In Search of Affordable Dentistry: Part I

I have bad teeth.  OK, maybe “bad teeth” isn’t the right term.  I think I have a nice smile, and I try my best to take care of my teeth.  I brush and floss.  Unfortunately, I was born with a genetic pre-disposition for all sorts of nasty dental complications that has led to all sorts of painful treatments and procedures.  I’ve had root canals, lots of fillings, and all along, dentists have made me feel miserable about myself every time I seek treatment.

As a result of my bad genetics and my fear of dentistry, I haven’t been great at getting to the dentist as often as I should.  I also had a job loss a few years ago that made it necessary to conserve cash, and several 15-20 year old crowns began to fail.  The long and the short of it is, I find myself in a position of probably needing two implants, a root canal, and a crown.  Let’s take a look at the average costs of these items.

Affordable Dentistry in the US

I did some research on average costs of various treatments I will need, and came up with both “budget” and “average” values for each.  Here is what I found.  I used the Guardian Dental Cost Estimator tool when possible, and the implant cost guide when necessary.  Where a wide range was offered for a procedure, I picked something in the middle.

Price (Low/Budget)Price (Best Materials)
Post and Core Build Up (Prefabricated)$332.00$500.00
Crown(Metal Crown) $959.00(Porcelain Crown) $1415.00
Implant Stage 1$2,000.00$3,000.00
Implant Stage 2$2,000.00$3,000.00

If you add the second implant, the costs come to $9,291-$13,915!  This is already painful, and I haven’t even gotten in the chair yet!  When you consider that the table above doesn’t include costs for the initial checkup, X-rays and other imaging, medication, and other minor costs, and the treatments are likely to be in excess of $12,000-$15,000!  With a wedding coming up and our desire to keep our savings rate up, that’s just totally out of the question.  My mouth doesn’t hurt nearly badly enough yet to pay that much.

With the out of control cost of dental treatment in the US in mind, I began to research my other options, and quickly zeroed in on one that appears to offer a great mix of quality and affordability.

Affordable Dentistry in Thailand

I began considering Thailand for treament when I saw an episode of Inside Man with Morgan Spurlock about medical tourism.  Morgan visited Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok and got a full medical workup in spa-like surroundings.  There was a brief discussion of the world-class dental treatments available, and the huge number of westerners being treated by western-trained surgeons and dentists for a tiny fraction of the price in the USA, Australia, or Europe.

The other day, I reached out to a well regarded clinic in Thailand (one which caters exclusively to westerners) about my issues, as well as my concerns.  Within 12 hours, I got an email back quoting me prices for all the treatments I probably needed, as well as very detailed explanation of each treatment.  Though they prefer to have X-rays to look at the determine a course of treatment in advance, it is not necessary.  Here is the same cost chart from above, with prices quoted to me by the Thai clinic.  Where a given option was quoted as a range, I will show the highest possible price.

Price (Low/Budget)Price (Best Materials)
Post and Core Build Up (Prefabricated)$136.00$151.00
Crown(Metal Crown) $303.00(Porcelain Crown) $515.00
Implant Stage 1$756.00$1,212.00
Implant Stage 2$756.00$1,060.00

Wow.  At these prices, my cost for one root canal, crown, and two implants would be $3,463-5,210.  Tickets from the West Coast to Thailand for next month currently cost about $700, though it’s possible to find them for about $550.  There are a number of four and five star hotels in Bangkok and Phuket catering to westerners for under $100 a night.

The above means that if I opt for the highest end implants and crowns, have the most complicated procedures, fly to Thailand, and stay in a luxury hotel without using any points or rewards, the total cost would be no more than $6,610, plus cost of food and entertainment.  Compared to the low average cost in the US, this is a savings of about 28%.  Compared to the high average (comparing apples to apples), this is a savings of 52%.

Here is a segment from a television program in New Zealand about one of the clinics.

Will I Do It?

I’m not sure yet.  To be perfectly honest, I am leaning strongly towards having the treatment done in Thailand.  It seems convenient, safe, and extremely affordable.  I want my dental issues taken care of before we try to plan our wedding, and the impression I get is that the Thai clinics cater to those with fears and complicated issues like me.  It’s a very compelling combination of savings and quality, which is perfect for someone like me.

I’d be very, very interested if anyone reading has first hand experience with tourism for dental purposes.  It’s easy to find examples of people who “heard” that those seeking care abroad got shoddy work, but much more difficult to find someone who actually experienced it.  If you had a good or bad experience, definitely please share where and at what clinic!

Update: My search for affordable dental care continues in the next post.

5 thoughts on “In Search of Affordable Dentistry: Part I

  1. Maggie

    I’m excited to see what you end up doing. I’ve done a lot of research on medical tourism for work and find the whole thing fascinating. Sure, there are scary stories out there, but most of the time people are thrilled with the results and they got a fancy vacation to go with it! It totally depends on the reputation of the clinic. Good luck with your decision!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Announcement of the decision is forthcoming extremely shortly! 🙂

      I would consider it more of a vacation if it was possible to bring my fiancé with, but if I do it, I’ll have to go alone for the first (longest) trip. That would be hard for me. I haven’t traveled without her for a number of years, and I suspect it would feel lonely.

  2. Pingback: In Search of Affordable Dentistry: Part II

  3. Pingback: 2016 Tax Plan (And 2015 Optimizing) - The Frugal Vagabond

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