Despite mounds of clinical research proving that dental implants are far superior to dentures as a tooth replacement option, most dental insurances still don’t cover the cost of dental implants, labeling the procedure as “cosmetic.” With Covid-19 restrictions lifting or at least decreasing in many other countries, we’re guessing some individuals may be tempted to fly abroad to obtain what first appears to be cheaper dental implants. Covid-19 concerns notwithstanding, is vacation dentistry (also known as dental tourism) ever a good idea?
“The lower price was incredible,” said one New Jersey lawyer who prefers to remain anonymous, about the bargain-rate dental implant quote he obtained from a Costa Rica dentist in 2017. The lawyer had been planning a trip to Costa Rica anyway, so it seemed prudent to have much-needed dental implants placed while there.
He would soon live to regret his decision. When the lawyer arrived at the address provided for a 9 a.m. appointment, he found himself in a crowded room with about 30 other patients also waiting to be seen.
“I soon realized this was pretty much a factory,” he says. He discovered that the other patients had been given the same 9 a.m. appointment time. In addition, he commented, “There was no attempt to explain the process or even talk to me.”
Within two years, all his implants (both upper and lower arches) had failed. The patient was devastated. According to the U.S. periodontist who ultimately had to restore the patient’s implants, the implants had been too small, too close together, and there hadn’t been sufficient bone to support them.
Questions to ask yourself and the offshore dental implant surgeon if you are considering dental tourism:
There’s no doubt that dental implants are the best long-term option to replace lost or failing teeth. If price is your main obstacle, consider that many practices are happy to work with you if you can’t afford to pay for the process upfront. Many practices offer phased treatment over a more gradual period if possible, as well as no or low-interest payment plans you can make over time with healthcare financing companies like CareCredit® and Lending Club Patient Solutions.
Doing nothing about failing or missing teeth has its own pitfalls. But we urge patients to proceed with caution before making a rash decision that can dramatically affect their appearance and overall health. In the end, the allure of a “vacation” and less expensive dental costs may not be enough to make up for the real price you pay for procedures gone wrong.
Dr. Eric Schoenebeck is a board-certified periodontist who provides dental implant surgery and regenerative periodontal treatments at the Pennsylvania Center for Dental Implants and Periodontics. The practice has two locations, in NE Philadelphia and Ambler, Pennsylvania.