Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Trip To The Dentist

Many have asked over the past three years....What is the quality of health care available in Baños or Ecuador in general? Up until yesterday my only experience was with my friend Magda, when she had her hip replaced, and that was only as an interested observer. However that changed yesterday and I was the subject. I am happy to say that my experience yesterday was pleasant and quite painless and that is a lot to say about a having a tooth extracted, at least as far as I remembered. I am not committed to the old adage "see your dentist once a year" and I am sure my teeth show it. I think my schedule has been more like once every 15.

For several nights I suffered, (mildly), with a tooth ache so yesterday I told a friend and she took me to a dentist that was only two blocks from the spa. We walked into a beautiful suite of offices that belied the building's exterior and after a five minute wait, only because my friend was chatting with the receptionist, I was ushered into an ultra modern room with all, I suspect, the latest equipment, and after a brief consultation they removed the molar. After the offending tooth was removed the dentist checked the other teeth and being an excellent sales person, it was recommended that I have a good cleaning, a root canal on another and finish off with two crowns. The cost for the extraction was $35, and the future work work would be $300. The service was great, the place was spotless and although the price sounds expensive for Ambato where the majority of the people work for less than $200 per month, business was booming, if the number of people in the waiting room is an accurate indicator. By the way they were dressed, I suspect, they were from the upper levels of society. I would be curious as to how much this would cost in other countries.

The rest of the story...When I left the offices I had a prescription for pain pills, "if I needed them" and an appointment for the rest of the work for Friday. Two days later, my cheek was swollen and I returned on Friday morning to find out what went wrong. The dentist asked if I had taken the pills that she had prescribed and I said no because I had no pain. She then got very defensive, gave me another prescription for an anti-inflammatory and penicillin tablets and told me it was all my fault because I did not take the pills she had prescribed. I guess she was right....I should have had a lot of pain. I left the office, went home and took some raw garlic and in two days the swelling was gone..

My question....Why do people have to get defensive and negate all the good feelings that they had built up previously?


  1. Holly9:04 AM

    Hi Roberto!

    In Canada a cleaning would be around $125, a root canal would be around $300 or $400, and 2 crowns would be around $500 each. I don't know what an extraction would be but I'm going to guess between $50-$100. So... even if you have a dental plan (mine would be 100% coverage for the cleaning, extraction and root canal and 50% for the rest)you would still be paying around $500 (CDN). Also, I'm one of the lucky ones to have a dental plan, I know many people who do not. My friend you got a great deal!


    PS I forgot to mention that I still have to pay every month for the dental plan whether I use it or not.

  2. Thank you Holly. Costs are only relative when when you stack them up against the average income of the patients. Here the $335 for the job is about a month and a half's salary. How does that compare to the average monthly take home in Canada?

  3. Holly7:41 PM

    The minimum wage here is $8.00/hour and I think most people making that wouldn't get benefits. So if a person made that wage and worked 160 hrs a month that would work out to $1280 (gross). The dental work here in Canada would be around $1500 (without benefits and I think I'm estimating conservatively).

    I guess in the end it would end up being about the same. So much for it being a great deal, I guess! I think the ideal thing for someone with the money is to fly to Ecuador and have the work done plus enjoy a little slice of paradise at the same time!

    By the way Roberto, does the dentist charge everyone the same or do Ecuadorian residents pay less?


    PS I should add that Canadians also have the privilage of social assistance programs (allowing them access to emergency dental work) that a less privilaged Ecuadorian may not be privy to.

  4. The dentists here for the most part charge the same no matter what country you are from.

    Maybe some travel agency in Canada should advertise a "Dental Work Vacation" tour to Ecuador. You could be the tour guide.

  5. About dental care... I provide you with an anecdote: I have a friend in the US who needed a lot of dental work done (lots), but had no insurance. She figured out that it would actually cost her 1/3 the US price to _fly_ to Ecuador to have it done. So, that's what she did! Dental work vacations might be a good idea.

    About the defensiveness thing... I've noticed that a lot of foreigners in Ecuador jump at the chance of blaming a local person for their troubles, whether or not it's actually the case. Obviously, YOU didn't do that, but I suspect that she expected you to, and so tried to "head you off at the pass", so to speak, by telling you it was all your fault. That's my take on it, anyway...

  6. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Hi Roberto,

    Thanks for your great blog. I have an unusual request. I've spent some time in Banos and am working on a short story set in a Banos dentist office. I've mostly only written stories set in the landscape I grew up in—the south/midwest US.
    But current story seems to want this setting. My problem is that I don't have those small, subtle details of a Banos dentist office—what kind of music they play, what the waiting room looks like, etc. I was about to abandon my idea when I saw your blog. I know this is a pretty unusual request. Anything you might offer here, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Mary