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Dental Tourism - Cost Analysis

People ask me whether I trust the dental work here. The short answer is "YES" and I'm not alone. Many of the nice people we met at our hotel came here for dental work with at least three local dentists, and everyone was a pleased customer. I like Dr. Kriebel, of course, since he is the one who worked on my teeth (and I won't hold it against him that he is an Ohio Buckeye).

That leaves the question, was it worth the time and trouble? There are two parts to that analysis. The first part is the cost estimate in the USA.

Here's what one dentist gave us.

Darling: 4 crowns @ $1624 apiece* with 4 visits: $6616 USD
Me: 1 crown @ $3131 and 9 surface fillings @ $348 apiece and 3 surface fillings @ $306 as well as gingivectomy for $393 in five visits: $7574 USD

You can see the total was $14,190 and our doctor near home was willing to take cash, credit or a payment plan - right then.

We walked away and I started checking on dental tourism.

Quality has to be an issue. We want well-trained dentists with impeccable credentials. We could, of course, choose a number of countries to do our dentistry, but Latin American countries are close to Texas and many have exemplary dental and medical care. (No, Virginia, the USA is not the best country in the world for health care, though it was once.)

For us, the choice of country was not an issue. I'm not a fan of Mexico (though we spoke with people here who had great service there). I don't like Panama (that's a story we'll get to in the future). I didn't want to fly all the way to Ecuador, though we loved the people (Hi Monica and David!). For us, that left Costa Rica, where we also love the people and had a wonderful time two years ago (another future story).

The country chosen, now we had to look at the city. There are a half-dozen cities in Costa Rica that have excellent dentists and I looked at them all. I finally decided to go with San Jose, since we could fly in and fly out easily.

This did not help to limit my choices. There are dozens of dentists in San Jose who do great work. I contacted eight of them, received replies from six of them and then read the reviews of those six on the internet.

After reading dozens, if not hundreds of reviews, I decided on Dr. Kriebel and Vivianne helped me with the arrangements. That's her job and she's good at it.

To make the final estimate more fair, I'll use average numbers for the costs. I called a number of dentists in our home area, and I have the estimates for a few dentists in San Jose.

I'll ignore our home dentist bizarre double charge for my crown. I'll smooth out the numbers a bit and I get a total as follows:

Darling: 4 crowns @ $1450 apiece* with 4 visits: $5800 USD
Me: 1 crown @ $1450 and 12 surface fillings @ $315 apiece plus gingivectomy for $350: $5580 USD
Average total: $11,380 USD

Let's use this as a baseline, with average Costa Rica prices from my dentist list:
Darling: 4 crowns @ $750 apiece: $3000 USD
Me: 1 crown @ $750, 12 fillings @ $110 apiece: $2070 (I never received a price of the gingivectomy since they had to see it to give me an estimate)
Two complete sets of x-rays @ $120 apiece: $240
Average total: $5310

The difference in cost is a whopping $6070 USD.

Toss in $1200 for round trip tickets from Houston and another (rather pricey) $1000 for ten days in Costa Rica and we still have $3870 to spend on food and travel/tourism.

We didn't spend nearly that much. We spent about $250 visiting La Paz and perhaps $500 on food (food in San Jose is not cheap if we eat out all the time, though that was not our original plan).

We came out more than three thousand dollars ahead by coming to Costa Rica.

But wait! There's more!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Dr. Kriebel determined from his x-rays that we needed much less work than was originally planned. Darling ended up with two crown, and I had no crowns and eleven fillings. Our total was around $3000 USD. So because of Dr. Kriebel's diligence, we saved an extra $2000 over our original estimate.

We could have spent less on accommodations had we wished, and cut a few other corners as well, but all considered I think we did quite well.

The dental work was the best I ever received in over half a century. Think about that.

Would it be worth it to you to come to Costa Rica for dental? I don't know. A nice rule of thumb right now might be to get your estimate and calculate half the cost. If that half would cover your flights and a place to stay and some estimate for food, you might come out ahead.

You'll have to do your own due diligence.

I am very glad we came to San Jose for dental work. My teeth are good now, but should I ever need more dental work, I'm coming back.

Thanks for reading.

PostScript
Darling's analysis is much more conservative (and as anyone will tell you, it's the assumptions that determine the analysis).

Had we found a dentist in our hometown to do the same needs-only work that Dr. Kriebel identified, we saved about half the cost, or $3000. Remove the $1000 for our hotel, and the $1000 for the plane tickets, we come out about $1000 ahead, but that's before the food and tourism. So it is really close to a break-even for coming to Costa Rica for dental work.

You have the assumptions and the analyses. Now you'll need to make your own decisions.


*When I do the cost for the crown, I include a "core buildup" which they list separately, but sure seems to go together.

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