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]