A few years ago at my wife urged me to start regular dentist visits to ensure the longevity of my teeth. I was really bad about seeing a dentist in the past – only when major issues popped up. I visited a local dentist who accepted insurance from my company’s insurance plan. It was more like a consultation. The dental hygienist “cleaned” my teeth and sent the dentist in to talk to me. The dentist reviewed my teeth and said I needed a follow-up visit for a “deep cleaning” and a filling due to the start of a cavity. His scheduled was filled up. I was told to reschedule for a day he did “deep cleanings” and fillings.
Flat Tire Dentist
I went to the front desk to pay the co-pay of $30 and get the next appointment. I was told the “deep cleaning” was not included in my insurance and it would have to come out of my pocket. I was a little confused; my insurance covered cleanings. I inquired about the charge for the cleaning. This was really something of a new experience for me at a dentist. The desk clerk told me a deep cleaning is below the gum line and was not covered under insurance. Another surprise to me was that each quarter of the mouth was a separate entity by itself and billed separately at $550 each quarter. The filling on a cavity that wasn’t there yet was to cost me about $120 but, I was in luck because 50% of that was covered by my insurance.
After this news I didn’t even know how to respond; I told them I’d get back to them. I tried to make sense of this so I came up with an analogy for myself: Apparently cleaning teeth is not like filling a tire with air. Normally when going to the air machine you put your quarters in, it fills all your tires with air. The this dental air machine only covers partially filling your tires with air with a $30 down payment after you have made $60 monthly payments to your “insurance”. To get all tires filled you pay separately $550 for each tire after they are partially filled. When a tire is worn a patch is put on the worn area in an preventive effort to stop a hole at the tune of $120 minus the $60 of insurance “coverage” which has a yearly layout of $720.
So my grand total would be:
(4 x $550) quad clean
+ $60 filling
+ $30 co-pay
$2290 Total Treatment
(not including insurance payments throughout the year)
I don’t know how many people reading this think this is chump change but, I really wasn’t thrilled about bringing this news to my wife. When the news hit her she thought I was joking. After the news sank in she came up with the brilliant idea to send me to Colombia for dental care (this is her country of origin) We looked at flights and they were $660 round trip. We called her old family dentist and she said it would be no problem. We didn’t ask the dentist how much it would cost but, I trusted my wife when she said it would be cheaper to fly there and get the work done there then stateside.
As I planned my dental trip we decided to bring the whole family as a vacation trip to visit relatives. The idea started to expand; Why not get an eye sight check and a general physical? So planned in the trip were these “extra” checkups.
I arrived at the dentist on a Sunday. We had scheduled so many things with family the dental aspect seemed secondary. After speaking to the dentist my wife told me the dentist was fine with coming in on a Sunday to work on my teeth. This was kind of unique, I have never known a dentist in the states to voluntarily work on the weekend. (I’m sure there are somewhere but, I haven’t knowingly come across any of them.)
I was dropped off at the dentist office in the late morning. My wife translated the procedure of the cleaning and filling that needed to be done. The dentist also suggested take the metal fillings out and replace them with the enamel white fillings. My wife left until the work was to be completed.
The first thing told me from the dentist was “Tienes Dolor Diga” . I understood do you have dollars? I was guessing to pay? My response was “Solo tengo Pesos”. (I only have pesos) The dentist looked at me a little weird and yelled out to the street. A young kid came in the office and translated “If you have pain say so.”
About 3 hours later all work was complete; the final bill was $120 US (paid in pesos of course) for:
1 whole mouth deep cleaning
4 replacement fillings
1 new filling
The thing that took me back was the dentist apologized for charging me more than a Colombian because I wasn’t under a Colombian insurance.The other checkups ran in a very similar fashion. I was amazed at the quality of the service and the cost savings.
Since my trip I’ve heard other people talk about “Health Tourism” from dental work to heart surgery. After my trip I found another dentist stateside who does a reasonably priced job for a reasonable price. (unlike the flat tire dentist which gave birth to my trip)
I asked my dentist stateside what he thought of the previous work done in my mouth and he told me it was first class dental work. So for the maintenance dental work and emergencies I’ll use my stateside guy and for the big stuff I have my first class Colombian Dentista.