they sacrificing quality? Is there a “free lunch”?
According to author, Starr Daubenmire of Internationalliving.com, only 55 percent of U.S. residents have dental insurance. So for many people who need significant dental work, like a complete mouth restoration, overseas options look very good. According to the article it would have cost one man from New Hampshire $55,000 for his a full mouth restoration as well as two years of his time. But he opted to have his work completed in Costa Rica for $24,000.
Dental Border Wars
Many Americans cross the border from Yuma, Arizona to receive dental care at about a third of the US price in Los Algodones, Mexico. For example, RDH: The Dentistry IQ Network lists prophylaxis ( a cleaning and polishing procedure that removes calculus and plaque) for $35 dollars in Algodones as compared to $85 dollars in Yuma, Arizona. While porcelain crowns are anywhere from $800 to $1200 dollars in Yuma, in Algodones, Mexico people can expect to somewhere around $475 to $400, in Tijuana, Mexico about $365 and in Juarez only about $249 (less than our lab cost for a single crown!).
In Costa Rica, another popular dental tourism destination, a white filling will costs about $75, a porcelain crown or veneer is about $350 and dental implants start at $550. Fees charged for similar procedures in the US range from 2x to 4x these prices. So even if you factor in airfare and hotel, many procedures done overseas will save you some serious cash. Of course, anyone can do simple math. But you also need to consider the health standards of foreign country, the certification and education of the dentist, what materials are used by the dental lab and of course what are your options should something go wrong?
Patients considering dental tourism need to know the risks and potential pitfalls that come with seeking treatment abroad. Here is a partial list of considerations before you book those airline tickets:
- Under Mexican law, a dentist does not need malpractice insurance. Also there is no OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) regulation in many other countries including Mexico, so sterilization and infection standards are typically not up to the standards we have here in the United States. So regardless of which country you’re planning on visiting for your dental work, be sure to do some thorough research before you go.
- If something should go wrong with your dental treatment or you need follow-up care, can you afford to return to the country where you received treatment? What are your legal rights, should something go wrong? Will you need to continually go to the foreign country to take care of the necessary maintenance procedures necessary for most premium dental restorative work?
What is your recourse if the dental work fails or is substandard?
- Some dental insurance companies will cover dental work abroad some do not. You need to be sure to check with your insurance company before you go.
- Many overseas dentists are not trained to the same level as US dentists and are not licensed and regulated by state dental boards and boards of dental examiners. There can be a significant difference in the skill levels of a foreign dentist as well as your comfort/pain level during treatment. Not all countries have infection control, OSHA and patient safety standards that we have in the US. Some of the prevalent diseases in many countries include:
Hepatitis A — transmitted through food and water
Hepatitis B — contracted through exposure to blood/infectious materials
Hepatitis C — viral infection contracted from blood contact through needles and medical exposure
Typhoid fever — Contracted through contact with feces, resulting effects are constant headaches. Mortality rate is 10%.
Amebiasis — water- or food-borne parasite resulting in intestinal illness, can affect blood, brain, and spinal cord
Shigellosis — bacterial infection found in water and food polluted by feces and contracted by hand-to-hand or hand-to-mouth contact. Mortality rate is 20% if untreated.
Tuberculosis — transmitted by the air, contracted through coughing, sneezing or sputum.
At the dental practice of Dr. Mark W Langberg, you can be assured that we follow all recommended guidelines for sterilization and patient safety, use the latest technology and equipment, continually participate in ongoing continuing education in the latest research and techniques, and have an extremely highly trained, competent and compassionate dentist (graduated 3rd in his class from the University of Michigan, rated the #1 dental school in the US in 1977 when he graduated). His attention to detail, training, focus on your comfort, and follow through and follow up is second to none. We offer low monthly patient financing through Care Credit and other payment options. We help and guide patients wishing to participate with Care Credit get the funds they need at a very low or even 0% interest and you can even apply over the phone (877-337-4171) if you prefer. They have payment plans that can cover any budget. The most popular is the No Interest Payment Plans where there are no interest charges if the balance is paid in full within a specified time. It’s important to remember that at Dr. Mark Langberg’s you don’t have to sacrifice quality or comfort to say within your budget – there are many financial options. Remember that substandard, poorly designed, sloppy, failed, uncomfortable or dangerous treatment will end up being the most expensive treatment regardless of how little you pay.
Until next time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD