According to the latest studies, in 2007, 750.000 Americans travel abroad for medical care, and is estimated that this number will multiply up to 6.000.000 medical travelers in 2010.

Among the factors that create this phenomenon are: soaring cost in health care, high deductible insurance plans, and lack of insurance.

The decision of traveling abroad should be well informed and educated, that is the reason of this article, I will try to shed some light on the basic information that you need to ask and research in order to have a pleasant and productive experience.

Learn Locally, Act Globally – Research your treatment

Is always advisable, to create a link with a local dentist, that way you an evaluation of what is your current dental condition, ask for a full set of X-Rays and a Treatment Plan. With treatment options in your hands is easier for your to make educated comparisons between what is offer you at home and what is offer in other countries. A Prosthodontist is a great option for treatment coordination since he is a Dentist that trained for 3-4 extra years to specialized in restoring the mouth. Be certain to compare the dentists based on curriculums and education. In my particular case, I like to have as much information, so I often get in touch with dentists based in the area that way we can have a Post opt plan when the patient returns home and we can have a solid information of how everything is developing.

Know your Doctor

You can find a lot of information on the internet this days, but some of them is useful, and some of them bogus, when you find a dentist on line you can check how his facilities and practice looks, but a good way to find out who your doctor is by their credentials. Check unbiased sources for example I am a member of the American College of Prosthodontist and the American Dental Association so I tell patients to look for me in those websites. Is also useful for them to read testimonials, but those can be also bias.

There is a Whole World Out There

Where to do your treatment? That is a hard question to answer. Some of the factors to have in consideration are: which is the procedure that is needed, for examples when we are talking of 4-5 crowns on natural teeth we are requiring the patient to travel one single time for a period of 12 days, so we can have a predictable result. When we are talking about implants in 80% of the cases we need 2 separated visits. One for the placement of the implant and the provisional restoration followed by a period of 4-5 months for the implant to heal and integrate with the bone, and a second visit for the final restoration. Another factor to have in consideration is the facilities, and credentials of your treating Dentist. Political and economical stability of the country is important, Costa Rica is well known for having a great relationship with the United States, is the only country in Latin-American without an army, It has been very stable both politically and economical for the last 60 years, is very American friendly, and is a short and cheap flight from any part of the U.S Territory.

Sharing is caring

Once you decided what treatment you are going to have, which doctor is going to do it, and where is going to be performed, share as much of you personal, financial and health history as possible. It s important to send Panoramic Radiographs, Dental X-Rays, digital pictures of yourself, Health questionnaires, and any other information that you might think is relevant for a success. If you have allergies, or systemic diseases such as High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, etc, Be sure to let your dentist know about it so he can be prepared and take the correct measures to your specific needs.

Get your Facts right:Before you are ready to leave, I recommend to have an itemized list with all the information regarding your dental treatment in order, and this have to include:

  • Scheduling list: this should be itemized as well and indicated, how many appointments are required, what treatment is going to be done in each appointment, and how many visits are going to be needed for the final treatment to be done.
  • Fee list: This should include as well final fees, fees and visits, can vary because up to this point you have only seem each other electronically, when this first physical contact happens, your dentist might find some other issues that he might address in order to have the result you are looking for. That is the reason why the give you an estimate. Collecting wise is customary to collect 50% of the treatment in the first consultation, and the rest during the following appointments.
  • Amount of trips: As I mention earlier in some treatments, you need 2 or more visits to have your treatment done, so have that clear before boarding that plane.
  • Warranties: Ask for warranties on the work, the majority of the dentists that are comfortable and confident with their treatments their provide some warranties as long as you follow their outlines and instructions.

Protect your investment

Once you have cleared the air make sure that you have a follow up plan, with my patients I help them find a local dentist which whom I stay in touch so I know that my patient investment is secure. As a patient you have to follow all the instructions provided that way you don’t run into complications.

In god we trust, but we also demand

As a routine, ask for your doctor’s notes in your native language, as well as pictures and x-rays. In most of the countries you are entitled to a copy not the original file, and it can only be handed to you, a third person can be allowed to have your chart only with your written permission.

Be Smart and Inquisitive

The best advise is to find out every single thing and if there is something that does not make sense to you is because it does not makes sense at all. Important things is to compare curriculums, where your Dentist did his training and for how long, if you have any question contact his school they can give you information. Financial wise, the fees in Costa Rica, are almost 50% of those in the U.S. so if you find something below that, be skeptical about it, and ask more questions.

Hopefully I was able provide you with a few key items with this article and help you in an educated decision towards your dental treatments abroad.

Dr. Eugenio J. Brenes D.D.S is a Certified Prosthodontist by Loma Linda University, CA, U.SA, he is a member of the American College of Prosthodontist, the American Dental Association, and has his private practice in San Jose, Costa Rica. For further information contact us here


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