Dental tourism continues to expand – Goodness Dental CEO explains why


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Patrick Goodness, CEO of Goodness Dental in Costa Rica, explained how dental tourism has grown over the past 10 years while giving insight into upcoming trends in the industry.

Question: What motivates a patient to choose care in another country?

Patrick Goodness: The primary reason patients choose dental care in another country is to save money. Clearly, most patients would prefer to remain at home to receive their dental care. However, high prices at home are pushing many patients to seek more affordable dental care elsewhere. More than 142 million Americans have little or no dental insurance. Approximately 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth and around 40 million Americans are missing most or all their teeth. Most cannot afford complex care or surgery in the US, so they look at other, more affordable countries like Costa Rica or Guatemala. While pricing is the primary reason that patients choose to seek dental care abroad, the majority of our patients return and even refer friends because of they become smitten with our team and with their adventure in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Real bonds of friendship are built over one to two weeks. These bonds endure and are sustained through social media, emails and phone calls. Many of our patients have become wonderful friends over the years.

Q: Is there a specific patient dental tourism is designed for?

PG: Dental tourism works best for patients that cannot afford dental care at home. Most patients tend to be at least 55- and 80 years old. For some patients, the trip overseas for dental care may be their first international trip. While for other well-seasoned travelers, getting dental care abroad is a natural extension of their jet-setting lifestyle. While the majority of our patients are in their 60s and 70s, we receive at least a few octogenarian patients almost every month.

Patients should be open to international travel and new cultural experiences. Many of our patients are single and really enjoy meeting our staff and learning about Costa Rica and Guatemala. While dental care is the primary motivation and focus of dental travel, some patients choose to stay a few days after their care to do a little exploring. It's hard not to get excited about visiting the dentist, when your dentist is located in a tropical paradise.

Patients seeking complex dental care are most likely to consider dental care abroad. Very few patients will travel abroad for teeth whitening or cleanings. However, patients seeking dental implants, an all on four treatments, full mouth restorations or maxillofacial or orthognathic surgery will save 50 percent to 70 percent or more by choosing a dentist in Costa Rica or Guatemala.

Even with airfare, accommodations, meals and some day trips included, most patients report savings of $15,000 to $40,000 when compared to prices for the same care in the U.S. Patients that receive treatment plans estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 in the US are likely to save at least 50 percent in Costa Rica or Guatemala. The majority of our patients choose us for all on four or a full mouth reconstruction with dental implants.

I recommend dental tourism for patients who are open to international travel and cultural experiences. A sense of adventure is important. While dental care is the primary motivator, most patients choose to spend a few days exploring Costa Rica or Guatemala before they sit in the dental chair.

Q: How has dental tourism grown over the past 10 years? What trends do you predict for the future?

PG: Dental tourism has grown from being a cottage industry into a well-defined travel niche. When I first started in the dental and medical tourism market in 2007, there were probably five to 10 dental clinics in Costa Rica that were attracting patients from the U.S. Today, there are more than 30 to 40 clinics focused on the American and Canadian markets. On just about every flight into Costa Rica or Guatemala, you can expect that at least a few people are arriving for dental care.

If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that dental tourism will continue to grow as more and more people realize the value of dental care in Latin America. I predict that some smart entrepreneurs in the travel or medical tourism industries will start promoting dental tourism to their leisure and business travel clients that fit the niche profile. Lower priced airlines will make it easier for patients to travel internationally which will make it more affordable to travel for dental care.

I don’t foresee the cost of dental care decreasing across the U.S. As such, I don’t foresee that American patients will be able to afford complex dental treatments and surgeries in the U.S. If the prices for dental care in Costa Rica and Guatemala remain stable, patients will continue to come and when they return home, they will tell their friends. The social media multiplier effect will have a huge positive impact on the growth of dental tourism.

Q: Are a majority of your patients from Central America or the U.S.?

PG: At Goodness Dental, almost 100 percent of our patients are from the U.S or Canada. As an American-owned dental clinic, most American patients trust our brand and our English-speaking dentists. There are many good dental clinics in Costa Rica and Guatemala, but because our specialists and staff speak fluent English, with many having been trained in the U.S., our patients seek us out. In fact, at both our Costa Rica and Guatemala clinic locations, our patient coordinators are retired American dentists with more than 40 years of practice experience. Our years of experience in dental tourism gives us the added advantage of empathy. We understand the challenges our patient’s face and we develop a customized program that meets the needs of each patient.

Q: What can patients expect from Goodness Dental in 2018?

PG: Our patients will continue to receive a lifetime guarantee on dental implants and free airport and hotel transfers to the clinic. While most clinics in Costa Rica and Guatemala have general dentists placing implants, Goodness Dental is committed to providing our patients with specialized care with the largest team of specialists in the region, comprised of five maxillofacial surgeons, five prosthodontists, three periodontists, two endodontists and two general dentists. In addition to specialized care, we promise our patients prices that are approximately 50 to 70 percent less than prices for the same care in the U.S.

Patients will notice that most of our documents and forms will be web-based, allowing patients to upload documents and files quickly and securely. Patients will also notice that our patient coordinators are retired US dentists...not sales professionals. No hard sales tactics...just US dentists trying to help other Americans find affordable, high quality dental care outside the USA.

Another emphasis for Goodness Dental in 2018 is our commitment to the community. Our program called “Acts of Goodness” sets aside 1 percent of our corporate profits to support our community and charity initiatives providing free dental care to children living in poverty. Our patients are invited to help us at our events and to donate to support these causes. Goodness Dental also plans to continue forging relationships with various community and volunteer groups. As we continue our growth, our aim is to strengthen our relationship with the community and continue to reach out to help those in need. For us, Goodness is more than just our name. Goodness is our promise to our patients, our community and to each other.

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