Can Going to the Dentist in Costa Rica Actually Be Fun?

I'm not sure I could ever say that going to the dentist anywhere could be fun as in large round wooden containers of primates kind of fun. Just having to go to town in the middle of my day for the appointment is annoying in itself.

Compared to trips to the dentist in the States, however, I'll take the Costa Rica variety of dental care any day over that. First of all, all the equipment here is identical to that in the States and the education level and experience of the dentists are likewise.

Dentist examining teeth in Costa Rica
The requisite cleaning, painless, quick, ends with  a smile
There are several more reasons, however, why I prefer dentistry here:
  • Most Costa Rica dentists, it seems to me, are women. I can't tell you why, but I prefer female hands groping around in my mouth better than larger male digits. The women have a lighter touch. By the way, I made that assertion about the high ratio of female to male dentists to a female dentist and she thought not, but at least in La Zona Sur I see a lot more "Dra." signs than "Dr." signs.
  • There are no pesky hygienists. 80% of the time, I visit a dentist to get a cleaning and the dentist does it herself. I've been to three (and I like them all, btw) and it is always the dentist doing the cleaning. One time there was an assistant who did just about nothing but run out to answer the phone or fetch supplies. The dentists here do it all.
  • It takes far less time. Having the dentist do the cleaning means there is no downtime as in the States when the hygienist finishes and you wait for the dentist to give you another exam. Also, they are faster about it. Some use ultrasonic, some use hand tools to scrape the plaque, all have polishers, but they are not endlessly scraping and scraping the way U.S. hygienists do it.
  • Is the result worse? I don't think so. In the U.S., the standard recommendation is a cleaning every six months. I think that is crazy and so do all my Costa Rica dentistas. Of course, they are used to seeing people who have not had their teeth properly cleaned for years, so there is definitely a different tolerance level. Today, I had my teeth cleaned and it had been 18 months since last I did that. It didn't take any longer than usual, I had no cavities, no gingivitis and the dentist congratulated me on the low level of plague in my mouth. Yes, I brush twice a day, but flossing is only now and then, definitely less than when I was Stateside.
  • That last part, about the congratulation, is the part about Costa Rica dentistry that I adore. Since the time I first went to the dentist as a kid until I left the States, I endured an unbroken litany of complaints from every single hygienist I ever met. They always had some criticism, never encouragement, let alone congratulations, regarding my dental hygiene. What is up with that?
  • They aren't trying to sell you something. More and more, dentists in the U.S. are trying to up-sell you something. They really go out of their way to look for "potential" problems that could be "cured" if you are willing to shell out a few hundred or thousands of dollars and endure several more closely space visits. Just not the case here. I once had a dentista make a half-hearted attempt to sell me whitening, but I said no, she shrugged, that was the end of that.
  • I don't have to mess with dental insurance. The charge for today's cleaning? About 38 bucks. But, I actually didn't have to pay because she was willing to trade straight across for some of my wife's beautiful handmade jewelry. Try that in the States!
I know a lot of my friends in the States are guffawing right now. They are replaying those mental jingles about "best medical care in the world is in the U.S." that they've been programmed to believe. OK, outside San Jose, most dentists offices here are not lavish, they don't have all the latest magazines and muzak in the waiting room. However, if you think those kinds of things will make your teeth any stronger, then more power to you!
I also know a lot of friends in the States who have some serious dental issues. I haven't been that unlucky so far, but knowing what I know now, if I ever do, I'm certainly not running back to the U.S. to get anything done when all the competence and equipment for whatever procedure is needed is right here in my backyard.

So many times, those friends put off getting those procedures done because there insurance doesn't fully cover it and the out-of-pocket expenses are too much.

To them, I say that for about half the cost you could come here including the airfare! No one, however, has yet to take me up on that.


  1. Great post, Casey. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I have not yet been to the dentist in the 2 years I've lived in CR. But, that is about to change soon. If you don't mind, I'd love a recommendation for a dentist in San Isidro. I'm headed there next week for another appointment and you've inspired me to fit in a cleaning too.

  2. Yes it was real good! I do not believe I've ever had a female dentist. This was intended as a joke but I guess I tell them poorly.

  3. It has been a long time since I have been to the dentist as well. I moved to Costa Rica a few years ago and have been pushing off getting my teeth checked since I arrived. I am just so used to dentists from the states. After reading this, and seeing all of your glowing reviews, I might have to go and make an appointment.

    Eunice Greer @ Downtown Dental SC

  4. Thankfulness to my dad who informed me relating to this blog, this website is really amazing.

  5. Going to the dentist in Latin America certainly is an adventure. However, I never have thought it was fun!! Thanks for giving me a new way to see it.

    1. Well Karen, I can think of activities more fun for sure, but you can make it enjoyable if you approach it as a chance to practice your Spanish (I practice my Spanish while my dentista practices her English) and you think about the money you are saving on insurance and procedures!

  6. Nice to see you're still kicking!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Any plans to visit Costa Rica again?

    2. Not at this time. I've been hanging out in Mexico these last couple years and really enjoy the south side of Vallarta and live outside of the city.

      Just returned from Chapala south of Guadalajara after a short stay as it just wasn't for me. Transport was a huge negative and frankly I did not like the expat's that lived in Ajijic. Once again I got treated sooooo good by the locals and the local cheap places to eat put the gringo shit to shame.

      There is a good chance a friend and I will possibly move down to where I've been staying. Obviously the election results triggered that possibility.

      Unless I can move in with you.

      Have a good one,


Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey