On our first afternoon in San Jose, Costa Rica, we walked to the Mercado Central (Central Market), ordered a fresh shrimp and avocado salad, and smiled at our good fortune.
As longtime IL subscribers, we knew there were places where we could not only save a lot of money on health care, but have a great vacation, too. We had traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America, but had missed out on Costa Rica. We decided this would be our opportunity to explore the country as well as take care of my husband Alan’s dental needs.
He has had serious dental issues for many years. Visiting a U.S. dentist, Alan got a quote of $22,500. The necessary work included 14 crowns, two root canals, and laser whitening.
Of course, going outside the U.S. for dental work was still a little scary for us. Discussing our plans with friends reinforced our fears. “Why on earth would you want to go to Costa Rica for dental work? How can you trust the skills of the dentist there?”
But after doing the research we were determined. We read about the doctors, their training and experience. Once we picked a dental clinic, we reviewed past patient comments that raved about the quality of the work.
Alan speaks some Spanish, but it was important that most of the personnel in the clinic spoke English. They talked with Alan on the phone and the treatment plan from the U.S. dentist was emailed for them to review.
The explanations of the work involved, and her additional suggestions, gave us confidence. And the quote of $11,600 made the decision to move forward even easier.
We knew we would have a seven-day break between the initial phase and the completion of the job while the bridges and crowns were being produced.
For the entire trip, our extra expenses totaled $2,300; this amount included our airfare, food, hotel stays, and rental car for 10 days. So for a total of $13,900, we had a fabulous Costa Rican vacation and my husband got a new smile. And we saved $8,600.
Alan’s first appointment started off with panoramic x-rays, a discussion of the work to be completed and a timetable for procedures. He spent the second day in the dental chair. But thankfully the onsite lab had produced temporary dentures.
The second day the impressions for the crowns and bridges were created. This exacting process took a full day. Now done with phase one, we were ready to leave town. We had arranged to have our rental car delivered to the hotel the next day.
With guidelines from the rental agent, we headed for the Monteverde Cloud Forest. With our guide, Rodrigo, we learned about the flora and fauna of the area. We were treated to sightings of both male and female quetzals, a spectacular bird to spot.
Our next stop, the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of the largest Blue-Zone areas in the world (regions where people commonly live extremely long, active lives). Many of the locals live into their 90s and 100s. Their strong sense of community, mineral-rich waters, organic foods, and daily physical work (inherent in the lifestyle) all contribute to the longevity. We were there, though, to hang out on the beach, snorkel in the clear waters, and watch the surfers catch the waves.
Returning to San José, we made it back in town just in time for Alan’s afternoon appointment. The permanent crowns and bridges were put in place. In conjunction with this, they completed laser whitening on his bottom teeth so they would match his new upper teeth.
The following morning, Alan returned for a brief appointment. The dentist, Dr Cordero, checked to make sure everything was perfect and gave him a mouth guard (to protect the crowns).
Leaving the country right after the procedure is not recommended, so hanging out on the Caribbean coast seemed like a perfect way to spend the time. Driving through the rain forest, rustic villages, and banana and pineapple farms, we headed to Playa Negra. Nestled between the black sand beach and the jungle, our eco lodge provided a perfect ending to our trip.
Editor’s note: See the upcoming August issue of IL magazine for the full version of this story, including a price break-down and contact details. Subscribe to the IL magazine now in time to get on the August distribution list.