Tooth Troubles? Dental Industry Booms In Costa Rica

Category: World / Nov 26, 2012 2:45PM EDT
For Laurie Gould, a trip to the dentist implies taking a plane from her home in the United States to the small Central American country of Costa Rica. She's part of the growing number of North Americans who turn south for dental care in search for lower prices, and contribute close to 0.8 percent of this country's gross domestic product (GDP). "I broke my tooth here. I didn't know what I was going to do, I thought 'I can't smile, I have to cover my face all the time.' So, I heard about Prisma Dental and I know that in the United States it was costing me over half that I pay here. Here is one third to one, half less than the United States," Gould said. Costa Rica welcomed 40,000 medical tourists in 2011, most of them American and Canadian and almost 15,000 of them travelling for dental care. In the last five years, this has become an increasingly important part of the services sector in this country, better known for its sandy beaches and lush rainforest. And when it comes to dental care, the country is seeing significant growth in demand. Insurance plays a big role in these market dynamics, as 99 percent of all medical tourists are uninsured and paying straight from their pockets. But healthcare reform passed in the United States last summer could bring a drop in demand, as it forces Americans to get basic insurance. But since the reform did not change dental care, this could become the most coveted market segment in this sector.