Tooth and Consequences: Fla. Woman Faces Medical Tourism Nightmare

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Medical tourism
Medical tourism is nothing new: For years, media outlets, including this one, have been reporting on the benefits of going to other countries for expensive medical procedures. But sometimes, cheap medical work can come with a high price -- as the recent case of a Florida woman illustrates.

On Wednesday, WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Central Florida, reported on the case of Helen Hyjek, a Palm Coast woman who traveled to Costa Rica for dental implants. According to Hyjek, the implanted teeth were too large and were poorly aligned. Today, she claims, she is in constant pain, has bleeding gums, and can't eat solid food.

Helen HyjekHyjek's choice to have her dental work done in Costa Rica isn't unusual, says Judy Orchard, communications manager for Patients Beyond Borders, a medical travel advisory group. It's one of the top 10 destinations for medical travel: Procedures there can cost 40% to 65% less than in the U.S.

"You wouldn't go to Costa Rica for a cavity or a crown," Orchard explains, but "many baby boomers need hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of work done," and medical tourism can help bring those costs back within reason.

It's pretty American-friendly, and traveling there for follow-up is relatively inexpensive," says Orchard. " However, she admits that there can be a downside to getting dental work done in the Central American country: As Hyjek's story illustrates, American patients who have problems with their Costa Rican dental work don't have any legal recourse.

This doesn't mean that Americans traveling abroad for health care have to go in blind. Orchard points out that the Joint Commission International, a U.S.-based organization, inspects and accredits foreign hospitals. The foreign arm of America's accrediting group, JCI works to insure a high level of patient care in non-U.S. hospitals.

"Not knowing the facility [Hyjek] went to, it's hard to comment on this story," Orchard notes. "But we've found that more reputable facilities will work with you to ensure your satisfaction." The key, she claims, is looking beyond the price. "You have to do your due diligence."

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that Ms. Orchard said some Baby Boomers spend "hundreds of thousands" on dental work. She actually said "hundreds or thousands," and the story has been edited accordingly.

The Increase of Medical Tourism

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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Lisa Bona

Why dental treatment cost differs so much? It is not a question of quality anymore. Because there are superb doctors everywhere. It is our thinking that if sth costs loads this means it is worth it, well maybe, but there are options abroad to consider. If you do a thorough research you may find a real good clinic, with even better service, where you are not kicked off right after the surgery and treated with the mentality "discharge him as quickly as possible, next, please"
Now as it comes to the prices. Why cost in the UK is so high and in the other European, we should have look at the wages of surgeons and medical staff. Secondly, the cost for the maintenance of the facilities, the clinic, operational rooms, etc. vary significantly throughout the countries. Finally, some medical taxes abroad burden enormously a patient whereas in other countries they are lifted.
There is plenty of information on the web, you may start with this one covering the differences of surgery prices in Europe www.surgeryprice.co.uk/

August 26 2012 at 5:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sylvia

I have been going to Costa Rica since 2005 for dental work. My 4 dental implants have been complimented by my dentist here in New York City. I had a couple of route canals, a tooth pulled, bone grafts & 8 crowns.
I have been very happy with the work The dental clinic is immaculate & the lab is on the premises & so is every specialty of dentist. I went to Prisma Dental in San Jose.
I saved approximately $20,000 plus had a few vacations in Costa Rica waiting for my crowns to be made.
I am sorry that this woman had such a terrible experience. It can happen anywhere.
Two of my friends had face lifts in Costa Rica & they look natural & refreshed. Not pulled tight.
I plan on going to their doctor when I'm ready for a facelife.

August 09 2012 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phil Collins

Going oversea for health care can be a big mistake, they might put caulk in your Boobs or silly putty in your butt !

August 07 2012 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
uncommonsensesc

I see all the postings that say implants are $6,000 on up - who in the world is pricing these? They're about $3,000 - which is still outrageous but those other prices are way too inflated! If you're getting those prices in the US, then all you need to do is check out other states, not go to another country!

August 07 2012 at 6:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Setanta

this lady has ONE HORRIBLE SET OF CAPPED teeth--horrendous and fake looking.

August 07 2012 at 3:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ccertezza

dentists are getting richer and richer.....and so many people 'S TEETH ARE BEING PULLED....EVEN THE HEALTHY ONES.

August 07 2012 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ccertezza's comment
Setanta

bull-,they don't want to perform extractions and many flat out REFUSE TO as they want you to blow money on root canals/pulpectomies/CROWNS etc and over and over and way too many are NOT EVEN SKILLED at extracting teeth either,and you have to shop around and ask others to recommend a DDS that WILL EXTRACT CORRECTLY and with local-. you just don't yank them out and if you ever suffered through abcessed teeth or broken down ones--you go through HELL and when you find a proficient professional you stick with him or her.

August 07 2012 at 3:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
northhouse1121

Any dr will put in an implant even though the jaw bone is not receptive.must get 2nd and 3 opinions.

August 06 2012 at 12:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jetfanglo

boo-friggin'-hoo

August 06 2012 at 9:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
barrashee

To Drnorush: WOW! I'm a dentist! An implant COSTS me about $750, and thats not even the most expensive brand. Then there is the cost of the equipment to place the implant, and of course we aren't in this just to work for free. An implant and crown in the US is going to be $2,000 to $3,000, more if your dentist is using the more expensive brands or can command a higher price. The cost of the parts alone is about $1,000. I don't know why or how they are cheaper in foreign countries, but I can't compete with that price

August 06 2012 at 3:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to barrashee's comment
Sylvia

One of the reasons dental & medical are less expensive in Costa Rica is due to labor costs. The average worker in CR earns $10,000 a year or less.

August 09 2012 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
drnorush

I'm an MD in Florida. The oral surgeon visits once a week - is young and well trained. The cost for for a single implant (without the crown) would have been nearly $6000. I did some research and went to Costa Rica myself - visited a speciaist who's personally done over 18,000 implants. The implant plus the crown was $750. Could't be happier. Malpractice, office costs, etc.....all bring up the prices here astronomically. Having "no legal recourse" isn't so bad as this article tends to imply. Our healthcare system is in a shambles because of malpractice costs - mostly unwarranted and fueled by a legal system that profits tremendously by it.

August 05 2012 at 11:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to drnorush's comment
jorwmu

Dr, please let others know WHO you saw in Costa Rica!!! I personally travel home (MI) for dental work because SW FL dentists (4) all told me differnt lies and quoted me between $10,000 and $30,000 to "get me healthy". I traveled home and got everything (1 root canal, 3 fillings, cleaning) done for under $2000!!! In the near future, I'm going to need a lot more work so I'd like to know where exactly you went so I can see the same DR who did over 18,000 implants as you did. Thank you in advance PS My Michigan dentist charges $600 for root canal and $700 for crown. The other 3 cavities he said weren't bad at all and didn't need root canals as the FL dentists told me. All 4 SW FL dentists also told me that I'D need to see endontist for canals. Such a racket

August 06 2012 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jorwmu's comment
Setanta

should report the folKKers as FOUR is outrageous-

August 07 2012 at 3:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down