When you think about tourism, you probably don’t think about visiting a dentist. But more and more Americans are taking vacations to far-flung destinations – and they’re having dental work done while abroad. Called dental tourism, it’s the newest way to have the dental procedures you need done at a lower price. Dental tourism is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the steep prices of dental care in the U.S.. People are discovering that it’s possible to get the care you need at a fraction of the price. You simply need to visit a dentist in another country, where dental work is cheaper. And dental tourism is a great solution for many people, particularly those without insurance.
Here’s how dental tourism works, and how it may be able to provide the care you need without costing you thousands of dollars.
What is Dental Tourism?
Dental tourism is the practice of traveling to get low-cost dental care. Tourists, commonly from the U.S., travel to other countries specifically to receive dental care or have dental procedures done. And it’s popular: more than 500,000 Americans participated in dental tourism, traveling outside of their home country to get dental care, in 2013.
In certain countries, dental care costs are considerably cheaper. There are a number of reasons why dental work is lower-priced. Certain countries may have lower labor and real estate costs, lower insurance costs, and other differences that allow dentists to charge lower prices.
When you participate in dental tourism, you have options. You can choose to find your own dentist and set up your procedures, care, and services. Or you can work with a tour company that provides a “travel agent” or advisor who will plan and organize it all for you.
Popular Destinations for Dental Tourism
Not all countries beyond U.S. borders offer lower-priced dental work. There are a number of places that have become popular dental tourism destinations, all thanks to their affordable costs and available dental care.
According to Patients Beyond Borders, the most popular destinations for dental tourism are:
- Costa Rica
- The Philippines
- The Czech Republic
In these destinations, Americans can find significant savings and receive good dental care, with a qualified dentist. It’s possible to save as much as 75 percent on dental procedures in places like Thailand, which is why these countries are such popular choices for dental tourism.
Things to Consider Before Doing Dental Work Internationally
Dental tourism seems easy enough – you just need to travel to another country to find dentists offering cheaper prices. However, there’s a lot you should consider before booking a flight.
It’s very important that you do your homework before trying out dental tourism. Having dental work done is a significant undertaking for your health. And just like any dental work you’d have done in the U.S., it’s a smart idea to vet the dentists and get an official diagnosis and price estimate first.
Before you start planning to have dental procedures done in another country, make sure to consider the following factors.
Look at the Costs
Price is one of the biggest factors in deciding where to have dental work done. And while dental tourism often equals lower prices, it doesn’t always. Make sure to look into pricing for the specific procedure you’re interested in.
Get estimates from dentists in different areas of the world to see how much you could save. Different procedures are priced differently, and the location does matter. For example, you can pay an average of $60 per filling in Mexico – or $18 in the Philippines. In Malaysia, the average price of single dental implants is $1,422, but in Turkey it’s just $858.
Savings can vary depending on where you travel. Patients Beyond Borders reports savings range from 20 percent to as much as 75 percent from country to country.
And don’t forget to budget for the cost of your travel. You’ll need to pay for flights and hotel rooms, and you may need to plan multiple trips to have all of your dental work completed.
Find a Reputable Dentist
Another important detail to consider is the dentist you’ll use when traveling. Not all dentists are qualified for every procedure. And it’s critical that you enlist a trustworthy, qualified dentist to handle your dental care and needs.
Make sure to take the time to research different dentists’ experience, education, and accreditations. You can search online to see if they have reviews from other patients, and you can vet their credentials online with organizations like the World Dental Federation or Patients Beyond Borders.
Connect Your New Dentist to Your U.S. Dentist
Though you’ll be working with a new dentist in another country, you’ll want to make sure your dental care and health are a priority. And that’s why it’s important to coordinate information between your U.S.-based dentist and new international dentist.
Make sure the dentist who’ll be handling your care abroad is in the know about your dental health. They should be able to request and receive information from your regular dentist, such as x-rays, diagnoses, treatment plans, and other care details. You want to have the two dentists communicate to ensure everyone is informed of what’s happening to your dental health.
Plan Post-Appointment Care
After you’ve had a major procedure done in another country, it’s important that you know how to care for your oral health. You should also know what next steps can be taken – or are needed – back in your hometown. Discuss a post-procedure plan with the dentist you’ll be using.
For example, if you’re having wisdom teeth extracted, who will handle follow ups? If you’re having dental implants, will you need to plan for multiple trips? Do you need any recovery or down time? You’ll want to build this into your travel plans.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to consider protecting your investment with insurance. Dental tourism does typically result in big financial savings. But if complications occur, it could leave you with expensive adjustments to make, like canceling flights and extending hotel stays.
Consider getting insurance to protect the investment you’re about to make. You can get travel insurance to protect your travel needs. And you can also look into coverage your health insurance offers for medical needs that happen abroad. It may help you save even more.