One of the things I hate most is going to the dentist. Maybe this is because I chipped my front two teeth when I was in third grade, and I’ve had my fair share of dental problems since then. Before we left home I had this one tooth that kept bothering me. It hurt–when I drank something cold, when I drank something warm, sometimes when I breathed. So before we left, Ryan did an online search for “dental tourism” in Lima. Medical or dental tourism is when you go to another country to have work done because it is cheaper, but with the same quality as having it done in the US. That is how we found Smiles Peru.
So I must say that this was the fanciest dental office I had ever been to! The pretty receptionist let us into the waiting area. Everything glistened pearly white—like I had either died and gone to heaven, or I was in a movie star’s mouth. And the rest of the office was just as stunning!
It All Started with a Consultation
First I had a panoramic x-ray of my mouth taken, and then I had my consultation with one of the dentists. I liked her immediately because she was kind, her English was perfect, and her first name was Emily. She noted the same problems that my dentist in the States had told me about: I needed a root canal in that pesky tooth, but I also had 5 other cavities, including two next to already existing fillings.
At the end of the consultation time, Dr. Emily gave me paperwork that detailed all the prices of the work she had suggested. I asked her if it was all necessary (I am frugal, after all). She wisely responded that it is better to have the work done now than to wait for it to get worse. Even though I didn’t like it, I had to agree with her logic. Especially since we have these big travel plans and all. This was going to be fun.
The Dreaded Root Canal
I have never had a root canal before, and I was not looking forward to this (just like I never look forward to any dental work—not even a cleaning). This was much more difficult than anyone expected. It turns out that my tiny little baby-sized teeth that I was genetically given from my father (thanks, Dad! Still love you!) made my root canal very difficult. Tiny teeth equal tiny roots. And to add to the fun, I actually was told I had an extra root in this tooth, just to make it even more challenging.
The dentists knew that we had a very flexible schedule (and they could probably sense my fear—the tears might have been a giveaway), so they broke the visits into bite-sized pieces (pun-intended). Some days I was at the dentist for an hour, some days for 4 hours, but after 4 visits, the root canal was complete! Thank you, Jesus.
The next step was to then build up the tooth they did the root canal on to make it look and function like a real tooth again. This is where it gets cool. They actually have a 3-D printer in their office, and that is how they made the inlay or cap that went in this tooth. They also used this same technology to make the large inlays for the two other teeth that had the cavities next to the already-existing fillings. So I have 3 porcelain 3-D printed teeth in my mouth now!
Staff at Smiles Peru
I must say that the only reason I kept going back to the office day after day was because I knew I needed to get this work done, and because the people at the office were so nice. I had read that Peruvian culture and medical/dental care involves them taking care of you like you are a family member. When I worked in healthcare in the US, this was also the way I aimed to treat my patients. And at Smiles Peru I found this was very true. They were all so kind and gentle with me. Which was wonderful since I would have been even more of a hot mess otherwise!
How much did this cost?!?
So some of you may wonder what all this dental work cost. Was it worth it to have it done in another country? Dental tourism, and medical tourism for that matter, is popular for a reason. You can have the same quality work done for a fraction of the cost, without dealing with insurance. And I found this to be true at Smiles Peru. Here is the breakdown of what I had to pay to have all this fun:
- Consultation $68
- Root canal $293
- Core build-up of root canal tooth $77
- 3 inlays (3-D printed teeth) $830
- 3 simple fillings $203
- Total $1471
My co-pays in the US with my insurance would have been more than this just to have the root canal completed! And we also learned that the money we have been tucking away into our HSA (Health Savings Account) all these years could be used to pay for these expenses, just like they could in the US! I just submitted to my HSA for reimbursement after I paid at the office.
Finale in the Waiting Room
Ryan met many interesting people while in the waiting room, but one guy from Connecticut shared this with him. He needed 14 root canals and crowns done (I know, poor guy, right?), and in the US he was told it would cost him $105,000! At Smiles Peru he said it would cost him one-fifth that!
So although we didn’t plan to spend the first two weeks in Lima at the dentist, it turned out to be a positive experience. And with all the travel plans we have ahead, I am sure we will have to visit a dental or healthcare facility, but I’ll be a little less afraid next time!
Disclaimer: We are not getting paid by Smiles Peru, and all experiences and opinions are my own!