VISITING THE DENTIST

When we first mentioned to friends that we were going to Costa Rica for dental implants and new crowns the responses ranged from disbelief, to concern, to warnings that it would not be safe to be treated outside the US. We did not make the decision to go abroad on a whim. Indeed, we selected Costa Rica after careful research and interviews with dental practices in two different countries. Our quest started when we realized how much our treatment would cost in the US. We were looking at a minimum of $16-18,000 after the dental insurance paid its share. Given the dental insurance limitations on annual treatment we would have had to wait two years to complete the process. Recalling various news stories about medical tourism, we began our search for an alternative to overpriced, corporate controlled US health care.

We were surprised to find Patients Beyond Borders, an organization, dedicated to helping people find safe, high quality health care around the world. I have linked an interview with their CEO Josef Woodman talking to CCTV America about why more and more patients are seeking treatment abroad, and what they need to know before traveling. You can also visit their Website.

We considered several destinations. During this time we were exploring an employment opportunity in China so Thailand seemed like a natural choice. The opportunity did not work out so we removed Thailand from our list. One of the things we learned in our research was the importance of limiting your travel time after your procedure.

Mexico is much closer and we gave the dental practices there a very careful review. One of the dentist had degrees from both Mexico and the US, was board certified in the US, had worked as a clinical professor at a major US university, and was located in a resort area.  The staff spoke with me on the phone and provided a detailed estimate of the costs. They never seemed in a hurry to get me off the phone so they could book the next patient. I was treated as if I was their only patient.

It seemed we were headed to Mexico for our dental work but we kept having nagging doubts. We have had several friends travel to Mexico and all suffered some gastrointestinal discomfort. We really liked the dentist but the possibility of getting sick and vomiting after oral surgery frightened us away.

Returning to the Patients Beyond Borders site and checking other sources, we began to focus on Costa Rica. We liked what we learned as we studied Costa Rica. The country consistently ranks higher in healthcare than Canada and the United States. Similarly, life expectancy is among the world’s highest (78.7 years, one year higher than the US). Medical tourism is part of Costa Rica’s national economic plan and it is now one of the top five destinations for US patients traveling abroad. All the dentists we considered were US board certified and the one we eventually selected was based in the American-owned Hospital CIMA which has been JCI accredited since 2008.

We found Advance Dental to be everything you want your dental office to be. Andrea “Andy” Acosta took care of all the scheduling, give us a list of hotels with which Advance Dental had special rates, provided a detailed estimate of costs, answered questions about places we might visit, and arranged a call from Dr. Eugenio J. Brenes to discuss the procedure. After each visit she followed up with emails and phone calls to make sure that all was well. I doubt your dental office has an MBA who directs customer service and care. It was a first for me.

I was impressed with Dr. Brenes from our first conversation. The focus was on my dental care. He took more time with me than any US based dentist has ever taken to discuss my care. He offered to repeat the call with Alla should she have questions after hearing my report.  More than simply being nice and patient focused, he is extremely well qualified. When you review the Advance Dental homepage you will see that the entire staff is well qualified and patient focused. You can also meet them on YouTube.

I am not a dentist so I cannot offer you dental advice. People will tell you not to risk having dental work done in a foreign country. Instead, go to a dentist who is US educated, board certified, a member of the American Dental Association, a member of the American College of Prosthodontics, who only uses FDA approved materials, and whose office is AAAASF-accredited for oral surgery. In other words, go to a dentist like Dr. Brenes and a dental practice like Advance Dental but pay a 65-75% premium over what you would pay in Costa Rica. Faced with the same choice, some 750,000 Americans decided to travel abroad in 2014 for their health care rather than pay a premium.

We are certainly happy with our decision. Indeed, it was a very easy to select Costa Rica after doing our research. We would make the same decision again.

 

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