I moved to Jaco and needed dental services. In the past, I have written articles and comments regarding the cost of healthcare in the US and whether we should support the Obama PPACA legislation.
The potential of getting some dental services outside the US for significant cost savings was discussed by me before.
I’ve further pointed out that if Medicare allowed payment for such dental services, the country would save a tremendous amount on its healthcare costs.
“Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”
Most have heard this statement before, or maybe it was: Put up or shut up. Well, I decided the time had come for me to take the step and put my money and my mouth together. I live near Jaco Beach and have been here for a few weeks, coming with a chipped molar and an old cracked filling. I have regular checkups, some periodontal work, and dental insurance.
The filling and the tooth repair with a crown the cost would be around $1600 in the US. With deductible and my co-pay, it would cost me close to $900 even with my insurance.
Selecting a Dentist in Costa Rica
I spoke with a US colleague on a previous trip to Costa Rica. He had all his fillings replaced by a local dentist. I called him when I arrived to see how things went. He was very pleased and would not hesitate to recommend the doctor. Unfortunately, the local dentist was not in Jaco.
So, I was forced to find an alternative. It would help show that the system has a range of good providers, just like the US. So I began to ask who is good and who should be avoided. I was surprised at the amount of choice I had in Jaco, a town of probably 15,000 people. One of the options was a practice that included three female “Dentistas,” all trained at local universities.
My First Visit
I met Dra. Selena Cubero, a dental surgeon, on my first visit to the Premier Dental Care Center. Dra. Selena Cubero is also on the national board of dentists. Her Phone number is +506 2643-2755. It should be pointed out to US readers that in Costa Rica the dental doctors and the medical doctors are all together in the practice of medicine, not separate like in the United States. In this instance, her practice is associated with CIMA Hospital, one of three private hospitals certified by JCAHO, the same organization that certifies US hospitals.
My first visit was exploratory: meeting the doctors, learning the dental services, how they operated and who their clientele is, English language skills, etc. I believe it is crucial in health care that mistakes or misunderstandings don’t occur due to language skills.
Dr. Cubero took a fair amount of time giving me answers to all my questions, gave me a short tour of the facilities, and then examined my teeth. We then talked about what she thought needed to be done. I didn’t give her any details of the specifics, as I wanted to see how her review would line up with my dentist of many years, a second opinion of sorts. She hit all the key points, including a question about getting periodontal work. I was impressed. A half-hour later, I left without charge but with another appointment.
The Work Begins
Let me explain two medical conditions that affect my treatments: I’m not too fond of shots and the resulting numbness; I have an extreme gag reflex. In preparation for the work, Dra. Cubero asked if she could receive recent x-rays from my US dental team. No reason to incur the expense if things were available, and they were.
During the first procedure, I was given a shot after some modest numbing substance was applied, replacing a rather large cracked filling. I never felt the shot. Dra. Cubero took out the old filling and replaced it. The filling replacement cost $50
Next, she took impressions for the bigger job: the repair of a broken molar. She used a half plate for the top and bottom impressions, taking each independently.
No gagging occurred. I could not believe it; another plus. The initial intent was to do an in-lay procedure; the cost would be about $300-$400, considerably less than a crown in the US at an approximate cost of $1500.
The Big Job
It turns out that after further review of x-rays and mold impressions, the in-lay would likely be unsatisfactory for an extended period. A crown was a more suitable solution. At this point, I was wondering if I was getting the bait & switch strategy. However, the crown seems to have generally the same cost. Also, the same discussion regarding gold vs. porcelain, gold was less but more durable.
However, a time factor has come into the picture; I will leave Costa Rica in 3 weeks. Not long enough to complete the work and have time for follow-up procedures. My return schedule was also unclear. In the end, it was decided that Dra. Cubero would file the tooth a bit and add some material to protect it, with the expectation that it would last 6-9 months, followed by a periodontal check.
The next appointment is yet to be decided, but the total cost for the above dental services was $60. I will submit the two charges for $110 to my dental insurance carrier to see what reimbursement I will get. Even if they deny everything, I’m still ahead and feel very positive about my encounter with the Costa Rican dental system.
Consequently, I may utilize Dra. Cubero’s dental services regularly.
Written by our guest writer Ardon Schambers, Managing Partner of Ricovida Rio Grande and President and Principal of P3HR, a Human Resources consulting firm. Mr. Schambers has recently moved to Jaco Beach on the Central Pacific coast with his wife, Barbara, from Grand Rapids, Michigan.