Travel to Costa Rica for Low-Cost Dental Care

Travel to Costa Rica for Low-Cost Dental Care

It was the most spectacular view I have ever seen. One entire wall of the room opened onto a direct view of the Arenal volcano, framed by the lushest vegetation imaginable. I gasped in delight when I saw the hot tub on the terrace, and I’d never seen anything like my shower: a rock wall with plants in the crevices and water pouring out from a basin at the top. And this was just my hotel room!

My recent trip to Costa Rica was an amazing experience. And to think it only happened because I needed expensive dental work, and that traveling to Costa Rica for it actually paid for most of my vacation.

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Let me explain… In recent years, dental costs have risen faster than inflation. And since only 55% of U.S. residents have dental insurance, that means half of us are paying cash out-of-pocket for dental work. Even if you have insurance, you are probably paying 50% of your costs when you factor in deductibles and co-pays. Make that 100% if you go over the usual annual allowance of $1,200.

So if you need a significant amount of dental work done, the answer could be treatment out of the country, where costs run about 30% to 50% of U.S. prices.

In my case, I lost my dental insurance along with my job in the recent recession, and I needed over $2,000 in dental work. Solution: I went online to check out my overseas options.

What I found was amazing. Dental care in countries like Mexico, India, or Costa Rica is a fraction of the U.S. cost. And no, you won’t be taken to a jungle hut to be treated by a medicine man. The care is modern and often exceeds standards in the U.S.

Since I live in the Midwest, in Ohio, I decided on Costa Rica, as it’s only one time zone over from me. And being just a few hours south of Florida, it’s easy to get there. I sent inquiries to several medical tourism businesses and researched all the doctors and accommodation they offered. Then it was decision time. I could either go to my home-town dentist, just 10 minutes from my house, and spend $2,100 in a few hours—or I could get the same work done in Costa Rica and have a 10-day vacation for about $2,600…just $500 more…with  everything arranged for me. The way I looked at it, it added up to travel money I didn’t know I had!

I went with a medical tourism firm, which turned out to be an excellent choice. From the time I landed at the airport in the capital, San José, until I left from that same airport 10 days later, everything was taken care of perfectly. The staff not only made my dental appointments and got me there and back, but they planned my vacation in between.

When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was taken to the dentist, where the receptionist greeted me by name and spent a few minutes verifying my personal information. Five minutes later I was with the dentist, who spoke flawless English.

He confirmed the work I needed, and I was given an appointment for the next day. The crown that was going to cost me almost $1,200 at home was just $400. With several additional fillings and cleaning, my cost was $730 in full. Just over 35% of the total price at my dentist back in Ohio. Plus, the facilities were spotless and the X-ray technology was more modern than what I’ve seen in the States.

With the dental work done, I got to travel while the new crown was made. My first stop was Arenal, about three hours from San José. When the bus got to my hotel, everyone aboard gasped at the beauty of the location. It was the most exotic place I’ve ever visited. It’s an experience of a lifetime to lounge at the foot of a volcano, bathe in thermal waters, and enjoy all the flora and fauna of the native rainforest.

The hummingbirds were so plentiful that they sounded as though they were powered by little jet engines. Two days later I boarded the bus again for the beach at Tamarindo, just a few hours away. I felt sad leaving the stunning volcano region, but when I arrived on the coast I was so inspired by the ocean views that I booked my first-ever snorkeling excursion. And what an amazing experience it was…swimming in calm waters where natural volcanic formations rise from the ocean floor and angel fish, milk fish, little barber fish, and blue eels swim. I never dreamed of such an adventure!

Again, I was sad to leave paradise, but soon it was time to finish the dental work. Back in San José I discovered I wasn’t the only one exploring Costa Rica on my dental savings. I met a U.S. couple from New Hampshire. The husband, Maurice, was getting a complete mouth restoration, including bone grafts. What would have cost him $55,000 and taken two years in the U.S. was being done in Costa Rica for about $24,000, including all travel costs for him and his wife for two month-long trips. Now I’m home in the U.S. And while I’m not hoping I need another dental procedure anytime soon, at least now I know it can come cheap and with a super vacation!

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