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Cheaper Smiles in Vacation Destinations

A few years ago my mother got an estimate from her dentist on all the work she needed to have done on her teeth. Implants, crowns, a bridge, and more were going to add up to $80,000.

“Screw that,” I told her. “Go get it all done in Costa Rica. You’ll get a vacation out of it and you’ll still spend less.” Because of the extent of the work she needed done and the time between visits required for implants, she ended up flying down there three times. Still, with flights and hotels factored in, she still spent about $30,000 less than she would have with her hometown dentist. Guess he won’t be getting that new BMW after all.

Would she do it again? Absolutely. She would have pressed harder on the specific charges and time frames though, because the third trip probably could have been avoided if she had ironed out the schedule better and allotted more time and money on the second trip. This person saved 75% on his costs, counting airfare and hotel. He spent $5,090 instead of the $14,900 it would have been at home.

Cost Differences for Medical Treatment Abroad

Josef Woodman, author of the book Patients Beyond Borders, has been doing some great columns in International Living magazine on how to get treatment overseas for less. He has been giving advice and putting in helpful tables that law out sample prices in different locations, like the price of a knee replacement in India, Singapore, and Panama. (The best deal for that turns out to be South Korea, where it’s $7,000.) Here are a few specifics for dentistry in the U.S. (major city) vs. Costa Rica (San Jose).

Porcelain Veneer – $900 US, $350 CR

Inlays and onlays – $1,500 US, $350 CR

Implant (titanium with crown) – $1,600 to $2,200 US, $650 to $800 CR

You get the idea. Put “dental work Costa Rica” in Google and you’ll find all kinds of really nice places with top quality dentists, many of them educated in the U.S. the same as the one in your home town.

Shop Around for Dental Deals

Costa Rica is not the only option, however. I have a friend with a house in Merida, Mexico and he gets all his work done there. The dentist went to school in Houston and a simple exam and cleaning with x-rays is $45. What are you paying for that? Since I’m landing in Guanajuato at the end of June, all three people in my family are having their next checkup there. Half the reason many retirees choose Mexico now is that their medical and drug bills are slashed by 2/3, including their dental costs. (Easy health care reform—move south!)

In Europe, a common currency does not mean common prices. Just going from Austria over to Hungary can mean a cost reduction of 50%. There are plenty of highly educated doctors and dentists with files full of testimonials ready to give you an estimate you can compare to one from home. If you’re lucky enough to live in a country where all this is covered by a national health plan, great, but usually that doesn’t take care of things that are deemed to be cosmetic.

Just don’t take those recommendations for costly care from you dentist lying down (in their chair). Get a second opinion. You might have an instant excuse for a trip.

[Art at top from Nouvelles Images canvas prints]

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Terry Michel

Tuesday 18th of January 2011

Am from the US. Will be in Xela from about Jan 24 - Feb 13. Would like to find a quality dentist for some fairly extensive work including root canals, implants and several crowns. I believe I have heard it referred to as total mouth reconstruction. Problems are primarily in the molar regions.

Please let me know if you can help. Thanks,


Anabella Maldonado

Monday 30th of August 2010

We are a medical tourism company located in Guatemala. A beautiful cosmopolital city. We welcome all medical tourists in search on saving on surgery, dental, plastic surgery and annual checkups (executive health checks). We have selected the best medical surgeons in Guatemala to be part of our network of doctors. All our doctors speak English and other languages. They have been trained in the US, Canada or Europe. Trust your health to Surgi-Car Health & Travel. We offer "All Inclusive Packages" for people they want just to relax and enjoy their stay.

Please send us your inquiries to: [email protected] We offer as well VIP Concierge Services. We have alliances with the best Spas and Gulf Courses in Antigua Guatemala where you can enjoy yourself.


Monday 3rd of May 2010

this is a really good advice, think I will book my dentist/vacation to Guatemala


Monday 3rd of May 2010

Apologies - need to make a correction. First RC in Morelia around $150 USD (two visits, molar). Second in Guatemala only $60 or so as was less drilling, just trying to locate a fourth root. Rushed the reply above.

Outrageously cheap compared to my $2000 quote in Seattle, WA at the time...


Friday 30th of April 2010

Good advice - I had TWO root canals (no, not fun) before finally having a molar pulled to relieve pain from infection. Pain for almost a year because couldn´t afford care in U.S. - first root c. in Morelia, MX ($60 USD), second in Xela, Guatamala for around the same. My 10 yr. old son´s visits in Xela - cleaning, evaluation etc. - $10 USD (2008).

Dentist in Xela, Guatamala is and is brilliant cannot recommend enough - Dr. Carlos Haroldo - trained in cosmetic dentistry, orthodontristy, etc. Makes his own dental crowns, etc. & speaks English!

My son will be getting braces in a few months... in Uruguay. Could never afford care in U.S. and do not plan on living there again.