Colombian Dentists Bite Into Dental Travel Trend

by Rosie Carbo / Jan 22, 2016 /
Rosie Carbo's picture

On a recent trip to Barranquilla, Colombia, I discovered that dental travel has been a trend for some time.  Dental travel is where travelers choose to vacation outside of the United States and obtain dental services as well. 

We heard about inexpensive dental services in this Latin country through a relative. That’s when my husband decided to plan a trip to have a root canal and denture adjustment done and include a little rest and relaxation.           

This is how we met Dr. Karime Morad Di Domenico and her son, Dr. Gilberto Escobar Morad, orthodontic surgeons in Barranquilla. It turns out that this dynamic duo has taken a serious bite out of a travel trend that’s sure to continue.

Colombian Dentists Bite Into Dental Travel Trend

Orthodontists Karime Morad Di Domenico and her son, Gilberto Escobar Morad are pictured with a patient (in the chair)

Barranquilla is a port city known more as the home of Shakira and Sofia Vergara than professional, inexpensive dental care readily available to tourists, so this realization was truly an eye-opener. 

 Barranquilla, Colombia

“In the United States dental services are super expensive. That’s why I’ve been coming here for the past three years,” said Jasmin Britto, a Miami resident who recently traveled to Barranquilla with her husband for a dental procedure.

The couple represents dozens of Americans and Europeans seeking professional dental care in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, where the savings can be as much as 50 percent compared to the same services in the U.S.

That said, my husband was not alone in seeking to have a dental procedure that took 10 days and cost $700 versus $4,000 he would have paid in Texas. In fact, he visited our local orthodontist before he made a decision to combine dental work with a vacation.

One of the reasons dental tourism has taken off alongside ecotourism, cultural tourism, and wine tourism is that the dollar goes much farther in Latin countries than in the U.S. In fact, in the fall of 2015, one American dollar was worth $2,800 pesos in Colombia.

Buena Vista shopping mall, Barranquilla, Colombia

Although we saved by staying with relatives, I found out that visitors can save on everything from luxurious 5-star hotel accommodations to dining in upscale restaurants in this city of roughly 2 million residents. 

Moreover, visitors can use the money they save on dental work to shop at Buena Vista shopping mall, Barranquilla’s answer to Houston’s posh Galleria. Shoppers will find global name brands and upscale restaurants at this fabulous mall. 

Buena Vista shopping mall, Barranquilla, Colombia

Situated just two hours and 20 minutes from Miami by air, Barranquilla is now an international destination. And American Airlines and Avianca are two of the popular airlines with direct flights from the U.S. to Colombia’s “golden gate” city. 

Additionally, “El Carnaval de Barranquilla,” (a Mardi Gras celebration) attracts thousands of international tourists annually. So visitors learn through word-of-mouth and local publications about professional and inexpensive dental services.   

“I noticed the trend of foreigners coming here for dental care years ago. They have been coming from Germany, Spain, England and the U.S. for many years,” said 51-year-old Escobar Morad, whose Odontologos Asociados (associated orthodontics group) sees dozens of international patients annually.

Another reason for the popularity of dental tourism is the proliferation of retired Baby Boomers whose health plans don’t offer extensive dental coverage. And if they do, the out-of-pocket expense is prohibitive. 

Additionally, there is no longer a language barrier. Most professionals like Drs. Morad Di Domenico and Escobar Morad study outside of their native countries and include an English-language curriculum in their studies.

“I studied in Ecuador for two years and returned to Cartagena to finish my first degree. Then I specialized in oral surgery through a special education program offered at the University of Tel Aviv, so I’ve been practicing more than 20 years,” said Escobar Morad, who spent two years in Ecuador and California and is fluent in English.

His mother, Karime Morad Di Domenico, was the inspiration for his career choice. With more than 50 years of orthodontic experience under her belt, she continues to practice alongside her son each and every week.

“I began my studies in Bogota and studied in Ecuador and Argentina. I worked in Cartagena for 12 years and commuted back and forth between Cartagena and Barranquilla for several years. But I have no intention of retiring because I would be bored,” said Di Domenico, 77.

The mother and son team subcontract with other local professionals to deliver some of the best dental care in the area. Unlike U.S. orthodontists, they do not require clients to make successive appointments in order to get the work done. 

Colombian Dentists Bite Into Dental Travel Trend

They work quickly and efficiently so their clients wait the minimum amount of time for everything from X-rays to implants. Moreover, not only can a patient get same day service but the prices for those services are extraordinary.

Annual salaries in countries like Colombia and Mexico are well below those in the U.S. Canada and Europe, which is another major reason that a host of dental services are at bargain-basement prices for tourists. 

For example, some patients may pay as little as $50 for a deep-teeth cleaning, $70 for a tooth filling and $500 for porcelain crown. But as with any professional service, prices vary depending on the condition of the patient’s teeth and other factors.

One thing is sure, the preliminary dental services, such as an initial X-ray to begin most dental work will cost as little as $20 American dollars! Best of all, the office that administers X-ray services is just a block away. I took advantage of the low prices myself. A deep-teeth cleaning cost me only $45 dollars.

The offices of Di Domenico and Escobar Morad are conveniently located in one of Barranquilla’s most upscale business neighborhoods. Visitors seeking dental services may find 5-star lodging minutes away from the Morad team at popular hotels like the stately Hotel del Prado. 

“I come almost every year to have a teeth cleaning. But today I’m here to have Dr. Escobar Morad do a root canal, which is very expensive in the United States,” said 62-year-old Gertrudis Gracia, a resident of Boca Raton, Fla. 

Colombia’s capital city of Bogota and the cities of Medellin and Cali were once dangerous due to drug violence, but Barranquilla never suffered from those problems. Residents here are proud to say their city has always been one of peaceful progress.

Di Domenico and her colleague-son are adamant about continuing their orthodontic education. That’s why they’ve incorporated state-of-the art techniques and equipment in their air-conditioned second-floor offices at Carrera #58, Suite #70-129.

Colombian Dentists Bite Into Dental Travel Trend

“I’m sorry for saying this but our patients tell us that the quality of orthodontics here is better than the U.S. Our materials are the best, and we study both in the United States and in Europe. So I think it’s true,” said Escobar Morad, almost apologetically.

Dr. Escobar Morad said a web designer is creating a new website with more details concerning all services offered. Additionally, the new site will refer patients to the best hotels and restaurants within easy walking distance to his office.

The website address is: www.odontologosasociados.net. Or email them via odontoasociados[at]yahoo.com.ar. The main office telephone number in Barranquilla is: 57-368-8047.
 

 

Rosie Carbo is the Lifestyles Editor for Wandering Educators, and is a former newspaper reporter whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. Some of those publications include People magazine, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. Some of her features were redistributed by The Associated Press early in her career as an award-winning Texas journalist.

All photos courtesy and copyright Rosie Carbo

 

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