a Trip to the Dentist

Dental care is less expensive here in Panama. People travel here for care and even with travel expenses, they save money. So, we decided to wait until we were here to get any further dental care.

My husband needed a bridge. He is missing teeth in the lower jaw in the back of his mouth, teeth that are important for chewing. We all cringe when we hear “bridge”, thinking of the big sucking sound we will hear as large sums are drained from the bank account.

The first appointment was a consultation. The plan was agreed on – remove two crowns, use those teeth to attach a permanent bridge.

The second appointment was to start the work. Crowns were removed, impressions were made, temporary crowns were installed, and impressions were taken to the lab. I was in the waiting room when the man from the lab arrived. The dentist came out with the impressions, and the two men stood at the desk and discussed the bridge at great length, discussing in detail how it was to be, how the teeth were going to fit together with the upper teeth, with the neighboring teeth, something about this surface this, that surface, this space, etc. Then, the lab man put everything in a little plastic baggie and left.  The temporary crowns were put back on, and we were told we would get a phone call when the bridge was ready.

It was only a few days later when the phone rang. The metal part of the bridge was ready and the dentist wanted to check it for fit before the porcelain teeth were put on it. It fit so well that the dentist has a little trouble getting it off the anchor teeth! The temporary crowns were put back on, and we were to wait for the next phone call.

Then, we waited a little over a week for the next call (keep in mind New Years landed in this week so there was holiday time) The bridge was ready. The dentist installed it, and very carefully fitted, filed, checked, and fussed until everything was perfect. My husband said he was absolutely meticulous about getting everything just so.

That was three days ago. My husband has had no discomfort, no problems whatsoever, no adjustment period, nothing. He says from the very start, the bridge feels as comfortable as if he had natural teeth there. I would think there would be some stress on the anchor teeth, something that would feel different and take some settling in but he says no. It felt just fine from the very beginning.

We feel that he got very good care, excellent work was done, and the dentist is kind and gentle. What do you think you would pay for this in the US? Here, it was $750 for everything. I’ve paid more than that for a single crown, with dental insurance!

A couple other things I noticed –

People arrive and greet everyone (individually) in the waiting room. It seems to be a Panamanian way of coming in to a room. I’ve seen it in other places where people are waiting.

This dental office has three people, two dentists and one assistant. The assistant helps the dentists as needed, answers the phone, makes appointments, and does anything else that needed in the office. I remember my dentist’s office in the US. There were two part time dentists in the practice, two hygienists, two assistants, and three office people to answer phones, make appointments, keep charts in order, submit charts for billing/payment, and who knows what else.  That’s seven people for two part time dentists. We wonder why care is so expensive in the US?

Next up – take Ma to the lab for a blood test, and then to the dentist for a cleaning and checkup. Further reports will be coming.

The picture up above is the happy patient with the good dentist, who by the way speaks excellent English as well.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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21 Responses to a Trip to the Dentist

  1. AnneliseD says:

    Interesting stuff here! I’m going to post a link to my dental facebook page and perhaps a link and discussion in my blog too…..TheScariestWomanInDentistry.blogspot.com. This is for sure very thought-provoking, my friend…I mean, amiga mia!

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    • kristc99 says:

      Ahh, que bueno 🙂 I didn’t get to ask him about dental schools here, but we’ll be in there again next week so I’ll see what I can do. I’ll have to check your blog and see what the pros think of our story.

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  2. allison says:

    I am just outside the Washington DC area. Our fee for crowns (I am a dental hygienist) — $975 (so multiply by three usually for a bridge and that would be just about $3K with most insurance companies paying half). Just twenty minutes north, offices are charging $1200/crown! I have been told the DDS are excellent in Panama, inexpensive for dental cleanings and do not have dental hygienists. I would not want a DDS in the States to perform a cleaning since they don’t perform this task everyday and all day (and they get no more than six weeks dental hygiene training in school unless that has changed), but I like to think I will feel comfortable with the Panamanian DDS cleaning my teeth (we shall see). By the way, my office employs two full time dentists, a part time dentist, five full time dental hygienists, three part time dental hygienists, five full time dental assistants, one part time dental assistant, an office manager, a billing specialist and four full time receptionists (makes me want to sing “and a Partridge in a Pear Tree”!). Oh, plus the owner’s wife dabbles in the business!

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    • kristc99 says:

      Wow! I was guessing this would have been around $2500 in the US, so maybe I was a bit low even at that price. And, that whole pear tree full of people, what a thing! Annelise, the person who commented before you is working on the dental business. She posted a link to her blog so check it out. She is trying to get dental practices to be efficient and business minded so hopefully they can keep the costs down and more people can afford care. It’s a shame so many people go without care now because they can’t afford it.

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      • AnneliseD says:

        Well, to the woman working on improving dentistry…..send her to my UF EPM program link….I could always use collaboration and speakers as my program grows!! Link: EPMforDentists.com at the University of Florida College of Dentistry…. 🙂

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      • kristc99 says:

        Annelise, I was talking about YOU, to my other friend Allison who is a hygienist. You are the one working on improving dentistry! And, I think you are definitely one of a kind (professionally and otherwise 😀 ) so who else could I be talking about?!

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  3. cindy knoke says:

    What a fascinating blog and interesting life you have! Love it!

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  4. There’s a reason why Americans pay the most of anybody in the world for health care and yet are somewhere around 50th in the quality of care received. People in other countries can go to the ER and pay less for the entire visit than what we pay for the co-pay..

    On another subject altogether, thanks for the nomination for the Shine On award. I know it’s been awhile, but I finally got a blog post up about it. http://mycruisestories.com/2013/01/10/shine-on-award/
    I also added it to my awards page. http://mycruisestories.com/awards/ There’s links to your blog on both.

    I love your blog, keep up the good work!

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    • kristc99 says:

      Believe me, I know! I’m a nurse so I saw it as a provider as well as a consumer. It’s a total mess and getting worse by the year. We spend more time on paperwork so we can get paid and cover our butts than on caring for people, and the quality of care is suffers.

      My pleasure about the award. There is no time requirement or anything, so no worries. I don’t know much about the Shine On award either except it’s very pretty, and I got it from another blogger that I admire a lot. I figure if you have it you are a shining star in the world of blogs, and we are encouraging you to shine on.

      I’m so glad you enjoy my blog. Thank you so much!

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    • AnneliseD says:

      You know, Kris, I’m wondering if I can write, email, speak to or visit and interview your dentist. Is there an address, email or Skype ID for him? That would be a GREAT way and reason for visiting Panama!! I’m fascinated bout the whole structure, legal compliance, and dental education process there! Omg why didn’t I think of this sooner??? How can I get in touch with this dentist, Kris? Does he Skype? I’d LOVE to have him Skype in…with you…during one of my weekend courses..like the one I’m teaching this week Saturday and Sunday. Maybe if I can speak with him, and visit him, he might be interested in speaking to my group in the dental education and processes down there!?!? Wow!

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      • kristc99 says:

        We expect to be back there on Monday so I will talk with him, explain what you do and why you would like to talk with him. He has email on his business card and a computer in the office, so something is probably possible.

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  5. We live in London and prices for dentists here are also very high. As we have a house in Croatia, for a couple of years now we’ve had all our dental treatment over there and it is excellent. Good doctors and hygienists, modern equipment, 1/4 of the price or less. We also have an adventure at the dentist to tell…
    http://adventureincroatia.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/the-croatian-karate-dentist-strikes-back/
    happy blogging!

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  6. mike says:

    Here is a link to an excellent Dentist in David Panama http://www.dentistinpanama.com the excellent Dra Miriam Rodriquez

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  7. Lynda says:

    Kris,
    We lived just outside of David for 4 years. We’ve been back in Canada now for just over a year and we need to get major dental work done. Could you please tell me the name of your dentist, so I could contact him?

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  8. Pingback: Monday Q and A, Yacht Communities, VA Disability, Racism, and Much More About Panama | Panama For Real

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