Medical tourism to El Salvador

The Fox News Health Blog has been running a series of articles about one person's trip from the US to El Salvador to get expensive dental procedures performed. The cost of the procedures was much less in El Salvador than in the US, and so the trip becomes both a medical treatment and a tropical vacation. Here is an excerpt from one of the posts:

He did a brief exam of Doug’s mouth and made a few slight changes to the treatment plan. He went over everything in detail with Doug: Doug would come in the next day for prep work and cleaning; he would have the major work done the following day.

Ricardo, also known as “Ricky,” then took us to check into our hotel. An enormous bouquet of flowers greeted us when we walked into our room.

Dr. Lorenzana sent them with a note welcoming us to El Salvador.

The room overlooked a pool with a waterfall; the air smelled of tropical plants and the temperature was in the 80s. We heard it was snowing in New York.

Here are links to the entire series from the Fox News Health blog:
This is part of a growing global trend of "medical tourism" as patients facing the high cost of medical care in the US, look to options for high quality care at much lower prices around the world. A company called Planet Hospital says about medical tourism to El Salvador:
El Salvador is a popular destination for cosmetic surgery and access to American Board Certified dentists. Its proximity to the US and favorable exchange rate make it an easy choice for quality care.
Another US company called MedRetreat also lists El Salvador as one of its destinations for medical tourism.

I admit that I am not sure how I feel about this story. I think my mixed feelings relate to the fact that my wife just returned from a week of coordinating a group of US dentists and other medical professionals who travelled to El Salvador to provide free care to some of El Salvador's poorest communities. They saw dozens and dozens of patients in need of dental care of the most basic forms. Perhaps this story just provides another perspective on how skewed is the allocation of healthcare resources across the world.


Anonymous said…
It's interesting that you mention the major differences in dental costs in countries outside the U.S.

Dental fees have skyrocketed to the point where many people, like those you mention in your post, are going to other countries to get their dental treatments done.

Many quality dentists participate in church organized "mission trips" to Mexico to help those who are unable to afford care, at no cost to them whatsoever.

Dental fees in the U.S. are out of control and astronomically high, that so many people can't afford even a basic teeth cleaning, and certainly can't afford dental insurance to cover the costs.
El-Visitador said…
Ask your US-based dentist how much he paid in malpractrice/liability insurance.

Then, ask your Salvadorean dentist how much he paid for his malpractice/liability insurance (zero in most instances).

Then ask yourself how much of your U.S. bill is there just to feed the ambulance-chaser portion of the U.S. legal profession.
Anonymous said…
Then try to get a dime out your Salvadoran dentist if he makes a horrendous mistake.
Anonymous said…
tim makes a good observation.
common people in the US travel to countries like el salvador for cheaper dental care; volunteer US dentists travel to el salvador to provide basic, free medical care to salvadoran commoners. you just have to enjoy, taste the good irony here. i don't make much of it, that's just how it is, but boy is this paradox savory. tim, is your wife salvadoran by chance?
pangaeamed said…
I'm curious if it really makes sense to go all the way to el Salvador for dental work, unless its major. Mexico is much closer and I'm sure the quality is comparable.
Anonymous said…
Save all your money and take a boat to Havana from Belize for higher quality work.
Hodad said…
see my site
for medical and Dental, well done, not really hard to mess up, as some one posted, this view is not applicable and if there is a problem the dentist will certainly fix it
Mexico and Brazil, hahahahahahaha
good luck
Mexico, get real Mexico is great, w/o the Mexicans

actually Colombia is bestin Cali for 3 months
3 root canals, 5 crowns, same technology, clean place, $800 here in Myrtle beach, possible AIDS dentist, $9500 for same
3M products
but then again as the last post mentioned, Cuba is best of all best trained doctors probably in the world
I will have a small umbligical hernia repair[too much lifting of tons of frozen shrimp,fish and squid in 50 lb boxes we get in 2-6000 lbs at a time]
and I lift some weights
here in SC %10,000.00 w/o anestheioligist
El Salvador same op, using my own skin as graft, $800-1100 which will be my choice as far as best logistics and time frame
15 minute op

Cuba where i trust best and my cuz's friend/neighbour gets paid $50 month, but has brand new clinic he will charge me $200
and I just may do that as i need to go see some fishermen in Belize next month, if I have time

I have been in various hospitals in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and many times in El Sal, I am a gringo, and even have a social medicine card been 5-6 times in hospital $1.98--2 bux, emergency room, antibiotics, analgesic and stitches 2 BUX!
EVEN HAD A KIDNEY STONE ONCE ambulance ride, from Playa San Diego to Hospital Rosales/emergency roon, big fat shot with pain killers, drank 2 cocos, pissed, checked out 2 bux!

doctors in USA are nada but dope dealers for the pharma companies
and they do NOT want you well in America
[but then again another day on medicine in Asia. different concept,been there 10 times]
and way healthier people than in obese, junk food loving North America

again, wake up 'sheeples'
Viva El Frente/Verde
expatwizard said…
First of all I am a long term resident of both El Salvador and Guatemala and over the years, many of us "Ex Pats" have "helped to help" those in need over the years, regardless of political affiliation, religious creed or lack of. "Bueno Voluntad". Sometimes I was a reluctant "volunteer" just being in the right place at the right time..and believe me, what goes around comes around.
I refuse to become involved in "political" discussions regarding Salvadorian or Latin American "politics?", especially with those visiting from North America or Europe, look around, make your own decisions, the only exception is my close local friends, always in private, left, center or right, civil discussions, agree to disagree. Too far left or too extreme right, please have a nice day and excuse me, I've an errand to run!
A local associate and I are now assisting an entire Salvadorian village to implement a "green" eco tourism project, including a planned Revolutionary War Musuem highlight the intense conflict history of the area, which will be larger than the exisiting Musuem in Perquin. My work, voluntary, will be promotion of the project abroad. Anyway welcome any visitors to El Salvador and we shall be more than happy to escort you off the beaten path into the "Green Heart" of El Salvador before or after you've hit the Beach and seen the "usual sights"
For those who speak Spanish and wishing detailed information on the project e mail inquiry en español to marco arroba
This is my bloq on "Tourism" (no politics, no religion)whether you like it or not, it is at least informative.
I've been living down here in Central America for 22 years, so am a bit cynical and sarcastic and also at my age, I don't even know how to be, nor care to be "politically correct". Have a fine day. Saludos
Le esperamos.

El Salvador Information/Links Bloq URL:
Claudia said…
I have dental insurance and I still went to ES last year to have some root canals done. Including the airfare (which isn't that cheap to el salvador) it still came out cheaper than I would have paid here in the US with insurance.

I also had cosmetic surgery done there and paid a third of what I would have paid here.
expatwizard said…
For those that are planning to travel anyway to El Salvador and may require some Dental work or other minor medical procedures, I reside here in San Salvador only a few blocks from the "Colonia Medica" where many Doctors, Dentists and Hospitals are located, the best Dentist I know has a fine clinic up on San Antonio Abad, good work, fair prices, I reside 22 years in Central America and I'm healthy..I do not come on this bloq to "argue" with anyone, here to help. There are also free to very low cost Medical Clinics, good in a pinch for emergencies such as acute diarreah to dengue, if you don't mind waiting an hour or two..arrive early. I've had paramedic training and some medevac experience down this way, one suggestion for prescription drugs often the brand name in US than teh brand name here, but bring the generic name of the drug, which one may get from pharmacist or on the internet. There are now many controlled substances that require a signed, seal receta or scrip, a private doctor visit is usually $35-$60 depending on type of consultation
Donald Lee
San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.

El Salvador Bloq

Why Not El Salvador? Group (I am moderator)
Hodad said…
the 2 links aforementioned are what? nada

get with me or Donald,
for El Salvador
Anonymous said…
I have traveled with American Medical Outsourcing for my dental work, in India. The malpractice laws are better there than they are in South America (God forbid if anything goes wrong). I had a great experience and would do it again. At you can get more info.
Anonymous said…
Latin America is comparable to India or any country in Southeast Asia..and much more proximate. I must admit that there is a lot more market savvy types promoting there..but El Salvador is a great option for medical tourists...check out are another really good company..
Vishaldeep said…
Dental Procedures in El Salvador are on par with the world and US and the dental surgeons work with standards equal to US. Check out Dr Rafael E. Lorenzana, experienced dental surgeon from El Salvador. His curriculum reflects many years of dental studies, including two dental degrees; the first from the University of El Salvador and the second from Baylor College of Dentistry. He obtained his Board Certification in Prosthodontics in the United States, which is only shared by one other practicing dentist in Latin America.
Anonymous said…
Dental costs differences between United States and El Salvador is indeed very striking. A full mouth reconstruction costs about $60,000 in US while the same procedure can be obtained for much less (about $19,000) in El Salvador. The clinics there are safe and quality of the tools and materials used are excellent as many of the dentists import the materials from United States. Check this blog for more details:
Anonymous said…
Sorry, the above URL is not linked properly. It should be:
Hodad said…
me dentist, {on my web site}
is an artist, Chino Rosales
just had about 12k done for 3k

also had a hernia op done for,
not very much, here 10K or more

been many times to hospital in El Sal
for a gringo