In Search of Affordable Dentistry: Part VI

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When I last wrote about my experience with dental tourism, I had just returned from my second of three trips to Bangkok in search of excellent dental care at affordable prices. After some time to heal from my last set of surgeries, I headed to Thailand last week to complete my course of treatment.

My need to save money on my dental care wasn’t motivated solely by our desire to retire early. Spending half as much as I would have in the United States for the same standard of care literally made the difference between getting married this year and postponing it to next year some time. Since we’re getting married this weekend, I was obviously successful as far as saving money was concerned… but what about the quality of care? Did I still receive good care on my final trip?

A Mouth Full o’ Teeth

On my last visit, I had a two dental implants installed. Those implants take a few months to integrate fully with human jaw bone before a crown can be placed.

The great news is that everything healed up nicely. I arrived on Monday to get some impressions of my teeth taken.  After that was done, I requested an appointment to have a few small cosmetic items taken care of. I got an old metallic filling replaced with a composite (white) filling, and I had tooth whitening treatment. I wanted to look my best for wedding photos this week, so I indulged a little. Aside from one night’s worth of zinging pain in my teeth from the whitening treatment, everything was pretty pain-free.

By Thursday, my crowns had been fabricated by the in-house lab at Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic, and I arrived to have them cemented in. My prosthodontist looked at them with a critical eye and decided that one should be sent back to alter the color, and the other should be a slightly different shape.

At my second fitting on Friday, everything looked and felt just right, and the crowns were permanently cemented. I paid my bill, and I was finally done, just in time for my wedding! As I reflected on my invoice, I realized that one of the big advantages I haven’t mentioned to date is the lack of nickel-and-diming relative to the USA. Placing my crowns on the implants required numerous X-rays, consults, and a few hours of grinding the crowns and cementing them, but my bill for all of those services was a single, fixed line item. The price I was charged is the same one listed on their website.

The truth is that there is little to write in this post that I haven’t already written in this series.  The compassionate quality of the care I received consistently put me at ease, and I couldn’t be happier with the results, especially given the fact that I paid about half what I would have paid in the US. I don’t want to be overly effusive about the whole experience, but I really have no complaints. The nearest I could come to an issue is that seeking treatment abroad required me to leave home for a week three times in one year– but obviously the amount of time away from work and home is hugely dependent on the nature of the work you’re having done.

Who Dental Tourism is For

Let’s tackle the bottom-line question: should you seek dental treatment abroad? If you are:

  • Willing to put in the effort to research the dentist thoroughly
  • In need of care which would cost you at least $3,000 in your home country (cost to you after any insurance deductible), or
  • You are already in a city like Bangkok with many high quality dentists
  • Able to take the time needed to seek treatment (including, if your condition requires it, the possibility of multiple trips)

Then yes, it’s possible that dental treatment abroad might be a good fit for you.

I started this journey almost a year ago, and at that time my head was filled with concerns, fears, and cautionary tales. Though it’s surely possible to skip the research phase and end up being treated by a fly-by-night dentist, anyone already reading this blog probably has the organizational skills needed to choose a trustworthy clinic. Take the time to check credentials, exchange emails, and otherwise have a high level of confidence that you will receive excellent care. At a bare minimum, do the same level of checking up on your dentist that you would do in your home country.

The Bottom Line: What Did it Cost?

In short, my cost for flights, hotels, food, entertainment, and dental treatment over three trips was $11,599.06. The dental cost alone in the US for the treatment, based on an internet dental cost estimator, was $21,230.  The savings from seeking treatment abroad was almost $10,000, or about 45%. That is, not coincidentally, nearly the cost of our wedding.

ExpensePrice
Grand Total:$11,599.06
Hotel$1,953.60
Flights$1,877.06
Food$460.43
Entertainment$398.27
Communication$31.08
Local Transportation$51.98
Dental (4 X-rays)$13.95
Dental (CT Scan)$127.52
Dental (1 Root Canal - Molar)$317.89
Dental (1 Root Canal - Core Build Up)$92.76
Dental (1 Deep Cleaning/Polish)$39.73
Dental (3 One Surface Fillings)$79.46
Dental (6 Two Surface Fillings)$266.93
Dental (Extraction w/ Soft Tissue Impaction)$92.59
Dental (Extraction)$66.14
Dental (Assorted Medications)$19.33
Dental (Surgical Guide)$56.67
Dental (Zirconia Crown, Molar)$425.06
Dental (2 ITI-Straumann Implants, Bone Level)$2,833.70
Dental (1 Bone Graft)$402.39
Dental (2 Crowns on Implant, Porcelain on Gold)$1,732.63
Dental (Laser Tooth Whitening)$259.89
Dental Only Total:$6,826.64

The journey is done, but my mind is definitely open to the idea seeking medical or dental treatment abroad in the future if it’s appropriate. If anything, this is a dress rehearsal for having to seek treatment abroad when we slow travel in the future.

I hope this adventure has broadened your horizons a bit. Thanks for sharing it with me! Dental tourism may not be for everyone, but if you’re the right person needing the right kind of treatment, don’t be afraid to give it some consideration.

Has this post series changed you opinion of medical treatment abroad? Could you see yourself visiting another country for your medical needs? Have you done so? Share your experiences in the comments!

9 thoughts on “In Search of Affordable Dentistry: Part VI

  1. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    My husband’s dental coverage is awful. We weren’t at a point where it would have been cost efficient to travel, but I definitely could see this happening in our future. Knock on wood, it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out! So glad you covered this.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Oof, I feel for you guys– I’m self employed so I pay myself the benefits I want… but dental insurance as a concept is so terrible compared to medical insurance that it’s hard to justify. I am optimistic that all will be well from now on, provided I keep taking care of myself 🙂

  2. Smith

    Great post. You’re opening the “Maybe I could do that, and save a ton of money!” window. And that’s a big deal. After all, FIRE is all about thinking a bit differently — so if you can add an adventure — it’s a win-win. Thanks for the post!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      No problem, Smith!! It was indeed an adventure and I don’t regret it a bit. I learned a lot, saved a lot, experienced a lot… I can’t find a single thing to complain about!

  3. Mrs Groovy

    Thanks, again for all the information in this series. I’m sure I’ll refer back to it in the future.

    I’m happy the process went so smoothly for you. And now I bet you have a great smile, just in time for your wedding. Congratulations and best wishes this weekend.

  4. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions

    This is terrific information and thanks for sharing all of the details. I got my first crown and couldn’t believe how expensive it was. This is something that I honestly would not have thought of until I started reading your blog. Happy wedding too!!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, Vicki! It’s sad that things ended up needing so much work, but in retrospect, it really does prepare me for occasions we will need to put ourselves in the hands of doctors abroad in the future!

  5. Finance Solver

    Ouch, my parents had to go through dental implants and have told me how painful they are. Good thing it was successful!

    I’ve only saw on a documentary of medical tourism so it was eye opening to hear someone go through it with a personal story. I learned a little more about it as a result of this post, thank you! 10k worth of savings.. sounds like a great deal!

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