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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Friday (7/27/12) 2:47pm - ... wherein Peter tries to sort out where to get his crowns.

I posted some time ago about the unexpected dental bill that I got right before leaving for Chicago.  The executive summary: on my latest checkup, Mannem Dentistry found three cavities.  Unfortunately, two of them require replacing crowns.  The total cost runs to $2,356.

That's a lot of money.  But I need my teeth, so I don't really have a choice in the matter.  And it's not like these cavities are getting any bettter while I'm here in Chicago, so I need to get them fixed *soon*.

So basically I need to sort out some way to save myself some money on this.

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Unfortunately, I can't wait around for my dental insurance to kick in.  That will be another five months, and I can't just let my teeth continue to decay.  As far as I know, temporary crowns aren't designed to last that long, so I can't just use a cheap stopgap to tide me over 'til my insurance will cover it.

I haven't looked too closely at the UT dental school yet.  The idea there is that a student (under supervision) does the work, and you pay out of pocket at about a 30% discount.  (In this case, 30% comes out to around seven hundred dollars.)  But it looks like you can't just come to them for a single procedure, and they imply that the waiting list to be a permanent patient of theirs is quite long.

I've also been looking at medical tourism -- that is, flying somewhere where the procedure would be cheap and getting it done there.

The most obvious choice for dental travel seems to be Los Algodones, Mexico.  On the one hand, it is a border town, and those tend to be unsafe.  But all reports are that Los Algodones is an exception, mainly because any crime against tourists would destroy its cottage industry, which is... dentistry.  There are about a zillion dentists operating in this city, and the anecdotal evidence is that people have gotten good work done there.

I figure I can ballpark some reasonable worst- and best-case scenarios here.

I'll start with best case.  The Dental Departures site lists that a hotel stay can be "as cheap as $30 a night".  I'll notch that up to $40.  They say that in-town dental labs can provide crowns in "as little as 2-3 days".  I'll notch that up to 4 days.  And I'll pick out Simple Dental as my dentist.  In this case, a two-surface filling is $60 and the two crowns are $280 each.  The flight to Los Algodones would be $300.  This implies a total cost, with the hotel, of about $1,100.  Still a lot of money, and I'm stuck in a hotel outside of Yuma for 4 days, but it's a savings of about $1,300.

Let me try a less favorable outcome.  Let's say the labs need eight days to come up with crowns, and that a hotel is $60.  At this point, it would probably be better to do two flights out, and two one-night hotel stays.  That gives me a total cost of $1,340 -- about $250 more, in that case, but I'm still saving about $1,000.

Another possibility: one of my coworkers from my NI days has moved to NI's Bangalore office, and he has offered an extra room at his place should I take care of this in Bangalore.  Here's how things work out with the Bangalore dentist: the procedures would cost about $450; the flight would cost about $1,350; so that totals to about $1,800.  That's a savings of over $500, plus I'd get to spend a week in Bangalore.

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Gah.  I hate having to fumble through a decision with this many variables, lots of catastrophic outcomes, and a very clearly ticking clock.  Oh, and I'm doing the iO Summer Intensive here in Chicago right now, so there are heavy opportunity costs associated with devoting lots of time to this decision.  Whee!

If I had to pull the trigger on this today, I would start setting up a trip to Los Algodones.  What are the biggest drawbacks to that decision?

ETA: dancing_llama rightly points out that international travel will require immunizations.

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