Patients traveling outside the U.S. for dental work

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by KING 5 HealthLink

KING5.com

Posted on December 28, 2010 at 6:06 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

The price of dental care can be pretty costly. Even if you have insurance you can be stuck paying thousands of dollars.

Some people are now going out the country to get their teeth fixed. It's called "dental tourism."

"I just thought I'll never be able to have it done," says Sheila Liner, who booked a trip through a dental tourism company. The found her a dentist in Costa Rica. Liner paid him $3,600 and made a vacation out of it.

"I was just so excited to be able to smile again, it had been a long time!" she says.

Shelia is part of a growing trend. More and more people are heading outside the country to places like Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Thailand and Korea for dental work.

"Our fees here reflect a very robust system of safety," says Dr. Edmond Hewlett, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

Hewlett says patients in the U.S. pay more because dentists meet rigorous government standards, and some dentists in other countries do not.

"Let me make it very clear there are untold numbers of highly qualified dentists out there all over the world, you want to make sure if you're going to another country you have one of those," says Hewlett.

But the president of the dental tourism company Shelia used says it's dentists are thoroughly vetted.

"If their patients were returning to the U.S. or to their home country saying negative things about their experience to their friends and family it would significantly impact their business," says David Boucher, with Companion Global Healthcare.

Still, the A.D.A.  urges patients to carefully weigh their options.

"In these difficult economic times when everybody's looking to save money, and 'What can I cut out?' my own personal opinion, your body shouldn't be the first place to look to start making cuts," says Hewlett.

Shelia says her trip changed her life.

"It was well worth it. I'd do it all over again."

Companion Global Healthcare says it offers a dental tourism insurance policy for about $200 which would cover a patient for anything that goes wrong on their trip for up to $50,000.

Some U.S. insurance companies do pay for dental work performed out of the country.

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