Medical tourism has become more than just a buzz word. It’s a fully-fledged industry that allows citizens from the United States and Canada to receive medical care at a cost-saving in a foreign nation. And under the medical tourism umbrella is dental tourism.
Dental tourism is becoming as popular, more so in some aspects, than other forms of medical tourism and one of the nations where dental tourism has become increasingly popular is Costa Rica. Surging numbers of U.S. citizens are flying abroad for dental procedures , especially dental implants. This isn’t by accident. Costa Rica has developed its dental tourism industry by concentrating on providing excellent dental care at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
Rising dental costs in the U.S.
In the United States, dental costs fly under the radar. Americans don’t think about their teeth in the same way that they do about the rest of their bodies. While the U.S. media concentrates on medical costs, and whether or not Medicare for All is a good idea, dental costs in the nation with the world’s biggest economy continue to rise.
A visit to a clinic without dental insurance can cost US$50 to US$350. If a patient needs x-rays, the cost can be anywhere from US$20 to US$250. A dental bridge? US$1,000 to US$3,500. The cheapest dental implant, a titanium post inserted into strong jawbone, starts at US$1,000 to US$3,000.
The cost for pretty much any dental procedure in the U.S. rises dramatically, seemingly year-to-year . And to make matters worse for Americans, dental insurance doesn’t always help.
An article from the New Republic in 2017 claimed that 114 million people in the U.S., many of them children, lack dental coverage and those that do have cover will likely find it lacking. Dental insurance often only covers basic services like cleaning and x-rays, for example. Compared to medical insurance where, once a patient reaches their deductible, the insurance company pays the rest, most dental insurance in the US pays up to a capped amount. Once this happens, patients are on their own.
Costa Rica: the “Go To” place for expensive dental procedures
Because of cost, it’s no wonder United States citizens are traveling in increasing numbers for dental care. Market research company, Adroit Research, claims the overall global dental tourism market should grow by 12% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) and reach US$5.83 billion by 2025 .
As dental costs rise and American dental insurance doesn’t keep up, U.S. patients with available funds are likely look to nearby nations such as Mexico and Costa Rica for their high-cost dental procedures.
Between Mexico and Costa Rica, it appears that Costa Rica is quickly becoming the preferred destination for U.S. citizens in need of dental procedures. Why? Because Costa Rica has stringent rules regarding their dental industry.
At least five years of college education is required for a Costa Rican to become a dentist. Many dentists also study abroad. Due to the strict requirements it takes to become a dentist in Costa Rica, it can be argued that most are as qualified, or more qualified, than dentists in the United States.
The Costa Rican Government requires that all dentists register with the Colegio de Cirujanos Dentistas (National College of Dental Surgeons). The requirement guarantees that the dentist has an active license. Registration also shows the dentists’ specific specialty.
In addition to certifying dentists, dental clinic certification also exists in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Health Chamber (ProMed) provides dental clinic certification. Clinics with the ProMed seal are certified to comply with both Costa Rican and international standards.
Costa Rican dentists, dental clinics, and the government have taken great steps to break down barriers that might prevent U.S. citizens from travelling to use the nation’s dental tourism industry. Combined with being seen as one of the top travel destinations in the world , Costa Rica is becoming the preferred destination for U.S. dental patients.
End-to-end dental tourism facilitation in Costa Rica
Another reason for the rise of dental tourism in Costa Rica is that several Costa Rican medical travel companies are providing an end-to-end service. Costa Rican dental tourism companies are providing information on expensive dental procedures, such as the popular dental implants procedure, and dental tourism itself. Some companies help patients find places to stay and will book tourism activities for patients, while waiting or recovering from their dental procedures.
Perhaps the most important aspect of dental tourism companies in Costa Rica is their ability to match patients with specific dentists, which helps take the guesswork out of finding a reputable dentist in the country.
In conclusion, U.S. citizens in need of expensive dental care who have funds but either lack adequate dental insurance or have no dental insurance at all, may turn their eyes towards dental tourism. In increasing numbers, we are seeing those eyes turn to Costa Rica as the go-to destination for invasive, cost-prohibitive, dental procedures.[This article was reprinted from IMTJ: 11/20/19]