Americans Travel Miles for Smiles

dentist lightIf your dental health care coverage leaves something to be desired, or you have no dental insurance at all, it may be time to pack your bags and dust off your passport. Dental tourism is in full flower now, from Mexico to Hungary.

In Mexico, for example, large border towns are advertising heavily to reach the gringo audience that wants quality care at bargain prices. How cheap? Anecdotal evidence suggests that procedures in Mexico are one-fourth the U.S. price. Malpractice insurance is lower there, as are real estate costs, and wages, so the savings shows up in the prices for procedures. In the Southwest, it’s not unusual for Mexican dental clinics to advertise extensively. Dental services networks such as Dayo Dental have sprung up to meet the demand and help American citizens find the services they need.

Thailand, India, Turkey and Singapore are all vying for medical tourists, but Hungary has a reputation for high quality dental care. With Hungarian admajor dental universities turning out highly competent dentists and a much lower cost of living, many Americans find that a trip to Europe combined with a trip to the dentist makes economic sense. Companies such as London-based Hungarian Dental Travel routinely set up dental itineraries they say can save a patient 60 to 80%. One American patient would have needed $50,000 to complete all the work he needed done, if it were done in America. In Hungary, he got 24 crowns, seven implants, two root canals and two bridges for $15,900. Even adding $5,000 for the cost of airfare and hotels for himself and his wife, his total cost was half the American estimate.

Insurers have not exactly embraced medical tourism, but that may be changing. The combined pressure of baby boomers who need more medical care and the growing pool of uninsureds, insurers are coming to the realization that foreign medical services can help us cut down the $2 trillion spent asian dentist adon healthcare in this country.

Josef Woodman, author of Patients Beyond Borders: Everybody’s Guide to Affordable, World-Class Medical Tourism, may be the one of the best experts to read before you pack your bags. He believes overseas care can cut 60 to 80 percent off major surgeries.

What’s the downside to medical tourism? You need to do your homework and make sure that foreign dental clinics/doctors have the expertise and modern equipment that you would expect at home. The American Dental Association has not taken sides on this issue, but they urge caution and suggest you talk to your home dentist first and find out what legal recourse you have if there’s a problem.

You can also consult the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures which has a traveler’s guide to safe dental care in foreign countries.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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