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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Dental tourism
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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Dental tourism

my dental history since 2003 has been a case in point...
It was fear of the hefty bill as much as fear of the drill that kept American musician Don Clay away from U.S. dental clinics for 30 years.

When a sorely infected tooth eventually drove him to the dentist last month, it was to a clinic in a Mexican border city better known for violent crime and drug cartels.

Shrugging off concerns about hygiene and Mexico's brutal drug war, thousands of Americans are heading to Ciudad Juarez and other Mexican border cities for cheap dental treatment.

"I had to get my teeth fixed. I need a perfect smile to make a successful career in music. Treatment in the United States is so pricey," said Clay, a Texan trying to get a record deal as a hip-hop artist.

U.S. dental treatment costs up to four times as much as in Mexico, making it tough for uninsured Americans to treat common problems such as abscessed teeth or pay for dentures.

A dental crown in the United States costs upward of $600 per tooth, compared to $190 or less in Mexico.

Aspiring Mexican dentists are moving to border cities in droves and are luring American patients away from farther flung discount destinations such as Hungary and Thailand.

Americans have long crossed the border for cheap medicines, flu vaccines, eye surgery or specialist doctors, but dentists are now in highest demand.

a few years ago, i needed some dental work done when i was working in macedonia... i was referred to a young woman who had worked in the u.s. for two years under a dentist in atlantic city... i was vastly impressed, not only by the quality of her work, but also by the thorough explanation she gave of her methods, how she followed the european treatment model rather than the u.s. treatment model, and even her explanation of the type of materials and instruments she used and where she obtained them (germany), something i had never heard from a u.s. dentist... then there was the price... i obtained two crowns for 80 euros or roughly $USD103 each... (that was at the then $USD1/€1.29 exchange rate which has since ballooned to $USD1/€1.48...) from that point through summer 2006, i paid her regular visits every time i was in-country... (as a side note, she told me that she also did dental work for many italians who were working in the country... i later learned that many greeks travel across the border to macedonia specifically for dental services, particularly interesting due to the fact that there is zero love lost between greeks and macedonians...)

after i returned to the u.s. from buenos aires last september, i had a large filling break loose (while eating VERY crunchy, dried, fried peas coated in wasabi, idiot that i am), leaving a gaping hole in a tooth... i knew it needed to be fixed and didn't want to wait until the now-vulnerable inner tooth decayed further, or, worse yet, started to hurt... however, i knew that a visit to a u.s. dentist would set me back at least $200 - probably a conservative estimate - so i kept putting it off... i returned here to buenos aires a week ago yesterday and, on wednesday, i visited my landlady's dentist who lives right around the corner from me, my first experience with an argentine dentist... after asking me right off the bat whether i supported hillary or obama, he made short work of fixing it, did a great job, and charged me $30AR, a little less than $USD10 ($USD1/$3.16AR at the current exchange rate)... he also advised me to lay off the super-crunchy stuff... ;) you can bet who i am going to see for my dental work from now on...

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