My recent experience with dental care in Panama, and how sometimes things are much more than they appear.
In early November I discovered a very small hole in a tooth, the first premolar according to the anatomy charts. It was on the outside, up near the gum, and painless. I figured I’d better go to the dentist though to get it checked out. It turned out to be a cavity, the tip of a rather large and deep cavity inside the tooth. The dentist was worried because it was deep and above the gum line, and she filled it with a large temporary filling ($30).
I was sent to another office for an X-ray ($7), which I brought with me to my next appointment.
The next step was to see the gum specialist for a procedure to raise the gum. I was confused until I did some research on google. Who knew that a cavity or filling below the gum line was a big problem! My research confirmed that my dentist, or now my dentists were proceeding correctly. I had the procedure which took maybe an hour ($125). The next week I returned to have the stitches removed. The whole thing was pretty much painless, only some minor irritation from the stitches after they were in for a while.
Stay with me. We aren’t even done yet. Next stop, the root canal specialist. I didn’t bring my X-ray so she took a couple more ($10). She projected them on the overhead TV, carefully explained what she saw, that darker line extending up the side of the root which was not a good thing. Even though I had no pain, she was afraid that it would flare up in the future and then we’d have to remove any restoration, have the procedure, and redo the restoration.
So, I scheduled the root canal for shortly after my USA trip. It took well over an hour but was painless. She put on the TV overhead to distract me, and took pictures periodically which I could see on the TV. After it was done I never had any pain. She also left me with a temporary restoration to get me by until I got back to the dentist. It was $265, $275 total with the X-rays.
Next, the crown. I had so little actual tooth left that this was the sensible option. Back to my first dentist, 2 1/2 hours and $350 later, I had my temporary crown. The permanent one should arrive from Panama City any day now. She explained that the best work was done there, so even though it takes a little longer they prefer the best they can find for their patients.
The grand total for all this work came to $787. This is with the 20% discount I get as a retired person, but even without the discounts I think it would have been around $940. I felt very very well cared for. Every dentist was meticulous and exacting in her work and very concerned about my comfort and understanding of the treatment.
I started at Dr Spiegel’s office 775-2683. Dentalspi@cwpanama.net. It is just southwest of the ball stadium in David that has been undergoing the big makeover. He has been appointed ambassador to Singapore but has had other dentists covering. I have been seeing Dr Fatima Samudio as my main dentist. The gum specialist came to that office too but I forgot to write down her name. She and Dr Fatima consulted with each other throughout my treatment. The root canal specialist was Dr Mirna Escalona. 774-0128 ext 2142. Her office is in Hospital Chiriqui. She and the other dentists consulted by email before and after my root canal. Dr Fatima only speaks a few words of English but the other two are fluent.
I am SO thankful to be here, and affordable health and dental care is one of the reasons. Throughout my life dental care has been by far my biggest health related expense. I don’t know what I would do if I had to pay US prices for all that work. I doubt I could have saved the tooth, but even a bridge isn’t cheap.
And, an aside, all my adult life I have had trouble with gum disease. I had cleanings every three months, gum surgery, lost one of my back teeth, and it was a daily battle to keep my mouth healthy. Shortly after getting here all that was gone, just gone! It definitely wasn’t low stress living the first six months. I started here alone setting up the house, and then lived in a very stressful family situation. Still though, my mouth problems disappeared within a month or two and I felt noticeably better overall. Maybe it’s cleaner air and food? I don’t know, but thank you Panama. Now I get cleanings every six months. My gums don’t bleed. I’m told my mouth looks fine and healthy.
I have so much to be thankful for! I don’t have a hole in my smile, or an intolerable one in my bank account. Thank you Panama.