Smile Makeover

Your Guide to Top-Quality, Affordable Dentistry

How does a smile makeover differ from a full-mouth reconstruction? The "Consumer Guide to Dentistry answers that question this way: "A smile makeover is something that you elect to have performed, while a full-mouth reconstruction is something that you need."

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

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Thus, a smile makeover may employ more cosmetic treatments (whitening, bonding, veneers) and involve less reconstructive work (bridges, implants, partial dentures), but the particulars vary on a case-by-case basis. So, if your teeth are basically sound, your gums are healthy, and your teeth and jaw are well aligned, you may be most interested in an improvement in appearance. In that case, a smile makeover may be for you.

Why It Works for Medical Tourism

If you need only a whitening or a single veneer to make over your smile, you probably 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 lot or work to achieve the appearance you desire, cost savings may become an important consideration. For example, just a single porcelain crown costs from US$600 to US$3,100 in the US. The average in Costa Rica and Thailand runs around US$500. In Mexico, the average is US$950. Multiply those cost differences over several crowns and you just might save enough on your smile makeover to pay for a vacation.

Planning Ahead

Although cosmetic dentistry isn’t a legally recognized specialty, it pays to find a dentist who specializes in aesthetic work with all the commensurate experience. Make sure you plan for an extended stay or multiple visits (you can check in advance with your dentist along with your quote request).

Accreditation and Certification

Membership in a professional association is an important indicator of any health professional’s expertise. 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 the crowns, implants, or bridges your smile makeover may require. Find out how your coverage is affected if you travel for dental care.
  • One dentist’s smile makeover is another's full-mouth reconstruction. If you are considering a large amount of work for mostly cosmetic reasons, do seek a second, or even a third, opinion.
  • 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 find out about access to the several dental specialties your reconstruction for require. For example, some dental practices employ periodontists, endododists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons all under one roof. That’s a plus if you’re planning multiple procedures requiring teamwork across specialties.
  • 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. The process of planning and executing a smile makeover requires considerable expertise. Make sure your reconstruction team has plenty of it.
  • Last updated on 4 July 2017