If you need a lot of dental work done, the costs can be prohibitive. For example, according to Wikipedia, the average cost for a root canal in the US ranges from $699 to $1300. One root canal and crown is enough to exhaust the annual benefit limit of many dental policies, so what happens if you need more than one?
One possible solution involves getting a passport and flying to somewhere where dental care is less expensive. This is called dental tourism. While the thought of getting dental care overseas may be intimidating, summoning visions of scary-looking old-timey dental instruments, in reality most of the “dental tourism” hot spots have well-trained staff and facilities that are quite modern and cater to English-speaking tourists.
The most common dental tourism countries for Americans are Mexico and certain countries in Central and South America, particularly Costa Rica and Brazil. Thailand and Hungary are also known for providing quality dental care at a reasonable cost, though of course you may pay more for flights because they are farther away.
Is getting a passport and catching a plane the best way to take care of your dental needs? Well, it depends on your individual situation. While drooling in a dentist’s chair may not be your favorite way to spend a vacation, if you need a lot of work done you can save enough money to take a vacation, see someplace new and still come out way ahead. For example, the Dentavac clinic in Costa Rica quotes an average price for a root canal of $125 – $250.
However, there are concerns. For example, USA Today quotes American Dental Association consumer adviser Matt Messina:
“My concerns are not for the quality of dentistry received … but for the patient when it comes to long-term follow-up and possible complications. The term ‘buyer beware’ is very much in play here, as you may have fewer options after treatment if you feel it has not gone well.”
If you decide to go to another country for dental treatment, make sure that the dentist you choose is reputable. Check their accreditation and seek out reviews from former patients. I would recommend actually trying to contact some of those patients by phone as well-forums and review sites can be a great place to start, but you need to know that the person who just gave the dentist you plan to see a glowing review is actually a person, not a spammer.
If you decide that dental tourism is right for you, you should begin the process of getting a passport as soon as possible. It usually takes about 6 weeks for your passport to arrive if you apply for regular service. If you apply for the government’s expedited service, expect to wait at least three weeks.
Obviously, if you’re having a dental emergency, you should seek care immediately here in the States. But, if you need to get a passport in a hurry, a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.com can help.
An expediting company can deliver your application directly to the Department of State. cutting processing times to as little as 24 hours.