Dental Tourism: Why So Many People Travel Abroad for Cheap Dentists

How much can you save on dental tourism, and how good is foreign dental care?

Women dentist and pretty patient
Saving money with dental tourism is something to smile about. ©Westend61/Getty Images 

Dental Tourism: Why So Many Americans Travel for Cheaper Dental Care

American healthcare is changing. But for now, many people are traveling for lower healthcare costs. Medical tourism has become a phenomenon.Medical tourists include not only Americans whose healthcare costs are out of control, but Canadians, Brits, and other nationals dissatisfied with the pace of their socialized medicine. (See why Americans and others travel for healthcare, and what they expect from medical tourism.)

Dental care is one of the many medical specialties that Americans seek abroad. (Other popular medical tourism specialties include cosmetic surgery, cardiac and optical surgery, joint replacement, fertility treatments, and vision-correction procedures.)

What Are the Cost Savings of Foreign Dental Care?

Americans travel the globe to get quality dental care for a huge discount on the price they would pay in the US: 40% to even 80% less.

What Kinds of Procedures Do Dental Tourists Travel For?

Dental tourists  commonly cross borders for expensive dental procedures and oral surgeries like these, which are often not covered even for Americans who have dental insurance:
• Root canals and implants
• Restorations like crowns and veneers
• Dental prostheses like dentures and bridges
Routine care such as fillings, cleanings, and root scaling (deep-cleaning)
• Laser teeth whitening
• (One form of dentistry not suitable for dental tourism: orthodontia, because it's long-term(

Let’s Get This Out of the Way: How Good Is Foreign Dental Care?

Short answer: it’s just as good. Long answer: The United States is not the only country with an illustrious tradition of dental education, innovation, and care. The quality of dental care (and technology) is a source of pride in many other countries, particularly in Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America.

Can You Do Dental Tourism in Any Vacation Places?

Yes. Thailand’s exciting capital, Bangkok, is a hotbed of medical and dental tourism, with a stratospheric level of medical expertise and care. Thailand's beach island of Phuket is also a center of dental tourism. Costa Rica, an ecotourism magnet, is another center of dental tourism. Dubai has its share of dental tourism clinics as well. And other vacation destinations offer dental tourism, too.

Are Any of these Foreign Dental Tourism Destinations Close to the U.S. Border?

Yes. Mexican border towns are now chockablock with dental clinics that cater to American day-trippers. Just across the border from Yuma, Arizona, Los Algodones, Mexico is a dental tourism star. It’s also filled with discount medical and optical practices and pharmacies. You can park in Arizona and walk through passport gates.

Is Foreign Dental Care Provided by a Private Dentist or by a Clinic?

High-tech dental clinics are almost always the setting of dental tourism care. They usually offer various dental specialties such as cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, and more

There's plenty of quality control. Foreign dentists and clinics that seek American patients are under a lot of scrutiny and are extremely concerned about their reputations. Web services such as WhatClinic.com furnish extensive patient reviews of foreign dentists. Additionally, PatientsBeyondBorders.com, a leading proponent of medical and dental tourism, also functions as an industry watchdog. It lists and recommends only providers who have passed a multi-point professional vetting process including US certification in the specialty.

Does Dental Work Done in a Foreign Country Look Different?

No. Dental tourism companies are keen on results and work only with dental clinics who provide modern, high-quality procedures. Patients should not fear getting old-fashioned, visible dental work like silver bridges and "chiclet" veneers.

Is Dental Tourism Work Guaranteed?

Having your dentist thousands of miles away is one argument against dental tourism. But clinics used by dental tourism agencies (more about them below) typically guarantee their work from between one and five years. Dental tourism services also offer insurance to their clients

Will Your U.S. Dental Insurance Cover Foreign Dental Work?

If you have dental insurance, it may have some in-network providers out of the country. Of course, you’d need to check.

Are There Services that “Package” Trips for Foreign Dental Services?

Medical and dental tourism have birthed tourism services that package the experience. Almost like an all-inclusive hotel, these medical and dental tourism agencies arrange everything involved: the dental care (examinations, x-rays, surgery, lab work, etc.) the hotel, the flights, transfers, and so on. It costs nothing to use these services; al you pay for is the dental work and your associated travel

Case Study of a Dental Tourism Agency: Dental Departures

Here's a description of one dental tourism company, Dental Departures, as an example. Disclaimer: this article is not meant to promote or advertise Dental Departures, but to show what a U.S.-based dental tourism service is and does.

Dental Departures is a market leader in its field that has facilitated foreign dental care for tens of thousands of patients since its founding in 2010. Its stated mission is “affordable dental care for everyone on the planet.” Dental Departures clients are primarily from the US. They are also from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, and other industrialized countries.

Dental Departures’ clients tend to go to a relatively nearby country for their go for their care.
Americans and Canadians generally visit Mexico and Costa Rica. Australians and New Zealander go to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore. British, French, and Germans choose Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Turkey.

How Does Dental Departures Certify Its Foreign Dentists and Facilities?

Dental Departures conducts a four-part verification of its dental clinic partners: a site visit, on-site quality survey, online reputation, dental license verification this (varies by country; each dentist is licensed by its local/regional/national dental regulatory body).

What Are Dental Departures' Hotel Packages Like?

Clients can book exclusive hotel deals for their dental tourism trips to Mexico and Thailand. The hotels are near the dental clinics. You can book directly from the clinic's site, and room rates are 15-30% off published rates. Dental Departures employees assist with patients' flight arrangements as well, helping clients find the best fares.

Currently, Dental Departures does not work with luxury hotels. But clients can work with the company to book luxury hotels in sophisticated destinations like Bangkok and Zagreb, Croatia.

How Do Costs Compare Between the U.S. and Dental Departures' Foreign Dentists?

Root canal + implant + crown, per tooth
US: $5,000+ / Dental Departures, $1,000-$3,000

Veneers/Laminates per tooth:
US: $1,100+ / Dental Departures, $250-$500

Tooth whitening in-office
US: $400-$800 / Dental Departures, $200-$400

Find Out More About:

• Dental tourism pros and cons
Patients Beyond Borders (foreign medical provider ratings)
• 
Dental Departures and its answers to many of your questions