With the global economy sputtering and consumers tightening up their wallets, many industries are fearing the worst. Not so, it appears, for Costa Rican dentists.
“Business has been growing the last five, six months,” says Dr. Luis Baez of Dentavac, in the hills of Santa Ana, southwest of San José. “People feel like they have to save, be costconscious. I think that’s what we’ll be seeing this year and the following year as well.”
With health care costs skyrocketing elsewhere in the world, dentists in Costa Rica can offer high-quality care at a fraction of the price. In many cases, the cost of a procedure plus airfare and travel accommodations is still less than the cost of the procedure alone in the United States, making Costa Rica a prime destination for patients in need of a root canal and a suntan.
“They’re still able to save,” says Dr. Carlos Suárez, who specializes in aesthetic treatments in the northeastern San José suburb of Moravia.
The cost for cosmetic procedures in the United States dwarfs the price in Costa Rica. Veneers, for example, start at about $300 in Costa Rica but can range anywhere from $800 to $2,000 in the United States. Implants, which start at about $700 here, can cost as much as $2,000 elsewhere. And crowns, which range between $200 and $500 each in Costa Rica, can cost $500 to $1,000 in the United States.
The same goes for noncosmetic dental procedures. Root canals, which start at $200 to $250 each in Costa Rica, can cost up to four times that in Canada. And fillings, ranging from $50 to $70 in Costa Rica, start at $130 to $150 in the United States.
Along with the lower costs, another big draw is the access patients have to their dentists here.
“They really appreciate (the accessibility),” Baez says. “That’s what we do here.”
Many dentists here are prepared to accommodate travelers’ needs and schedules, understanding that a delay can lead to expensive airfare changes and more nights in a hotel. They also have to be ready to adapt, as a diagnosis may change once they are able to consult the patient in person.
“Sometimes they ask for something else (once they arrive), or sometimes they can’t send X-rays and have to be diagnosed here,” Suárez says. “We have to be ready to do treatments. If you have international patients, you have to work fast. They can’t stay too long, otherwise they don’t save.”
Along with advances in Costa Rica’s education system and growing access to premier schools overseas, technology has helped account for the high quality of dental care in Costa Rica. X-rays, CT scans and other images can be sent via e-mail, allowing dentists to consult with their patients and diagnose problems from thousands of miles away.
“You can see what’s going on and more or less know how to proceed,” Baez says. “Everything can be sent via e-mail. Everything is easier with the Internet.”
Though the lure of luxurious beaches and jungle adventures may help tip the scales in drawing patients to the country, the quality of Costa Rica’s dental care speaks for itself, says Dr. Telma Rubinstein of Prisma Dental, in the western San José neighborhood of Rohrmoser.
“I assure you that it’s not only medical tourism,” Rubinstein says. “Many people come and just do dental work.”
Rubinstein, who has been practicing for 25 years and has seen patients come from as far as Dubai for dental work, says Costa Rica’s care is more than just on par with the rest of the world.
“Let me tell you, sometimes it’s better,” she says.
Find a Dentist
Advanced Dentistry Costa Rica, Dr. Eloy Mora, Curridabat, 2234-6707, www.advancedentistrycr.com
Clínica Dental Dras. Acebal, Dr. Mercedes Acebal, Escazú, 2201-7080, www.drasacebal.com
Colina Dental, Dr. Luis Guillermo Obando, Escazú, 2228-0141, www.colinadental.com
Cosmetic Dental Care, Dr. Adriana Seas, Sabana
Sur and Santa Ana, 2582-2100, www.cosmeticdentalcare.com
Dentavac, Dr. Luis Baez and Dr. Arturo Acosta, Santa Ana, 2288-5959, www.dentavac.com
Prisma Dental, Dr. Telma Rubinstein and Dr. Joseph Cordero, Rohrmoser, 2291-5151, www.prismadental.com
Suárez Smile Makeover, Dr. Carlos Suárez, Moravia, 2241-5652, 2240-9733, www.suarezsmilemakeover.com