Dental Implants

Your Guide to Top-Quality, Affordable Dentistry

A dental implant is a tiny titanium rod that is affixed to the jawbone; a false tooth is attached to the rod above the gumline. A single implant may replace a missing tooth or a bridge. Multiple implants can replace removable dentures, either partially or in full. Bridges, crowns, and root canals are alternatives to implants. Some studies suggest that the success rate for root canals is slightly higher than for implants, which are a relatively new (1990s) innovation in dentistry.

Why It Works for Medical Tourism | Planning Ahead | Accreditation and Certification | Dental Tourism Do's and Don'ts

Why It Works for Medical Tourism

If you need only one implant, you won’t save money traveling, but you may choose to do so anyway. Some global patients have established satisfactory relationships with out-of-country dentists and wouldn’t dream of having their dental work done elsewhere. Others take a "might-as-well-as" approach to dental care: if they plan to visit a country for business or pleasure, “why not” save a little money on dental care at the same time? If, however, you need a bridge as well as additional dental work, you may find substantial savings abroad.

If a large number of implants are anticipated, cost savings become an important consideration. A single implant costs, on average, US$2,500 in the US. The average in India is US$1,200; in Costa Rica, it’s a mere US$950.

Planning Ahead

Implant patients are well advised to seek second, even third, opinions. Some cases for which implants are recommended by one dentist may prove better treated by a root canal or a bridge at the hands of another dentist. Don’t assume you need an implant; seek expert advice from more than one specialist.

Realize, also, that implants are not minor, "in-and-out" procedures. They are surgery performed under sedation, and the implantation of the rod in the jawbone requires three to six months of healing time before the tooth (crown) can be placed. Implant patients need to have enough bone in the area of the missing tooth to anchor the titanium rod. If they don’t, a bone graft may be needed. Grafting adds more time to the process, so make sure your travel schedule and budget will support an extended stay or several return trips to your out-of-country dentist.

Accreditation and Certification

Non-US dentists practicing abroad can apply for affiliate membership in the American Dental Association (ADA). Such membership is available to dentists who are practicing in a country other than the United States and who do not have an active US dental license.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) runs an accreditation program that serves professionals practicing in the US and abroad. Applicants for accreditation complete a rigorous credentialing process that includes a written examination, oral examination, and peer review of clinical cases.

Dental Tourism Do's and Don'ts

  • Do make sure you check and understand the specifics of your dental insurance plan, if you have one. Some plans cover full or partial costs for bridges. Find out how your coverage is affected if you travel for dental care.
  • Do ask about lower cost alternatives. For example, a missing tooth can be replaced with an expensive implant or a less expensive bridge. If the latter is as good as the former in your judgment, then save some money and opt for the more affordable choice.
  • Do ask for a cost estimate in writing. Although the estimate may change once the dentist is able to review your needs in person, it is important to have an agreed upon point of departure.
  • Dentistry can be painful, especially if you compress a lot of work into a short period of time. If you are highly sensitive to pain, do discuss pain management with your dentists—both at home and out-of-country.
  • Do ask if all your work can be done in one trip; your savings decline if you have to travel twice.
  • Do ask about compatibility of any parts or materials used. Standard dental practices, supplies, and equipment vary among countries. Incompatibilities can create problems for follow-up care at home.
  • Do remember to request x-rays, estimates, test results, and other documentation to share with your at-home dentist so you don’t have to pay for more later. Most will supply you x-rays in digital format. Ask for jpg files.
  • Do ask for patient references. A successful practice should be more than happy to share positive outcomes.
  • Don’t fall for showy websites. Find out about your clinic’s good standing and accreditation, as well as your dentist’s training, credentials, board certification, and experience. Dental implants require expertise—make sure your dentist has plenty.
  • Last updated on 2 August 2011