Medical Tourism and Why I Don’t Have Dental Records in the US. Wait, What?!

We’ve all heard of the various forms of tourism that have sprouted over the years. Back in the day of RV road trips across the country, tourism was just tourism. But today, there seems to be a form of tourism for just about everything and every interest! Ecotourism for those who want to see fauna and flora, gastronomical tourism for the foodies, and historical/cultural tourism for those who really want to see a country from the perspective of the locals. And for those looking to get medical procedures done? Medical tourism.

Without getting into politics or big pharmaceutical debates, the reality is that Americans pay A LOT for healthcare. And even if you have insurance, shit can get expensive real quick. Having dual citizenship and visiting my grandparents in South America practically every summer, it just became a natural part of my trip to visit the dentist. As an adult, I now understand why: it is incredibly less expensive to have my dental work done in Colombia than it is back home in the states. And somehow throughout this vacationing dentist visits, I have practically no dental records in the US. Aside from a few xrays here or there, all of my dental work has been done in Colombia. This trip I actually kept track of everything we had done, how much it cost, and how much we had been quoted in the US for the procedures. (I know, totally adulting with the preparedness on this one!)

Medical Tourism: Dental Work In Colombia

My brother Thomas, Tim and I all had a dentist appointment the day after we arrived in Colombia. For us, this is usually a couple of x-rays, an annual check up, filling any cavities we may have, and we’re done.
320,000 Colombian Pesos got us the following:

  • 3 annual check ups/cleanings
  • 1 set of full dental x-rays
  • 3 cavities corrected
  • 1 removal of a permanent retainer that was behind Tim’s lower jaw’s front teeth

That comes out to about $107 US dollars. Tim alone had been quoted $350 USD for his permanent retainer removal and cleaning!

But It Is Bad Doctors And Dirty Clinics

Medical tourism, done right, is not bad kidney transplants in sketchy hotel rooms. It obviously requires research, you can’t just book a flight and hope for the best. Our dentist had a small office, a huge contrast to the American dentist offices we have been to before. It was just him, his dental assistant, one chair, and a small waiting room. Still, it has hygienic, clean, and nothing short of what you would expect to find in an American Dental office.


Medical practices aren’t taken lightly in other countries, it is still medicine after all, so do research! Colombia has some of the best plastic surgeons in the world, so if a boob job or liposuction is what you are in the market for look no further. Smaller offices and less staff mean that, aside from currency exchanges that are favorable there is less overhead. But don’t think that means a less quality of medicine. Most selective surgeries include a 2-3 week stay in a rehab center with state of the art around the clock care! People travel to other countries for a variety of medical procedures abroad. Costa Rica is even a popular destination of child birth!

And like every trip before it, we already know what the next procedures will be and roughly how much they will cost. For Thomas, that means having his wisdom teeth taken out if they are bothering him as wisdom teeth are something that are generally only removed in other countries if there is discomfort or they are interfering with other teeth. And that $4,000ish US bill? It will be about 1/10th of that, if not less. And for Tim it will be a day of removing his metal fillings and having them all replaced with white “porcelain” ones, again costing him must less than half of what it would be back home.

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