Dental tourism, traveling to another country to save money on dental work, is super popular right now. There are even entire websites dedicated to helping you find the best providers. It’s generally considered pretty safe as long as you take certain precautions, such as checking their reviews and taking a look at where the dentists received their degrees.
I’m no stranger to dental tourism. When I went to Bali, I decided to have my teeth whitened. Everything went swimmingly and I raved about it. What’s better than saving over 50% of the cost it would be in the U.S.? Maybe the fact that I was traveling there anyway and it didn’t interfere with my relaxation time at all.
Since moving to San Diego, CA, I’ve been visiting a dentist in Tijuana, Mexico. This is relatively common here and I’ve met other people who do the same thing. It just seems to make sense economically. Can you even call it dental tourism when you’re only 30 minutes from the border?
Things Take a Turn for the Worst
When the dentist told me I would need two of my wisdom teeth removed, I figured I better get it over with right away. The dental staff were so friendly and comforting and I felt safe. But things didn’t turn out so well.
First of all, I looked in the mirror to find that they had taken out the wrong tooth! They took out the bottom left wisdom tooth instead of the top left. When I told them this, there was a bit of back and forth until they told me they would not charge me for the third tooth and I would have to wait two weeks for them to remove it! Furious, but deliriously swollen, I agreed. I later realized this didn’t even begin to make up for what was essentially malpractice. In addition to the unnecessary pain and the time it would require for me to keep going back, it also put me at increased risk for infection, especially since I am over 25. But this was far from the worst of it.
When I got home I tried to eat liquid foods, as recommended. But each time I went to swallow I felt excruciating pain in my jaw. Several times it seemed to slip out of place entirely! I immediately made an appointment with a local dentist so he could take a look at it. The dentist assured me that this was common and likely a normal part of healing. I kept regular appointments with this new dentist so he could keep tabs on my condition.
Unfortunately, things got worse instead of better. I could only open my jaw the width of my finger and my teeth weren’t even touching on one side. I was definitely not healing. Finally, I was referred to a specialist.
Three Days in the Hospital. Two Months of Suffering
Nearly three weeks after the procedure, I finally received a panoramic x-ray. I’m not a doctor, but it didn’t take a genius to see the results in that x-ray. It was broken. Badly!
I was told to immediately go to the ER in the hospital across the road. So much for a weekend with friends visiting. I spent two days waiting, one night in surgery, and one day recovering.
The surgeon informed me that since the break was so bad and since it was so long after the initial fracture, my jaw would have to be wired shut for a whopping six weeks! Meaning I can only eat foods that are pure liquid with no chunks. I also can’t exercise or talk very easily. Since my food intake is limited, I’m constantly weak and tired. I try to get out of the house, but I mostly stay in bed because I have frequent dizzy spells.
Moral of the Story
Sure, this could have happened in the U.S. The surgeon told me my jaw was very small and susceptible to fracture. BUT if this had happened in the U.S., I could have very rightfully sued. Since it didn’t, all I can do is kick myself for making this mistake.
In addition to all the pain and loss of time I could have been looking for a job, I’m out a lot of money. And the bills won’t end here. Due to the force of the wires, my teeth are shifting and I will likely need braces again. Furthermore, I’m at an increased risk of cavities since I can’t brush the inside of my teeth. Yes, the wisdom tooth procedure was a fraction of the cost it would be in the United States, but my total costs are now much, much higher.
Yes, there are some great dentists abroad. However, I can’t recommend that anyone else take the risk of dental tourism.