Dental care is one of the driving specialties for medical travel. It is estimated that 50% of all medical travel to Costa Rica, for example, is for dentistry and orthodontics. In fact, statistics indicate the 500,000 American traveled out of the country for dental care in 2013. Reasons for seeking dental care in places such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Malaysia include lower costs (30% to 70% savings compared to U.S. prices), high quality treatment (many dentists are trained in the U.S.), and professional services. Dental care also has fewer risks of complications and a quicker recovery period than other medical specialties and procedures such as plastic surgery or bariatric surgery. In addition most procedures are done on an outpatient basis, meaning the patient leaves the same day at the treatment.
Here are some of the most common outpatient treatments popular for dental travel.
If a single tooth needs to be replaced from injury or decay, it can be done with dental implants. The procedure involves inserting a prosthetic tooth into the jaw bone holding the other teeth. The implant is a titanium screw and the tooth or crown is made of porcelain.
The purpose of a dental crown is to completely cover a damaged tooth. The cap is placed over the tooth and cemented to it permanently. The crown can be adjusted to have the same color as the other teeth of the patient. Crowns can also be applied where there is not enough enamel or tooth to fill the gap between the other teeth, or to prevent loss of a tooth due to a weakened condition.
A dental bridge is used to fill the gap of a missing tooth. In this procedure three crowns are connected together. The two end crowns a cemented to the existing teeth (called abutments) and the middle crown (called a pontic) is used to fill the gap of the missing tooth. The abutment teeth are covered with a crown over each one to support the middle pontic. It is important to fill gaps from missing teeth because the existing teeth will shift into the gap area causing chewing disorders and possible jaw pain.
Few people will travel overseas just for teeth whitening. However, this treatment can be combined with other treatments such as those listed above, during an dental exam, and for other related dental procedures. Some may choose to do teeth whitening simply while they are on vacation in an area that has qualified doctors. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure done to remove stains on the teeth or other discoloration or to generally lighten pigmentation on the teeth. This procedure is usually fast and convenient for those combining dental care with leisure.
Costa Rica has become a popular dental travel hub due to its proximity to the U.S. (3 hour flight from Houston), high quality, and lower costs. Be sure to research the dental clinic and doctors before commencing with treatments and involve your local dentist as much as possible. In Southeast Asia, Thailand and Malaysia have also become centers of dental tourism, either at private clinics or at clinics within accredited hospitals.