Dental Tourism

Dental Tourism in Costa Rica

The information below will answer many questions that you have about Dental Tourism.  The text is taken from my book – The Beginners’ Guide to Dental Tourism in Costa Rica.”  Grab your favorite beverage, get comfy and cozy, and gain some VERY VALUABLE insight to better prepare for your “dental vacation.”

The information below will help you begin your search for a Costa Rica Dentist and provide suggestions that make sure you are ready for your dental trip. It will also help you determine/re-consider if Dental Tourism in Costa Rica is right for you. It starts off with the basics of Dental Tourism, and is a good review even for experienced Dental Tourists.  Please skip down for more advanced information, insights and tips on Dental Surgery, Dental Implant Surgery or Cosmetic Dentistry abroad.

What is Dental Tourism?

Dental Tourism is traveling from a person’s home country to another country to have dental work diagnosed, completed, maintained or repaired.   This seemingly strange, but popular type of medical tourism, has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years.  However, in its modern sense, dental tourism began in the 1990’s. It gained wide acceptance over the past decade as dental needs and demands for affordable dental care have grown

While dental tourism takes place worldwide, there are several countries which have emerged around the globe as leaders in hosting Dentistry Abroad.  This is due to a variety of dental related and non-dental related reasons.  Most dental tourism in Costa Rica is driven by costs, as it is in other countries that host dental tourists.  Proximity to a market like the U.S. which has tremendous dental needs is one key factor in the size of the dental tourism marketplace.  Another is the availability of top dental talentCosmetic  Dentists, Dental Implant SurgeonsAll on 4 Dental Implant Specialists, and others.  

Other reasons people become Dental Tourists are more Patient driven and personal.  They  include adventure, a desire to be trendy and the curiosity to experience first hand dental care in Costa Rica.  And some Dental Patients get dragged into dental tourism by their friends, family or spouses who decide to receive dental care overseas or across borders.There are as many dental tourism stories as there are dental tourists.

There are also those who try to avoid people they know while recuperating from dental surgery. Others seek to be treated by famous Dentists in Costa Rica. And other Dental Tourists seek a Costa Rica Dentist who possesses a particular skill set. Dental Specialists are often hard to find locally, and even more difficult to afford. Most people know that any Dental Specialist in the U.S. is prohibitively expensive – especially a Dental Surgeon.

Both medical and dental tourism gained wide acceptance over the years as medical and dental care costs have spiraled out of control in developed countries.  Many people travel from the United States to Costa Rica, from England to Eastern Europe, and from Australia and Japan to Vietnam and Thailand.  Since labor costs continue to rise in developed countries, great savings can be expected if one is willing to travel away from home for a few days or weeks for dental treatment abroad. 

Dental Tourism in Costa Rica has grown dramatically since 2005. Many are surprised that tens of thousands of people each year become first time dental tourists, and many dental patients return for dental treatment at later dates.  People have long traveled distances in search of Dental Specialists within varied dental fieldsCosmetic Dentistry, Dental Implantology, etc. And they continue to do so at record pace.

Dental Tourists often seek special talent or skills beyond those found in their nearby towns or cities.  And ever since the word got out that affordable dental work can be found in countries where labor costs are low, bargain shoppers have been going abroad for dental care in record numbers.   I refer to this latest and largest segment of people who are traveling for dental treatment as the “Walmart Shoppers.”  I am one of them and came to get Dental Work in Costa Rica 13 years ago with many other Dental Tourists

While dental tourism caters to many niche markets, traditionally there has been none with the critical mass needed to propel this cottage industry into a mainstream alternative for general dental care.  We have arrived at the time when both Medical and Dental Tourism are poised for exponential growth. Dental Tourists are no longer a  unknown phenomena.

In the past, dental tourists were often people searching for cosmetic dentistry or full mouth restorations.  These were very often in-depth and complex cases that general dentists were not trained to tackle, and for which Dental Specialists in the U.S. charged an arm and a leg.  But now more than ever, there are many people traveling to complete all their dental work in Costa Rica: Cleaning, Whitening, Amalgam Removal, Bridges, Crowns, Veneers, Dental Implants, and All on 4s.

The entire dental tourism market is expanding, but the bulk of travelers remain people seeking dental implants, bridges, crowns and veneers. As the world continues to shrink, and borders and airfare continue to come down, dental tourism has become widely acceptable and very affordable.  It has been amazing to witness the economics of the dental tourism industry as it moves from a relatively unknown option, to a reasonable alternative for thousand of dental patients with serious dental needs

It will be interesting to see when the demand for dental care overseas wanes. For now, it is a booming marketplace, and from all accounts more Dental Patients will travel to Costa Rica this year than last. Statistics are hard to find, and extremely unreliable, but for Dental Tourism Experts and Dental Tourism Professionals like myself who have worked for years on the front lines in dental clinics in Costa Rica, we are witnessing something amazing.  

The growth in dental tourism is steady and strong, and it is growing exponentially.  More and more people return home as success stories and as living, breathing testimonials after completing their Cosmetic Dental Care or Dental Implant Surgery in Costa Rica. And people can see the great dental results.  And they hear of the great dental savings. And they begin to salivate for a new smile.  Yes, that is when the dental tourism seeds have been firmly planted. 

When I first traveled to Costa Rica for dental work in 2004 my friends and family said I was crazy.  Well, I still hear similar comments from prospective dental patients, but that flame seems to be dwindling.  Now, more so than before, prospective dental tourists have heard so many success stories that it is becoming foolish NOT to travel for dental care.  If you need any Cosmetic Dental Care or Dental Implant Surgery, I highly suggest you consider dental Tourism in Costa Rica.

Who is a Good Prospect for Dental Tourism in Costa Rica?

There are many people who fit the profile of a prospective dental tourist. At the top of the list are people who need lots of dental work.  Especially those who require many dental implants, or to have an all on 4 procedure.  People who need a full mouth restoration or full mouth reconstruction surgery are very good candidates. And those who seek Cosmetic Dentistry and a completely new smile. Porcelain and zirconium crowns tend to be about half the price of comparable quality crowns in the U.S.

Since the costs of cosmetic dentistry and having dental implants placed are so high in North America that many people are forced to look for medical and dental care abroad. Many U.S. & Canadian dental patients are excellent candidates for becoming dental tourists, each for a variety of reasons.  While U.S. citizens are saddled with prohibitively high costs, Canadian citizens are subject to rationed dental care which limits their options in their home country.

New changes in laws are placing additional pressure on dental tourists from both countries.  Aging populations and other demographic changes such as people moving south are also impacting the dental tourism industry. The most obvious place for a U.S. or Canadian citizen to travel if they need dental care or dental surgery would be to Mexico or Costa Rica

These two dental tourism countries are geographically desirable compared to other distant nations such as Vietnam, India or Thailand.  But North Americans should consider dental tourism in more distant lands as well. There are some great Dental Implant Surgeons and Dental Implant Specialists in Eastern  Europe, SouthEast Asia and elsewhere.

Countries such as Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba all stand to benefit from continued growth and acceptance of foreigners traveling for dental care in Costa Rica. That does not mean North Americans should not consider traveling to Europe or Asia for care.  Each cosmetic dentistry or dental implant case is unique and each person has his/her own personal interests which need to be considered.  Dental care is truly a personal thing, and staying local or traveling abroad for dental care is also a very personal decision.

While dental care abroad is less convenient than local care, the prospect of experiencing new food, sights, sounds and other cultural allures should not be overlooked.  Exotic countries like Thailand have much to offer the Dental Patient who is willing to take the extra time and travel the extra distance for care.  Dentistry isn’t inherently fun, but it can lead to fun things and fun places.

Who is not a Good Candidate to be a Dental Tourist?

Just as some people are predisposed to become good dental tourists, other are not.  Anyone who does not have the desire to travel best not consider dental tourism.  It is important that anyone who does travel to Costa Rica or elsewhere have a positive attitude and outlook as it will set the stage for that which will follow – your dental work

Some elderly people are perfect dental tourists and others are not.  While many dental patients travel with wheelchairs or walkers, it can be taxing to the point of losing merit.  Saving money is one thing, but going thru a grueling week or two of traveling with dental work thrown in the middle can be overwhelming.  Even many younger dental tourists find their “dental vacations” to be less than fun, and even taxing. 

Traveling by automobile, train, plane or bus can take its toll on dental tourists.  The added demands of airport and other service station security continues to wear people down. All these burdens threaten growth in the dental tourism industry to some degree.  A new world filled with terrorists and radicals makes EVERYTHING a bit more uncertain, and dental tourists are not exempt from inconveniences and obstacles.  

Even weather can affect dental tourists’ plans, especially Northerners during Winter, and Southerners during hurricane season.  Flight delays are never enjoyable, but can be even more damning if it threatens you missing your initial dental appointment and interfering with your scheduled Treatment Plan.  Nothing can be taken for granted when one is thinking of traveling for dental care.  There will always be obstacles to traveling abroad for treatment, but if one does his/her due diligence most risks can be managed and often neutralized.

Choosing a Dental Tourism Destination

Anyone considering dental tourism has many options on where they can travel for their dental treatment.  The most popular countries to travel to for dental care include Mexico, Costa Rica, Poland, Hungary, Thailand, Vietnam and India.  Dubai, Singapore, Colombia and others are also developing into plausible alternatives as the need for affordable dental care is worldwide, and the destinations are becoming competitive. That said, U.S. and Canadian citizens by far and large opt for Mexico and Costa Rica for dental care abroad over other countries.  

There are few valid statistics in the Dental Tourism Industry, but it is likely that well over 50,000 dental tourists travel to Mexico and Costa Rica each year.  And as the success stories spread, the growth will likely continue.  It is popular, in vogue and adventurous these days to be a medical or dental tourist. But since each case is unique, there is not a one size fits all response to “where should I go for dental treatment?”  And a Costa Rica Cosmetic Dentist or Dental Implant Surgeon may or may not be your best option.

The time of year, nearest gateway city, personal preferences and prejudices will all have a bearing on the “best” place one should travel for dental care.  A person’s budget also plays a big role in determining which options are available for overseas dental care.  As with many other things in life, the more discretionary money you have available to spend, the more options you will have.

Choosing a Dentist, Dental Surgeon, Dental Implant Specialist or Cosmetic Dentist

Choosing a Dentist, Dental Surgeon, Dental Implant Specialist or Cosmetic Dentist can be a daunting task.  This holds true whether you remain in your own town or city, or travel abroad for dental care.  Just like in the U.S. and in other countries, there is a wide variety of Dentists an Dental Surgeons to be found in any country that caters to dental tourists.  Anyone who does not do their research and due diligence may very well regret their decision to avoid doing so.  One can not ask too many questions!  

Once you step on the plane your options dwindle quickly, so best to get things right the first time and choose your Dentist, Dental Surgeon or Cosmetic Dentist well! There are many services, guides, directories and reams of information available on Dental Tourism, but much will come down to the personal relationship you develop with a Cosmetic Dentist, Dental Implant Surgeon or International  Patient Coordinator. They are the best ones  to help you navigate the tricky waters of choosing the right Cosmetic Dentist or Dental Implant Surgeon for YOU. 

The truth is there is no BEST Cosmetic Dentist/Dental Implant Surgeon, only the one that is BEST for YOU at any given time.  Some people travel to another country for lots of general dental work, and others because they are seeking Dental Surgery or Cosmetic Dentistry.   While you may be okay going with an unknown Dentist in Costa Rica, there are obviously arguments in favor of being treated by a Costa Rica Dentist with a long track record. An International Patient Coordinator can help you sort thru the risks and benefits of either decision.

Proper guidance can enable you to to utilize lower cost Doctors/Dentists without taking on additional risks.  There are gems to be found such as Dental Implant Specialists and Cosmetic Dentists who serve the mainstream Dental Tourism clinics.  These Doctors/Dentists are first rate and some of the most experienced, but see little limelight in the press so they remain a bit obscure and hard to locate.   Patient Coordinators who have worked the front lines within popular clinics are great sources for identifying these Dental Specialists who often have their own dental clinics and offer local pricing.

Choosing a Dental Clinic based on Levels of Service in Costa Rica

The most basic level of dentistry in Costa Rica is that which the general population of Costa Rica enjoys. Dentists in Costa Rica are very inexpensive (by North American standards), but most do not have the same modern comforts, conveniences or décor to which most North Americans are accustomed. These dental clinics are pretty good overall and equivalent to what most people in the United States receive in severely less affluent areas.  Many non-dental tourism focused dental clinics in Costa Rica are dated and may remind people of dentistry back in the U.S. during the 1970’s or 1980’s.  

But many dental clinics in Costa Rica have modern chairs, state of the art equipment and well trained Cosmetic Dentists & Dental Implant Surgeons.  Some of these dental clinics also have excellent support staff and English speaking personnel.  Often these Costa Rican dental clinics, new and old, are bland; with small operating rooms an no views.  Many have few bells or whistles. Others are extremely impressive by every measure and dental metric.

The next higher level of dental care in Costa Rica would be provided at the same type of basic clinic, but with more breathing room and a few upgrades. Maybe some nicer furniture using some of the newer elements of dental design. Possibly they have a few modern paintings or fresh decor. These may include some types of views from the dental chair or distractions such as ceiling mounted T.V.s, ipods with earphones, or the something of that nature. Each dental clinic will have its own look and feel – as vast as the differences between dental clinics in the United states.

As one moves up the ladder to dental clinics which cater to dental tourists, or a mix of dental tourists and locals, they will find the level of comfort getting better and better.  They will also find the level of business practices more well thought out.  The dental clinic’s personnel will be more, professional, and usually capable of meeting the expectations of more demanding dental tourists and international dental patients.  As a rule of thumb, North Americans patients are VERY demanding.

Dental clinics that were set up from the start to serve dental tourists are by most metrics the best dental clinics in Costa Rica. The highest tier dental clinics will have Cosmetic Dentists and Dental Implant Surgeons  who have been trained in the United States or other fully developed countries. Most Dental Tourism Doctors  who get their training overseas select prominent institutions to attend.  Some of these Costa Rica Dentists receive the bulk of their training outside Costa Rica.  Others just go for Post-Graduate degrees in Cosmetic Dentistry, training courses in placing dental implants or seminars in General Dentistry.  

Some aspiring Cosmetic Dentists and Dental Implant Surgeons try and demonstrate they have been trained in the U.S., but in actuality have only attended  and short specialized dental training classes.   As mentioned earlier, a dental tourist can not ask too many questions to ensure they are set to receive the level or treatment and dental care they seek. The best and and safest dental clinics in Costa Rica often will have an expat who works in-house or behind the scenes.  This helps assure dental tourists that all is well and that they are in good hands at the dental clinic they selected. 

The cream of the crop dental tourism clinics will have competent, credible “front men/women.”  Usually these are graduates of fine institutions like Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, etc. People who seek guidance, advice or assistance in selecting an appropriate dental clinic in Costa Rica or negotiating better prices are encouraged to email us for assistance.  Professionals in the know are definitely in a position to help dental tourists reduce their risks of traveling abroad for dental care.

Preparing for your Trip/The Local Weather at your Dental Destination

Preparing for your dental tourism trip must begin with the inevitable; trying to convince your friends and family you are not insane.  Many will think so you when they learn you have decided to travel to a foreign country for dental care!  After you get over that hurdle, the rest is not too much different than preparing for a regular vacation. But just because it is a “dental vacation” does not mean you will have a relaxed and enjoyable time.  After all, this is dental care or dental surgery, so plan your mindset accordingly.

Selecting dates for your dental tourism trip can be a bit tricky as each country has peak travel times and associated high travel costs.  The good news is Dental Tourism in Costa Rica is possible year round.  That said, most people prefer to visit in the dry season.  December thru March are the driest months, and also the most expensive for dental tourists.  Airfares peak in December after the 14th, and they don’t come down much until after January 5th.  Cosmetic Dentists and Dental Implant Surgeons work year round, so do not worry, there will always be a Costa Rica Dentist available to provide you affordable dental care.

More attractive airfares can be found as the rains return in April. Good news is even when it rains in Costa Rica, there still tends to be plenty of good weather throughout the day.  Before or after your time in the dental chair, there will be time to enjoy the day. Much will be determined by the area(s) you will be visiting.  Most Dental Implant Specialists and Cosmetic Dentists in Costa Rica are located in the capital, and San Jose sees plenty of good weather.

Dental Tours to Costa Rica are a pretty safe bet overall.  Most days start out gorgeous and remain that way until afternoon.  At that time, anything goes so your dental treatment may take place while others are enjoying some rain!  Any day during rainy season dental tourists may see drizzle, heavy rain or deluges.  

Many days during a typical dental tour, the rain comes and then stops quickly.  The best news is in Costa Rica, even in the realm of Dentistry, there are few days when it rains all day long.  And the chance of getting caught in a week long rainstorm or more than several hours in the dental chair are slim, but possible. Most of the time, we have beautiful weather not found at other dental tourist destinations; and dental tourists only have a limited time in the dental chair, so there’s a sunny note. 

There are lots of micro-climates in Costa Rica, so while it may be raining in one Dental Clinic parking lot on one side of town, a Costa Rica Dentist in a nearby cosmetic dental clinic may be staring out his/her operatory at a beautiful day. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict which dental clinic will get the best weather from day to day. Rest assured, sun is never far way!  

That said, during rainy season, it would be wise for all dental tourists to bring a fold-up umbrella, and a light rain jacket.  If a dental patient is going to venture into the mountains, sweaters or heavier jackets are advisable. Dental tourists do not all require hiking boots, but  you plan to leave the dental treatment zone and head off the beaten path, bring them.  

Shoes that can withstand water are recommended for all dental tourists.  Scarves and hats may also be a good idea, especially for those cold days in the dental clinics. (Costa Rica Dentists turn the temperature down to remain comfortable during dental surgery since they wear surgical gowns.)  A windbreaker may also be used on chillier nights, and is worth packing.You can even keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in your pocket.

While it seems natural to discuss traveling abroad for dental care with your family, surprisingly, many people do not.  They are ashamed or embarrassed or fear the reactions of their confidants.  Many fear they are making a big mistake, but are financially strapped and believe dental tourism is their ONLY option (as opposed to those who see it as a GREAT option). Each dental case is different and each dental patient is different, but generally speaking it is advisable to discuss your plans with your friends/family and people you trust (Doctors/Dentists, etc.).  

The people who know you best and love and care about you, have your best interest at heart; even if they know nothing about dental tourism. They may not always give good dental advice, but their thoughts may be helpful nonetheless.  A good idea like dental tourism is never in jeopardy of being challenged.  As stated earlier, dental tourism is a GREAT option for many, but not for all.  Particular circumstances can make what otherwise would be a good decision a disaster. 

For instance, a person with a particular health condition may be better served by seeking dental treatment locally. Pregnant women, people with heart or mobility issues need to think things thru carefully as they may not be good dental tourism candidates..  Potential separation anxiety from family, pets, and home should not be ignored.  General stress and anxiety should be expected in all Dentistry; and the risks of any dental procedures or dental surgery should be considered. 

Telling your Friends and Family 

Your friends, family, and trusted loved ones sit in a unique position to counsel you, support you, and make sure the decision you make is sound for you at any given point in time. The Costa Rica Dentist or Dental Surgeon in Costa Rica who treats you will become an important person in your life.  But after a week or two of treatment, you will be back where you belong, with your family friends and loved ones.  They will be with you all of your life.  Remember this when defending your position to travel abroad for dental care; especially if they do not support you in your decision to travel abroad for dental treatment.  It is much more difficult to find new friends, family and loved ones than it is to find a local dentist.

Typical Problems

As in all things in life, sometimes problems arise in Dental Tourism. Sometimes these issues are small and sometimes they are big. Typical problems can include anything from missing a flight or a flight delay, to your Cosmetic Dentist or Implant Surgeon getting sick. Any of these issues can cause you to miss your appointment(s) and set your dental treatment or dental surgery back. If you have planned to be at your dental clinic in Costa Rica for 5 business days and you lose a day in travel for any reason, you will be in a compromised position. 

Some dental clinics in Costa Rica can help accommodate you and make sure that all goes as planned, just in a condensed period of time. In other cases, that will not be possible.  Be prepared to go with the flow.  Expect some small problems along the way.  Try and think of them as part of your dental tourism adventure. Cosmetic Dentists and Dental Implant Surgeons that are slated to treat you may be absent due to personal reasons or other matters outside their control.  Some clinics are prepared for this type of eventuality, others not.  

What is your back-up plan for your dental tourism trip?  Are you prepared to change your date of departure and stay a day or a few days more? Are you open to be treated by a different Doctor within the clinic?  A less experienced Doctor?  A Doctor at a backup clinic? These types of questions should be considered BEFORE you think about traveling for dental care.  In most cases everything goes as planned or very close to that, but in other cases they do not.

Big Problems

Big problems are never welcomed, but sometimes they do find their ways into our lives. When they do, there is no option, you must deal with them. Some examples of big problems would be the following: 

  1. You arrived and the clinic has gone out of business.  
  2. The Doctor has become ill, was called away and will not be available and the clinic does not have a comparable back up Doctor. 
  3. The clinic does not meet your standards – perhaps it is dirty, or the Team does not seem professional, competent or courteous.  You must learn to trust your gut instincts – they are likely pretty good. 
  4. You missed your plane and the clinic is too busy to accommodate your delay. 
  5. You arrived in your destination country and one of your friends/family members has an emergency and needs you home immediately. 

These are a few of the MANY big problems that MAY occur.  Whatever happens, DO NOT PANIC.  The worst case scenario is you return home immediately and have lost money and still require treatment or care.  The best case scenario is a solution will present itself quickly.  Likely, there will be a tenable solution in between these extremes. 

Some situations are rare, unpredictable, and unwanted, but they happen.  A volcanic eruption is one example.  A taxi strike is another example; and an electricity outages is yet another.  War is even possible, though less likely in Costa Rica as they do not have a standing army!  Be mentally prepared for anything to happen, and do the two things you can: hope and pray that all goes well!

Buying Insurance

Some people buy insurance for their travel, and others for their medical/dental care. There are many good options (available thru airlines, travel agents, tour companies) for travel insurance, but few good options for international medical insurance, and even fewer for dental insurance.  

Some insurance companies have certain plans that will ensure you can be reimbursed for your treatment (at least partially) overseas, but they are very rare.  Most plans do not cover this type of treatment and care.  Some dental clinics may begin to self-insure and provide options for their patients, but most will remain on a pay as you go relationship with their patients.

Purchasing Airline Tickets

Airfare use to be a mystery, but it has become increasingly easy to research and buy airline tickets; and most people do so directly online themselves or thru an intermediary.  We suggest patients do both as good deals can be found thru consolidators, intermediaries and buying direct.  Anyone who believes itinerary changes will be required would fare best by dealing directly with the airlines.  Intermediaries can make buying easy, but changes difficult and costly.

Selecting a Hotel

Another thing for dental tourists to consider is where they wish to stay during their dental yourism trip.  Many companies such as,, are the easiest way to find a comfortable place at a fair price. Others  turn to or other boutique websites for home-stays. There are literally hundreds of options available for places to stay in all price ranges.  

Many dental clinics in Costa Rica which cater to dental tourists provide lists of hotels that are close to their locations.  Some have negotiated deals with special rates with nearby hotels.  Patients must make sure if special agreements are in place that they benefit the patient, not the dental clinic!  Since Dental Tourism Clinics are businesses, some try to create profit centers wherever they can.  Others look for ways to pass additional savings to their Dental Patients

Most hotels in Costa Rica are in the $50-$100 range, but less expensive and more expensive ones can easily be found.  As in any country, location is key.  Staying in a low cost hotel in a bad neighborhood may be a good budgeting decision, but likely will be an overall bad decision.  Above all, when traveling for dental work abroad, safety should remain your primary concern. It is important to note that “3 stars” or “4 stars” or “a 5 star country hotel” may not equate to the star system you have become accustomed to in the United States or Canada.  

As stated earlier, one can not do too much research when determining where to stay.  When receiving medical or dental care in Costa Rica, a satisfactory level of comfort is mandatory in becoming a satisfied patient. Take your time.  Look at many websites.  Read some reviews.  Ask questions.  Think of what you plan on doing when you are not in the dental chair at your preferred Costa Rica Dental Clinic.  Do you want to stay holed up in your hotel room to rest, relax  and recuperate?  If so, you may want to spend a bit more money for added comforts.  Thinking of spending most of your free time out and about?  If so, perhaps basic lodging will serve you just fine.

Special Foods to Bring

Most people and Dental Tourists alike are creatures of habit.  We have certain foods that help us keep our bearings, maintain acceptable levels of energy, stay healthy and contribute to our daily happiness.  This does not change when you travel for dental work.  While many people are very adaptable and like to try new foods, delicacies and delights, others need to keep their regimen. When you undergo dental treatment in Costa Rica, you will need good nutrition to heal as quickly as possible.  

Unfortunately, certain dental procedures may limit your ability to eat that which you want or need to eat. Consider bringing some soft foods that will be available if you need them after dental surgery or dental work.  Fruits and vegetables will be available locally, but your favorite chocolate, energy food or protein drink may not.  Try to consider how you may feel after your full mouth restoration.  Will you have a  limited your capacity to eat warm and/or spicy foods? Also, understand that your inflammation from your cosmetic dental work, your Dental Implant Surgery or All on 4 procedures may prohibit you from chewing at all. 

They say a happy belly leads to a happy heart and a happy person.  This should be considered BEFORE you step on the airplane to travel for dental care.  Nothing is worse than sitting in a hotel room with your mouth hurting, except sitting in a hotel room with both your mouth and belly hurting!  Dental implant and All on 4 patients must give extra consideration to this reality. Consider a few toss-in-the-bag items like instant oatmeal, mashed potatoes, soft snacks, protein bars and shakes.  You may need them and use them, and maybe not.  But after dental surgery, better safe than sorry.  The good news is a variety of delicious seasonal fruit shakes should be readily available as you near the equator.

Comforts of Home

As noted earlier, we are creatures of habit.  This doesn’t change when you become a dental tourist. We get accustomed to our pillows, beds, and favorite t.v. shows.  Are you scheduled for a full mouth restoration or dental implant surgery? Don’t take a chance that you will find comforts where you are going.  Bring some of your own.  Familiar sights, smells and sounds can be worth their weight in gold, especially after dental surgery in Costa Rica.  Photos of your loved ones, favorite books and electronic devices for wifi are all recommended. Your favorite robe/slippers/sweater, etc. can be the difference between being comfy and cozy, and being miserable. 

Take some time to consider what each day will be like at the dental clinic. Think about what treat or reward for yourself each day may help keep you in a “happy place.”  Some people like to keep a diary of their trip.  That can be a very valuable thing to have for next time you travel abroad for dental care, or if anything goes wrong along the way.  If you are to visit a Costa Rica Dentist, make sure you prepare yourself mentally as that is a big key to a successful trip.  Dental tourism is truly wonderful, if you prepare properly.

Should you Travel Alone to Costa Rica?

Visiting a  Costa Rica Dentist by yourself can be exciting.  It leaves you free to turn any way you want at a moments notice; but it can present some challenges too.  Will you need someone to be with you after dental surgery? Who will help you if you need help?  It is nice to have a companion to guard your bags at the airport and watch your back in everything you do. Getting dental work in Costa Rica is an easy call for many, but the details need to be considered. A companion enables you let your guard down a bit and relax so you can enjoy the moment. 

Most dental tourists who travel south to Mexico, Costa Rica or other Latin country for dental care DO NOT speak Spanish.  This is not a big problem, but it does make some otherwise easy transactions more difficult.  Buying food, hailing a taxi, shopping for goods will all be part of your dental tourism experience.  And making sure you are understood clearly and completely at your dental clinic in Costa Rica is critical. Aside from dental results, clear communications often defines the degree of Patient success/satisfaction when on a dental tour.  Traveling alone is great, but having a companion along can split the pressure of potential problems in half. 

Hotel and taxi expenses can be split too when on a dental tourism trip.  And in SOME cases, your dental clinic in Costa Rica may provide a discount for multiple people being treated.  Day tours, before or after your dental treatment, can be more enjoyable as a shared experience.  And generally speaking, people are safer in pairs than traveling alone, in any country.  That said, Dental Tourism in Costa Rica is about as safe as it gets.  But with a travel companion if for any reason you are feeling low or nervous, you will have someone to lean on.  And if you need emergency assistance, you have someone near by to help you seek it.

That said, most dental tourists do travel alone.  So don’t worry.  When traveling for dental treatment in Costa Rica, there is little to fear.  Petty crime is present, but violent crime is rare.  Dental Tourists are safe unless they take foolish risks and wander into bad neighborhoods. But you must keep your wits about you just as you must do so in the U.S. or Canada.  It is easy to lose money when completing transactions in local currency. It is also no secret people traveling alone are more susceptible to being distracted, conned or scammed. So stay alert if you decide to travel abroad for dental care

The same rules apply inside your chosen Costa Rica Dental clinic.  Honest mistakes are made occasionally when it is time to settle up and pay for dental services.  And SOME less than ethical Dentists/Dental Clinics in Costa Rica may try and get more from you than they have earned. That’s why it is a good idea to have a Patient Advocate on your side, just in case.  Make sure you review all invoices like a hawk for all dental care you get. Same goes with Guarantees, Warranties and the like.  You need to understand clearly what you  are getting at the dental office in Costa Rica you selected. You also need to know what price you will pay for dental services in Costa Rica before traveling.  And you need to have a plan in the event things go wrong.  

Many Doctors/Dental Clinics in Costa Rica are “stand up” and do exactly as they promise, others do not.  Some actually use cultural barriers to mask their less than honorable intentions. Without having expert guidance in choosing a Dentist in Costa Rica, it can be difficult to tell the good from the bad.  Clinic reputations tell part of the story, but dental tourists are cautioned not leave anything to chance.  Do your due diligence and NEVER be afraid of asking just one more question. This hold true at any point in the Dental Tourism process.  Seeking clarity is not only smart in Dentistry, it is essential, especially for the lone traveler.

Traveling with a Dental Tourist

Nothing can be more difficult than traveling with a dental companion who just went thru a lot of dental work.  At the dental clinic or hotel, being with a Patient who has a low threshold for dental pain is tough.  Especially when those patients just received many root canals or dental implants. The combination of dental work and traveling can be taxing and can turn nice sweet Jekyls into monstrous Hydes.  And difficult days in a dental chair can turn an ordinary happy person into a seriously unhappy camper. 

Before you think about traveling with another dental tourist, think things thru.  What happens if you have a good experience at the dental clinic and your companion does not; or the other way around.  Are you the type that wants to stay in the hotel and relax, or talk incessantly about dental work?  Would you prefer to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of a foreign country, or watch t.v.?  Do you want to care for another person during their moments of need after their dental implant surgery?  Do you like someone to care for you when you are feeling down?  Do you want to stay at a hostel or a palace, or somewhere in between? And your companion, what would they prefer?   

Will the procedures you require present you with eating restrictions?  How about your companion?  Are you going to visit the same Dentist in Costa Rica? What if one of you wants to go out and eat and the other can’t?  Are you going to be comfortable foregoing the possible fun and enjoyable things to show solidarity with your traveling mate?  Will they if the shoe is on the other foot? Are Costa Rica Dental Services appropriate for both you and your companion?

Having a traveling companion when visiting a Costa Rica Dentist is great, except when it is not.  Who sets the ground rules?  Who is in charge of what?  Who is responsible and accountable for this and that?  Who pays for what, and when, and who pays the price when errors are made?  Is this a partnership or just two people sharing taxi, hotel fares and the like?  In sum, it is important you consider the complexities of traveling with another person/Dental Tourist.

Exploring Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers more than just affordable dental care.  There are amazing opportunities for relaxation, enjoyment and adventure.  From zip lines and canopy tours in the jungles of Manuel Antonio to the cloud forests of Monteverde.  And the volcanic hot springs of Arenal to the beautiful shores of the Caribbean beaches. Yes, visiting a Costa Rica Dentist does not need to be all business.  A great smile should remain your main focus, but try to have some fun too.

White water rafting, sports fishing, mountain hiking and bird watching are a few activities available for Dental Tourists.  Butterfly farms, coffee plantations and city tours are also available. The truth is, there are few places on Earth more beautiful than Costa Rica.  It is a nature-lovers paradise, and has a bio-diversity that makes most other countries seem like barren lands.  The only things that keep pace with these amazing, but true claims, are their coffee, their Cosmetic Dentists and their Dental Implant Specialists.

Renting a Car

Renting a car is not much different in Costa Rica than it is in the United States, except for a few important differences.  First, insurance is mandatory, so the costs are a bit higher.  Second, the roads are not great in many areas.  This is due to the country’s limited funds and overabundance of rain. Unfortunately, even the best Costa Rica Dentist can not do anything about that!   

While many roads, thoroughfares and highways remain in pretty good shape at most times, some roads do not. Roads in the mountains, secondary and  access roads are sometimes completely destroyed by deluges.  That said, 4WD is usually not needed.  It will depend upon your particular itinerary and which days you need to spend in the dental clinic.  GPS rental is highly recommended as streets are often unmarked and split into secondary roads without notice.  

If you get in an accident, stay put.  Even if you are late for a dental appointment. Do NOT move your car before an Oficial or Transito is called to the scene to file a report and clear the scene for vehicles to be moved.  This holds true everywhere; in the country, city, or on a highway.  If you move your car, you “lose” and very well may be accountable for the accident regardless of who was at fault. Costa Rica Dentists are some of the best in the world, but their traffic laws could use improvement.

Lastly, returning a car is a bit more harrowing than in the U.S.  In Costa Rica, efficient employees eager to please their bosses check below, above behind and inside every nook and cranny for damage.  It is a very peculiar thing to experience after renting so many cars in the U.S.  So, make sure you take very good care of your rental car and avoid any damage.  Clean it out well before your return it, or risk the applicable extra fees. As you see Dental Tourism involves a lot more than just finding the right Costa Rica Dentist.

Speaking Spanish in Costa Rica

Speaking Spanish is easy, as long as you know how to speak it.  For the rest, it remains only a minor barrier in Costa Rica.  Many locals throughout this heavily-toured country are completely bilingual.  Many others are use to dealing with foreigners, so nearly everyone gets by fairly easily, and many are even able to enjoy their language deficit when interacting with Ticos and Ticas.  

Even though many Doctors and Dentists in Costa Rica are bi-lingual, or close to it, many prefer to speak their native language. While you are in the dental chair you may hear the Doctors and Assistants speaking Spanish.  Do not be alarmed.  They have important work to do and need to communicate with one another in their preferred and most efficient language.  You will likely hear a mix of languages spoken at your dental clinic in Costa Rica

If at any moment you are uncomfortable, let the Doctors know you prefer they speak in English, or translate everything out for you as they move along.  Since there are many different levels of dentistry in Costa Rica, what you experience will likely be commensurate with the level of service for which you pay. So, don’t expect to pay rock bottom prices, and be treated at a boutique dental clinic or dental spa where you are pampered in English.

Most Dental Tourists who travel to Costa Rica would be best served to fly into the main airport (SJO) Juan Santa Maria International Airport.  This is the airport that serves the capital city of San Jose.  The bulk of dental clinics in Costa Rica that are geared towards providing services to dental tourists are located in or near San Jose. 

As the industry continues to grow and mature, Costa Rica Dentists and Dental Clinics are popping up closer to beaches and resorts. But nearly all of the “serious players” realize their best opportunities remain where there is easy access to a greater population, and a more heavily traveled gateway. So, most Dental Clinics in Costa Rica will remain in the greater metropolitan area.

Low cost airlines such as Spirit Airlines, Jet Blue and South West Airlines are often the best bet for a Dental Tourist. These airlines have many gateways from which they fly to SJO (San Jose, Costa Rica) and also LIR (Liberia International Airport), the airport which serves the people traveling to dental clinics, beaches and resorts on the Pacific Coast.

If you need additional information to determine if Dental Tourism is for you, please email us at and we will gladly assist you.