The Top 5 Destinations For Dental Tourists from the USA

Here at Meza Dental, we’ve served international clients for almost 20 years, and in that time the industry around dental tourism (traveling to other countries for dental work) has grown significantly, with numerous destinations offering these services.  

With that in mind, we wanted to take a moment to take a look at what dental tourism is, why it’s becoming so popular, and five top destinations around the world that we consider having the best balance of quality dental care, affordable prices, and wonderful experience.

What is Dental Tourism?

With the rising costs of dental care in the US, more and more people are joining the Dental Tourism bandwagon… and why wouldn’t they?

With rates between 50-70% less for the same treatment, it really is possible to improve your smile and enjoy a nice vacation- at the same time, even if you’re on a budget. In many cases, you will still spend less money than you would in the United States.

While it may not seem worth it to travel for your everyday dental needs (like checkups and cleanings) when it comes to big jobs like a set of veneers, some dental implants, or a full mouth restoration, the cost can really add up, and savings like these can really help! 

Here’s a quick example of what I mean. One implant (we’re talking about the artificial root, the abutment which joins the artificial root to the crown, and the crown which replaces the actual tooth) starts at around $4,500 per implant in the US. In Costa Rica, the same procedure will start at around $1,300.

It sounds too good to be true, but there are modern, professional dental offices all around the world. The main difference is that the cost of overhead and labor in the United States is much higher and that forces American dentists to charge you more for their services

Luckily, some forward-thinking dentists, like Dr. Meza, realized that many people wouldn’t be able to afford proper dental care, and they became pioneers in the field of dental tourism… offering international patients an alternative to often sky high local dental costs.

Now, more than 20 years later, dental tourism has become a thriving industry, with options to suit every need. All it takes is a little research to create the perfect dental vacation. This article will touch on the most popular destinations for Americans, so you can compare costs, travel time, and locations for each.

Price Comparison for Dental Tourism

The main reason that most people consider dental tourism is the difference in prices, so let’s tackle that first. As you can see, regardless of the destination you choose- the savings are significant. So, why not take that trip you’ve always dreamt of, and get a little work done while you’re there?

We’ve created a useful chart showing our Top 5 Destinations, and the relative price for services in each. 

Keep in mind that these costs are averaged out and that each treatment plan will be unique to the patient.

How Far Will You Travel for A Beautiful Smile?

The next consideration when it comes to choosing the perfect dental vacation is travel time. In general terms, many Americans will choose a destination that’s relatively close because it’s convenient. That’s why the Latin- and Central-American dental tourism industries are so strong.

However, if you’ve always wanted to stand on the bridge between Buda and Pest and gaze down the length of the Danube- then a little more travel time might be worth it to you.

It’s all a case of personal choice, so in the spirit of adventure, here is a chart comparing flight times and prices from a central hub to each destination.

DESTINATIONCancun,MexicoSan Jose,Costa RicaBogota,ColombiaBudapest,HungaryBangkok Thailand
FLIGHT TIME2 hours3 hours3 ¾ hours9 ¼ hours19 ¾ hours
HUBMiamiMiamiMiamiNew YorkNew York
AVERAGE COST OF RETURN FLIGHT$75-$350$300-$350$70-$280$165-$650$460-$980

As with most trips, traveling in the off-season or shoulder season can result in lower flight costs,  so you can explore all the best attractions and go home with some truly amazing memories (and a lovely smile).

Our Top 5 Dental Tourism Destinations

Now that you have an idea of the comparative costs and travel times, let’s get down to the fun stuff. The destinations!

In this section, we’re going to explore some of the most popular attractions for each destination, a little bit about why it made our top 5 list, and cover what the tourist seasons are for each.

Cancun, Mexico

Distance: 2 hours flight from Miami

High Season: Mid-December- Easter (Semana Santa)

Travel Tip: Travel after Easter to the end of November for savings of 20-50%!

Quality of Care:  Dentists in Mexico must complete a rigorous dental certification that begins with a 3-5 year Dental Program to practice. They must then pass an exam given by the Colegio Nacional de Cirujanos Dentistas (CNCD). Look for dentists certified by the Asociacion Dental Mexicana (ADM) or Mexico Dental Association, and you can be sure to receive exceptional quality dental care.

With a rich and vibrant culture, outdoor markets that are chock full of unique handcrafted items, delicious fresh produce, spicy street foods, and some of the most breathtaking Mayan ruins in the world… Mexico is a destination that lands on most bucket lists. As the closest destination (to the states) for dental tourism, Mexico is a favorite for Americans.

So, what makes Mexico so special?

The weather! The country enjoys a two-season climate, with lush greenery and cooler temperatures during the green season, and endless blue skies the rest of the year. The temperature can range from 50-90 F depending on the season and the elevation, so you can always find a temperature that’s comfortable for you.

The Culture! As with most Latin and Central American countries, Mexico’s native population is an eclectic mix of indigenous tribes (perhaps the most famous of which are the Mayans), and Spanish settlers who arrived after the Spanish conquest (1519-1521). As you can imagine, this gives tourists access to a rich and varied cultural experience that includes everything from taking a trip back in time to an indigenous village, or one of many local museums, like the Cancun’s Mayan Museum dedicated to the study of Mayan culture.

The Food! There is just something FUN about Mexican food- (besides the tequila). Whether you want to sit in a typical Mexican eatery and enjoy tacos to the music of a mariachi band, or you want to try some traditional street food, like elote (which is corn on the cob served on a stick, drizzled with mayo and then coated in spices), Mexican cuisine is always exciting.

The Ruins! When many people think of Mexico as a destination, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic shape of Chichen Itza’s towering pyramid, but that’s just one of dozens of historical monuments scattered across the country. Even now, 1,600 plus years after it was at its height, we don’t really know the scope of this awe-inspiring civilization. So far archeologists know about 40 cities, each with a total population of between 5,000 and 50,000!

The Adventure! Step forward to modern Mexico and you will find a country that has embraced the idea of adventure tourism. Mexico has something for everyone, and that makes it a great place for the whole family to visit, even if dad wants to dive with sharks, mom’s dying to try ziplining, and the kids are addicted to water fun parks! 

San Jose, Costa Rica

Distance: 3 hours flight from Miami

High Season: late November to late April

Travel Tip: Book your trip between May and November for a chance to see baby turtles hatching!

Quality of Care:  Costa Rica’s status in the world of Dental Tourism comes from the extremely high standards demanded by the Costa Rican Dental Association (CRDA). You can be sure any dental practitioner certified by the CRDA will provide the highest quality care. 

Dentists in Costa Rica must complete a 6-year program (at one of 4 dental schools within the country) in order to earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery. If they wish to specialize, that takes another 2-3 years of study. 

Costa Rica is famous for its ecotourism and biodiversity, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Eco-tourism may be its main claim to fame, but there is something for everyone in Costa Rica. Known to be the safest and most peaceful of all the Latin- and Central-American countries, it’s the perfect destination for nervous travelers and solo travelers alike. Still, with so many fun things to do… you’re going to want to bring friends!

Perhaps the easiest way to tell you all about what Costa Rica has to offer is to separate it into categories…

Eco-Tourism. You can’t mention Costa Rican tourism without mentioning the words biodiversity and sustainability. That’s because its unique position between North America and South America has created an environment that includes flora and fauna from both! Even though the country only has about 0.03% of the planet’s landmass- it has 6% of the world’s biodiversity.  People come from all over the world to explore the amazing variety of microclimates and discover the creatures, both big and small, that live in harmony here.

Adventure. Adventurous travelers the world over head to Costa Rica every year because there is everything from soaring mountains to fast-flowing rivers to steaming volcanoes and deep blue waters to explore. And you can explore them hanging beneath the fluttering nylon of a parachute, dangling from a line sprung beneath the canopy, repelling down a waterfall, from the deck of a boat, or deep underwater wearing full scuba gear. It’s the perfect place to push your boundaries and set your heart racing with a new adventure.

Surfing. The surfing culture has been a part of life here since the early 70s, which explains the phrase that you will hear constantly… “Pura Vida,” which literally translates to “pure life”. It’s a concept that has been attracting surfers from around the globe for generations, and the plethora of pristine beaches and rolling surf will keep them coming for generations to come. Here is an interesting article about the best surfing spots in Costa Rica.

Farm-to-Table. Another part of the Pura Vida lifestyle is evident in the local markets. In a country as lush and fertile as Costa Rica, the variety of fresh produce and fruit is enough to make foodies swoon. Perhaps that’s why so many amazing chefs call it home. Everywhere you look you will find delicious food created with the freshest ingredients, often grown right on the property where it is being prepared… and if that’s not cool enough, you can actually visit a few farms where you can milk a cow and make your own cheese. You can’t get any fresher than that! Here is an amazing Tour for Foodies that will take you to some of the best spots in San Jose’s Barrio Escalante.

Indigenous Culture. There are 8 indigenous tribes in Costa Rica, and each has a unique cultural history that has been passed down for generations.  Today, most of these indigenous groups share their culture with tourists as a means of supporting the tribes and maintaining the traditions and skills of their ancestors. Guests can learn about their culture and history, try ancient recipes and learn how to make crafts using techniques that have been around for hundreds of years. Click here to learn more!

Bogota, Colombia

Distance: 3 ¾ hour flight from Miami

High Season: December- March (also known as the dry season) 

Travel Tip: Colombia is a mountainous country. The higher you go, the lower the temperature. Bogota is located on the slopes of the Andes with average temperatures of 50-60 degrees F compared to the 75-85 felt by much of the country.

Quality of Care:  Dentists in Colombia must complete 5 years of study in dental school, earn a diploma, and work for the government for 1 year in order to practice dentistry as a profession. With some of the best universities in Latin America, it’s no wonder that 20,000 people head to Colombia annually for dental work and cosmetic surgery.

Colombia is famous for having the biggest jungle in the world. While it’s true that the mighty Amazon covers 35% of the country’s landmass, there is far more to this hidden gem than you would expect. Including a colorful history, a blend of Spanish and indigenous cultures, and some truly amazing biodiversity.

Natural and Ancient History. Only 35 km from the pretty city of Santa Marta lies the Tayrona Natural Park, where history stands still and the landscape is jaw-droppingly beautiful. This 15,000-hectare preserve (12,000 on land and 3,000 marine hectares) holds an amazing array of sights.  The traditional woven grass or wood huts of the Tayrona people mingle with archeological sites, and adventure seekers can even head out on a 4-day hike to the fabled Lost City.

Festivals. If you time your visit well, you may be able to take in one of the many annual festivals that bring this country alive. Perhaps the most colorful takes place in April in the city of Bogata. The Ibero-American Theatre Festival is 17 days of music, pageantry, dance, and theatre of course! If aquatic pastimes are more your ‘thing’, then The Festival of the Sea which takes place in late July, might appeal to you. This event which lasts several days includes plenty of music, great food, and sporting events, including the annual Marine and National Games.

Coffee! Every year Colombian coffee growers produce 11.5 million bags of arabica coffee beans. That makes them the third largest producer in the world! Luckily for coffee lovers, this means lots of coffee tours where you can discover how your favorite morning cup of magic was created… and taste all the yummy strains for yourself. Click here for the Top 11 Coffee tours in Colombia!

GOLD! Since man first discovered the luxurious shine of this precious metal, people have been obsessed. Since 1939, the Banco de la República Gold Museum has been collecting and preserving examples of pre-Hispanic metallurgy and now has one of the most important collections in the world.

The Amazon. It’s true that there is much more to Colombia than the Amazon… but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating! This is a country of extremes, including everything from desert climes to savannah to mangrove swamps, rainforests, and cloud forests. There is so much to explore that getting out of your comfort zone and into the wild could be the experience of a lifetime.

Budapest, Hungary

Distance: 9 ¼ hours from New York

High Season: May- September

Travel Tip: Head to Budapest in August to take part in the annual Festival of Folk Arts  where you can enjoy handmade folk art, traditional food, and drink, and artisan workshops.

Quality of Care:  Hungarian Dentists must complete a 5-year university course to be licensed and are regulated by the Hungarian Dental Association (HDA), and when 70,000 dental tourists arrive annually, you can be sure this popular destination lives up to its reputation for top-notch dental care.

This location is sure to be on a lot of bucket lists. This is a country of gorgeous architecture, with a rich multi-cultural history, mouth-water food… and castles! What’s not to like?

Culture. Located in Central Europe and bordered by 7 different countries, it’s easy to see how Hungary became the multicultural center that it is. While Hungarian is the official language, tourists can also expect to hear English, Armenian, Bulgarian, Croatian, German, Greek, Romanian, Romani, Rusyn, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. This rich and varied heritage is evident in the diversity of everything from music to food to entertainment.

Food. Of course, with this many gastronomical influences, Hungary is a foodie’s dream location, and that’s reflected in the many wine tours and gastronomical events available to enjoy. It is said that “Hungarians live to eat, whereas Americans eat to live.” A true gourmet meal here can take several hours and include 7-8 courses!

The Danube. Budapest is the name given to the capital city, but it’s interesting to note that it actually comprises two cities- Buda and Pest (pronounced “pesht”)  which are divided by the mighty Danube River. It has always played a significant role in the history of the city, serving as a commercial highway between nations. Today tourists can enjoy many tours along the beautiful Danube to gaze in wonder at the fortresses and castles that line its banks while sipping wine and nibbling more of that delicious food.

Castles!  Did I mention that there are castles? Who doesn’t love a good castle? Hungary has more than 100 of them to discover. Some were designed to be fortresses, some are lavish palaces dripping in architectural details and adorned by acres of decorative gardens. You might be tempted to spend your whole trip going from castle to castle (with a few stops for wine and előétel -Hungarian for appetizers- along the way).

Formula 1. One thing that sets Hungary apart from other destinations on our list is its long history with car racing. In fact, people have been coming to see the Hungarian Grand Prix since 1939… and as an interesting historical fact, it was the first Formula1 race to take place behind the Cold War’s iron curtain. Racing enthusiasts can book their trip for the end of July to claim their spot at the Hungaroring and experience the noise and excitement of cars racing past at speeds of up to 230 mph!

Bangkok, Thailand

Distance: 19 ¾ hours from New York

High Season: November- April

Travel Tip: Book your trip to coincide with Chinese New Year for a truly spectacular experience.

Quality of Care:  To become a dentist in Thailand, dentists must complete a 6-year graduate degree, and must pass the board’s certification exam to be granted a license to practice by the Thailand Dental Council (TDC). It makes you wonder if the country’s nickname “The Land of Smiles” has anything to do with the 1.2 million dental tourists who arrive every year to receive treatment from their many internationally trained dentists. Look for practitioners accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), which is a U.S.-based healthcare initiative.

While the idea of traveling for almost 20 hours (to get to Thailand) can be daunting… it’s sure to be an experience like no other.

The city of Bangkok is one of the largest in the country (over 600 sq miles!). In fact, over time it has grown so large that it now reaches into parts of six surrounding provinces. The city itself has become a sprawling metropolis of narrow streets, through which meanders the Chao Phraya River. It encompasses areas of ancient architecture and temples, modern high rises, sprawling government buildings, and even some agricultural land and forests.

Bangkok is an eclectic and occasionally confusing mix of traditional culture and modern living where anything goes. This study in contrast has to be seen to be believed.

 Taling Chan Floating Market. Vendors plying their wares along the Chao Phraya River is a common site for the people of Thailand. For tourists, however, the ability to buy everything from produce to street food to souvenirs from long, colorfully painted wooden boats is a truly authentic experience. In fact, the floating market is so big that this popular tour lasts 4 hours!

Shopping. For a really interesting juxtaposition, head directly from the bustle and color of a local market to the massive and luxurious Siam Paragon Mall where you can buy yourself a nice Maserati- or the perfect pair of designer shoes… then finish off the day with a visit to the indoor aquarium or the IMAX Theatre.

Spirituality. Thailand is a place of spiritual fusion, where residents practice a mix of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Animism. Spirituality is a part of everyday life here, ensuring that the population lives “in the moment” and with a certain amount of intention. Religion and spirituality are evident in everything from the architecture to the local traditions, giving the country a feeling of mystery that draws travelers from all over the world. Millions flock to the many stunning Buddhist temples each year to spend time in the quiet hush where robed monks worship before golden statues, and huge bronze bells provide a backdrop to a chorus of OHM.

Stunning Architecture. Few sights can match the beauty and majesty of the temples of Bangkok, except perhaps the Grand Palace. This 218,000 square meter complex has been home to the royal family since 1792. Make sure you have all day to wander the manicured grounds and explore the intricately detailed sculptures, the palace itself, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, (which was carved from a solid block of Jasper in the 15th century and is considered the most important image of Buddha in Thailand).

Elephants! Everyone loves elephants…don’t they? These gentle giants are seen as a symbol of fortune in Thailand, and their image graces stamps, coins, and even the Navy flag. Unfortunately, these graceful creatures are now on the endangered list, so organizations like the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (which has 4 locations in Thailand) are dedicated to the care and preservation of the elephants in their care. Those willing to venture 2 hours out of the city can spend the day with the elephants and support an important cause at the same time.

Is Dental Tourism for You?

Let’s face it, few people look forward to visiting the dentist, regardless of how important it is to our overall health and wellbeing. But dental tourism has given people a new and exciting way to deal with your dental and oral care. Why not cross that dream trip off your bucket list, save money, and return home with a brand new and healthy smile? It’s easier than you might think!

Here at Meza Dental, we have been providing professional dental care to international patients for more than 20 years. Our team is made up of a group of dedicated and caring individuals- experts in their field- whose skill and artistry are second to none, but that’s not all we do. As pioneers in our field, we understand that every part of your is just as important, and we have staff dedicated to helping you plan everything from transportation to accommodations to adventure.

With offices in both Cancun, Mexico, and San Jose, Costa Rica, we can help create the smile you’ve always wanted and combine it with the chance to see a world-renowned destination.

For more information about what we do, simply click here to visit our website, or call us directly (toll-free from the US and Canada) at 1-(877)-337-6392.

Our friendly, English-speaking staff are ready and waiting to answer all your calls, or click here to download our “ Steps to the Perfect Smile” guide. There you will learn all about the process, from the free consultation to aftercare.

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