Imagine this scenario:
You live in Alaska and you need complex dental care. Instead of staying in Alaska for your dental treatments, you choose a dental clinic in Texas to receive care. After your treatment in Texas, you arrive back home to Alaska to discover that one of your new crowns has come loose and needs to be fixed.
Would you ask your dentist in Texas to pay for your airfare or hotel bill to return to Texas? Of course not. You understand that the dental clinic has no responsibility to pay for your travel expenses. It was your decision to choose dental care in Texas and you wouldn’t demand that your Texas dental clinic needs to pay for your return travel. The dental clinic may have responsibility to provide the needed follow-up care at no additional charge depending on their warranties. But the clinic is not responsible for any travel expenses, whether it’s taking a taxi across town or an international flight.
However, some American dental patients that choose dental care in Costa Rica, Guatemala or Mexico expect that their chosen dental clinic should be responsible for their airfare, hotel and even their meal expenses if they need to return for adjustments, repairs or additional treatments.
Why? The reasons are myriad, but it generally comes down to two factors:
- Financial: If a patient needs to return for unexpected dental care or repairs, this adds an additional financial burden for the patient. However, it is unreasonable to ask your chosen dental clinic to pay for the cost of your travel. It is likely that you are saving a great deal of money on your dental care in Latin America. If you cannot afford the cost for a possible return visit, then you should not travel away from home for dental care. Some patients are not good candidates for dental tourism. Dental care is health care. No dental clinic can predict all possible outcomes. Sometimes, problems crop up that are not the responsibility of the dental clinic. It could be a biological issue, implant failure, tooth resorption etc. These things happen. You cannot and should not expect your chosen dental clinic to pay for your travel expenses.
- Respect: Most patients have great respect for American doctors. However, when they travel south of the border, some patients think that they can negotiate and haggle over dental care pricing like they would at a flea market or swap meet. These same patients think that they are entitled to receive free travel or hotel accommodations because they have traveled a great distance to return for follow-up care. Your dentist and the dental staff at your chosen clinic are there to provide you with quality dental care. Many also help with arranging transportation and lodgings. However, it is unacceptable to expect your chosen dental clinic to pay for your travel, hotel and meals, even if the resulting care is a consequence of error on behalf of the dental clinic.
No Free Rides
At some point in your life, your father or mother probably told you that there are no free rides in life. The same is true with dental tourism. No dental clinic will pay for your return airfare. Out of more than 110 dental clinics surveyed for this article in Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala, not one dental clinic offers free travel, accommodations or meals to patients that need to return for additional care. Some clinics offer promotions such as discounts or free airfare and hotel promotions to attract patients to do business with them. But no clinic offers free airfare for patients that need to return for adjustments, minor repairs or corrections. It’s unreasonable for patients to expect that your chosen dental clinic is somehow responsible for paying for your travel expenses.
Looking for the Least Expensive Dental Care?
Most dental clinics offer American patients huge savings when compared to prices for dental care in the USA. In general terms, the quality of dental care in countries like Costa Rica and Guatemala is very high. As in the USA, there are good dentists and some “not so good” dentists. We routinely receive comments from patients that are seeking the cheapest possible dental care, and then complain when something goes wrong. Dental care is imperfect. Even the best dentists cannot manage very eventuality. If you choose the cheapest dental care, you are asking for problems. Period. You will likely save more than fifty to seventy percent by choosing a high-quality, reputable dental clinic in Latin America. However, if you need to save eighty percent, you are taking an unnecessary risk with your health. If pricing is the primary consideration, you will likely sacrifice quality.
Dentists and dental clinics set their pricing to make a reasonable profit, to provide their patients with quality care. When patients seek to reduce the profits a clinic makes, the clinic is forced to cut corners or to reduce the time they need to provide with quality care. Make no mistake: when you negotiate vigorously with your dentist to reduce pricing or to receive free travel or accommodations, you are essentially reducing the quality of your care.
Choose Reputable, Accredited Dental Clinics:
Saving money is important. We get it. To ensure quality, long-lasting results, it is best to choose accredited, high ranking clinics that have strong patient approval ratings. Visit the Google Business page for the clinics you are considering. Read the patient reviews. Choose the best possible clinic with the highest ratings to start your discussion. Don’t send emails to 20 dental clinics. Choose 1-2 clinics and begin your search. A good dental clinic can reduce its pricing (within reason) to help you meet your goals. A cheap dental clinic cannot improve its quality. Choose the best possible dental clinic and have an honest conversation about your financial constraints. A good clinic will do it’s best to provide you high quality care at pricing you can afford.
If you choose dental care in an international destination, remember that you are guest in a foreign land. Be a good guest and you will likely be treated with kindness and respect. If you choose to act like a petulant child, or make unreasonable demands, you will reduce your chances of achieving the quality care you seek.