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Finding reasonable dental care has never been so accessible. While the price of getting extensive—or even simple—work done at home can be frightening, there are many overseas options that offer just as good a service, and at a fraction of the cost.
According to recent statistics, only 12% of U.S. seniors have some form of dental coverage. And with reported increases in dental costs, more and more people are finding better, more affordable dental care overseas.
Now, many expats and dental tourists have learned that they can save tens of thousands of dollars on dental treatments without sacrificing on quality…and all of these services are just a short plane journey—or even a short drive—away.
More from International Living:
5 countries with the best eealthcare in the world
Seeking access to world-class healthcare? Check out these three countries
Why is healthcare so much cheaper outside the U.S.?
Read on to find out more about the top five Latin American countries where countless expats—including some of our correspondents—are taking advantage of inexpensive, high-quality dental care.
In Mexico, you can find affordable healthcare and excellent facilities, just 90 minutes from the States.
Every mid-size to large city in Mexico has at least one first-rate hospital, and most doctors and dentists in Mexico receive part, if not all, of their training in the U.S. Another big plus is that the cost of healthcare is generally one-half—or less—of what you might expect to pay in the U.S.
This applies for dental care too. In the States, a routine teeth cleaning would set you back about $140, but in Mexico can be as low as $25. On the higher end of the scale, a surgical extraction in the U.S. could cost $420, but in Mexico you'd only have to hand over $80.
"I've had several dental check-ups in Mexico and some fillings done," says IL Mexico Editor Glynna Prentice. "The equipment was as modern as that in the U.S. and the dentist was very competent. I've had dentists who spoke English and others who primarily spoke Spanish. The general check-up was only about $30 to $50, depending on the dentist."
Pura Vida…it's Costa Rica's slogan, as well as being a way of life. The direct translation is "pure life." It means to live the good life, cherishing simple pleasures and taking every day at a slow, relaxed pace.
Not only does the country promote laidback, easy living, but Costa Rica also has some of the best healthcare in Latin America. The country's public and private health systems are constantly being upgraded—new hospitals, new equipment, and improvements in staff training—meaning that their facilities are always first class. But despite these advancements, costs are low in comparison to those in the U.S., regularly coming in at about a third of what you'd pay in the U.S.
This is also true for dental care, as IL Roving Latin America Editor, Jason Holland explains that "an implant that would be $3,000 per tooth in the U.S. is under $1,000 in Costa Rica. Crowns are $1,000 versus $300 per tooth."
Colombia is fast becoming the next big retirement haven. It offers a low cost of living in a country with first-world amenities and infrastructure that you'd only expect to find in a much more expensive location.
It also boasts a highly-rated level of healthcare. In fact, when the World Health Organization ranked the healthcare systems of 191 countries, Colombia came in at #22. That is better than Canada (#30) and the United States (#37).
According to IL Colombia Correspondent, Nancy Kiernan, this level of quality also extends to the country's dental care. "The last time my daughter Kathleen came for a visit, she had her teeth cleaned and whitened," explains Nancy. "My dentist uses the Zoom whitening procedure. The total cost for an ultrasonic cleaning and Zoom whitening was $150. The average cost back in the states for Zoom alone is $500."
Nicaragua is without a doubt the best value destination in the Americas, and it offers high-quality, inexpensive healthcare and dental care. A routine dental cleaning costs about $25 while a porcelain crown would set you back about $200.
"I was blown away by the first teeth cleaning I had in Nicaragua," says IL Nicaragua Correspondent Bonnie Hayman. "Yes, everyone had told me it was as good or better than the States, but I admit I was skeptical. Well, they were right. My first appointment for cleaning was an hour and a half and it cost $25. I've never had such a great cleaning in my life! Now I go every six months like clockwork.
"Over the 10 years I've been here, the price has gone up to $40. They use all the modern equipment and even some things I've never experienced before—like the camera and monitor that you can watch as they show you what's going on inside your mouth and what's lurking around your teeth. No insurance needed here either! It's cheap enough to pay right out of your pocket."
For a small country, Ecuador has a lot to offer—low-cost living, a year-round spring-like climate, friendly natives, and more. And high-quality healthcare can go on that list too. Throughout the country dental care is top-notch, with costs that are a fraction of what you would pay in North America.
According to IL Ecuador Highlands Correspondent Wendy DeChambeau, "My family and I get all of our dental cleanings and exams done in nearby Ibarra. The office is clean and modern and the friendly staff always puts us at ease. The best part is that the cost is only $30 per person as opposed to the $150 we paid back in the U.S."
And it isn't just on cleanings that you will save money. Cavity repairs and fillings cost $25 to $35. Partial plates cost $325 and a complete set of dentures costs about $900, including office visits, fittings, lab work, and impressions. Other costs: an extraction, $20; root canal, $125 per tooth; permanent acrylic bridge, $225; bleaching, $25; porcelain crown, $250.