Have you been to your friendly dentist lately? Buckle up you may be in for the ride of a lifetime. I went to my local dentist to have my teeth cleaned. After one hour in the chair and me with my mouth propped open I could see my friendly dentist shooting digitial snaps of all my teeth and being displayed across a large screen. The dental assistant deep cleaned one fourth of my mouth to the tune of $350.00. The money was never discussed with me. On the way out as I presented my plastic visa card I was told the dentist would call me at home that night to discuss my teeth. She also handed me a packet of glossies which I immediately displayed on the outside of my refrigerator for quick reference.
When the phone rang the dentist said he was so impressed with my mouth that he carried my digital photos home with him so he could study them in depth. To demonstrate that I am not exactly a neophyte in the dental chair the story goes that I bailed out of a three story window and landed on my baby bottle making all of my front teeth come in sideways under the gum line. Warp speed to dental surgery having a Chinese dentist work pro-bona and wearing braces from the time I was in the eight grade until senior in college. I had laughing gas, novacane, gum relaxers and lord knows what kind of pliers the dentist used every time he made an adjustment. It hurt!
Things were sailing along not too bad until a new dentist was doing a root canal and actually used a blow torch on some new material and then pounded the molten rubber into the hole. I have news for you. If you see your dentist coming with a blowtorch get the hell out of the chair and run for your life. The blowtorch tooth had to be extracted by a speciality dentist who said he could save the tooth. Five hours later after almost tearing my jaw apart he said he was sorry but he couldn’t save the tooth. Ka Ching! That little experiment cost me $1800.00 on one tooth that is now missing.
Upon going to my second deep cleaning on the second one fourth of my mouth the procedure went pretty smooth until the Dentist himself showed up to explain a few things that needed immediate dental attention. It all seemed a bit overwhelming talking about overbites and underbites and alignment etc; but I was glad to pay my second payment of $350.00 and get on with the show. He mentioned on the way out his dental assistant would go over the dental plan and payment plan and that I needed to sign off on the plan so he could fit me in his schedule. He also mentioned he was leaving for a trip to New Zealand and wouldn’t be in the office for a month. It’s very important to sign and witness the dental plan so he can get started was the last words I heard as I stumbled out of the Dentist’s office. I needed a stiff drink as I was still numb and was heading into dental denial.
I think shock therapy would be a breeze compared to this dentist’s interest in extracting my wallet of $38,000 and of course this was just the basics to get my mouth back to a chewable state. Thinking this dentist was just nuts I carried my mouth to two other dentists who gave me a bid of $31,000 and $43,000 all detailed out in a fancy dental package. That was it. I hit the wall— I was considering pulling all of my teeth with a set of long-nosed electrical pliers and putting in those multi-colored gummy bears as temporary teeth.
Then it hit me! When I was Tarpon fishing is Costa Rica I heard stories from some old xpats that dentistry in Costa Rica was very reasonable and they were pleased with the results.
On my first google search I turned up The Meza Dental Care website located in San Jose, Costa Rica. I e-mailed them asking if they could do the dental work I had outlined in my Dental plan from the states. To my greatest surprise they e-mailed a professional e-mail stating that they could do all of the services and would be glad to assist me with any of the details while visiting Costa Rica including lodging if I so desired.
The following day I received a phone call from Dr. Alberto Meza the Director of Meza Dental Care who explained what I had to do which was basically show up in San Jose and they would do the rest. When I enquired about payment he indicated I could pay for the services with visa card or travelers cheques. Having friends and family want to commit you just for opting to use a dentist in a third world country didn’t exactly help with the pre- dental jitters. The only thing I knew for sure was If I saw him with a blowtorch I was out of there.
It was pouring down rain when I arrived in San Jose. The pilot indicated we actually flew to Panama and back tracked because of heavy weather. As part of the dental courtesy they pick you up at the airport and deliver you direct to your hotel. They hold up a sign with a tooth on it and have your name printed on the sign. Off you go, with the transportation assistant, a beautiful girl who drives you in her new car with a tooth painted on the side of the car. She reminded me the plane was a couple of hours late and maybe I wanted to check in to my hotel or you could go directly to the dentist’s office and get started. I looked at the clock it was Saturday afternoon at exactly 3:00 p.m. when I sat down in the Dentist chair.
Without exaggerating The Dentists Office was the most state of the art modern facility I had ever seen. In fact it was so impressive I thought someone, someday will use the Dentist’s Office as a movie scene. There you were on the rooftop of San Jose looking over a vast part of the city with trees right up to the windows and a bevy of beautiful colorful birds chirping away. The dentist reclines you back one more notch and your off to dream land. The entire dentist office was a combination of all white and blue with upbeat streaming latin music piped into every room.
The dentist welcomed me and told me he was going to give me an exam and write up an estimate for the work. In less than a half hour I had the entire proposal in a computerized spread sheet itemized in a printout blue brochure. The total cost was $8040 less a 5% discount for cash which came to $7638 with a few minor adjustments. I gave him one third down and he asked me If I had time for him to do a deep cleaning on all of my teeth. It would be less than three hours. He wanted to have that done on Saturday so he could go to work on Monday morning. I looked at the clock as the Dentist worked non-stop and only took one five minute break for me to go to the bathroom. It was exactly 6:00 p.m. when he finished the cleaning procedure which was performed by the Dentist himself— not some dental assistant. I was extremely impressed! The transportation dental girl delivered me to my hotel and waived goodbye. “I’ll see you bright and early Monday morning at 7:45 as I will be picking you up.”
Being on a strict budget I elected to stay at the Backpacker’s Hostel which set me back about $7.00 to $10.00 per night . It had a swimming pool, movie entertainment, and food court. I took 21 days to have the dental work completed and also planned to visit some Costa Rican points of interest for my reward part of the vacation.
Monday morning the dental assistant picked me up at my hotel and took me directly to a lab where they took dental ex-rays of all of my teeth which were ready in 10 minutes. From there we proceeded to the Dentist’s office where he began to remove all of my old silver fillings, put in new material (approx. 12) did several root canals, six full porcelain crowns, composite whitening of all my teeth and arranged dental surgery for 3 tooth implants. By Thursday of that week I was finished and told to come back in about a week to have my permanent crowns fitted. The transportation dental assistant picked me up and took me back to my hotel for every appointment.
Aside from the fact that I looked a bit strange at the Hostel after my dental surgery the entire experience was nearly pain free and I can’t say enough about the professionalism demonstrated through every step. I was ready for the fun part of my dental vacation. I took a five hour bus trip to the town of Fortuna at the base of a magnificent volcano.
The town of Fortuna reminds me of Steamboat Springs, Colorado back in 1968 with it’s laid back style yet a sense of a new frontier. Situated only five minutes from the hot springs spa with it beautiful gardens, and pools set at different temperatures is about as close to heaven as you can get. They give you a map showing the different temperatures of each pool including a cold pool so you can hop from a hot pool into a cold pool and watch the world go by. The restaurants served excellent Costa Rican food with many fresh fish dishes complete with fresh fruits and Costa Rican coffee.
While staying in Fortuna I wanted to have some lab work done and I was tested for almost everything known to man including Malaria, Lime disease, Yellow Fever plus thirty things that I helped choose with the lab-technician who couldn’t speak a word of english and me with my limited spanish. Within 24 hours he had the results printed out at a grand cost of $64.00. While on a roll I had a body massage at the massage school in Fortuna and was ready for my next leg. At breakfast the following morning I asked what the thundering noise was in the middle of the night and was told it was just the volcano erupting. It never carries on like that in modern times, but in the past it wiped out entire villages. Hasta Luego Amigo— I’m out of here!
After catching a ride by car we traveled through the mountains of Costa Rica on the back roads where we witnessed everything from large bird nests, to magnificent orchids and scenery that was out of this world. You felt like you were driving on the edge of the world as we proceeded through switchbacks and small mountain towns.
This is the form of travel I enjoy the most— looking at the signs, waiting for an oxcart to cross the road and wandering how they could build such beautiful churches on the side of a mountain and just watching the people go by. From there I went to a small town about one and half hours from Costa Rica known for its coffee plantations and stayed in a hotel run by a Frenchman who served the best coffee and deserts a man could envision. After being chased into a sausage shop by a pack of wild dogs I decided it was time to head for the Pacific Coast where the bus arrived eight hours late due to heavy downpours and road-washouts. I had made a reservation by e-mail and only had a name of a surf shop that had cabinas but couldn’t wake anyone up. Looking at my watch it was 4:00 a.m. Taking the lead from some surfing locals I walked a mile in the dark only to be greeted by a new bunch of dogs who didn’t wake anyone up but myself. I hightailed it back to town where someone near the beach ran a hostel and threw me the key. The room had no sheets, no blankets, no water, no electricity— but what the hell at least I was safe from the dogs. I said my prayers as I drifted off to sleep.
The following morning I hooked up with Chris the surfer from The Tico Adventure Lodge. After a tico breakfast right on the beach I settled into my brand new tree house room overlooking the canopy in the town of Samara. The cost of the room because it was off season was $20.00 a night. It was all natural woods and tile with a front balcony overlooking the canopy and a landscaped swimming pool. Swinging on my hammock from my front porch and listening to the Howler Monkeys I felt as if I died and went to heaven.
The following morning I carried my lab results to the local pharmacy who introduced me to a tico doctor who did his training in Miami. He interpreted all of the lab results and sent me to the clinic which was one hour by bus for an sonogram. I brought back the results in a sealed enevelope on the bus that same afternoon.
After the doctor appointment the following day he invited me to have a vegetarian lunch in the back half of his house which he prepared. During lunch he explained he moved back to this small town so he could surf and fish. “By the way I have the afternoon off so if you would like to go fishing with me we will leave in fifteen minutes.” The total cost of three doctor visits plus the sonogram was under $100.00.
So there you have it if you want to live on the wild side and visit with friendly people who aren’t out to rob you blind—- maybe it’s time to schedule a medical vacation. Costa Rica is becoming an international hotspot for plastic surgery, dentistry, and medical procedures.
Quote: “My tastes are simple I like only the best.”
——SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: “Kemo Sabe”, meaning an all knowing one, is actually a mispronunciation by Native American of the Spanish phrase, Quien lo Sabe, meaning one who knows.” —— greatfacts.com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii)
The northern hairy-nosed wombat is classified as a member of the order Marsupialia (Marsupials) and is a member of the family Vombatidae. It is classified as a critically endangered species due to an estimated extent of occurrence that is less than 100 km², a severely fragmented population, a projected decline in quality of habitat, and an estimated population of less than 50 mature individuals. The northern hairy-nosed wombat can be found in Australia. ——Geocities.com
Zentraveler says keep traveling until you arrive!