Medical tourism has come into its own as a natural extension of the globalization we all are witnessing around the world. People from many different countries are, many by economic necessity, seeking out the most competent medical and dental providers around the world as a means of obtaining quality care at an affordable cost combined with the possibility of exploring different countries and cultures. Medical tourism offers patients a safe and exciting option.
In the past, many Salvadorans traveled to the United States in search of all kinds of medical and dental services not readily available in El Salvador. Today, the tide is turning and Americans, among other nationalities, are visiting us for dental and medical treatments just a short flight away from their homes. In El Salvador, patients discover that they can have the state of the art treatments for a fraction of the cost in their hometowns.
Because of this growing trend, many reputable companies are assisting the average person in finding a qualified provider in countries not too far away from home. These organizations research the countries and more importantly, the qualifications and outcomes of the medical and dental professionals. This ensures prospective patients they will be receiving quality care while having a great adventure and still save a significant amount of money.
El Salvador is one of the hidden gems discovered recently by several Medical Tourism Facilitators as a medical tourism destination due to its short distance from most American cities. It is renowned for its hospitality, warmth, and quality of health and dental care.
You can find beautiful vistas full of hills covered by green tropical forest, volcanic lakes, like Coatepeque Lake, which is considered one of the wonders of the world, and the warm, black sandy Pacific Ocean beaches twenty minutes from the capital city, a surfer’s paradise. Hills of manicured coffee plantations, known not only for the high quality of coffee they produce, but also because they are part of the protected forest, dot the landscape of this tropical country.
Regarding dental care, our state-of-the-art dental facilities are proud to provide expert dental care, from straightforward restorative crown and bridgework to the most complex rehabilitations and reconstructions, including dental implants.
Patients considering travel to El Salvador for dental treatment from abroad, particularly the United States, feel better knowing that we offer dental professionals highly trained from some of the finest institutions in the U.S., including former teachers of major dental schools such as, Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas.
The fact that many of our dental specialists spent years of private practice in the U.S. is also important to those patients who want firsthand experience of what patients demand from their providers in terms of the quality and standard of care, including the latest dental materials and procedures, as well as stringent sterilization procedures.
Most of the patients who seek consultation have been previously diagnosed, as being in need of full mouth rehabilitation, a procedure generally performed only by specialists (prosthodontists) in the United States, which can be quite costly. When considering having this type of treatment performed in our country, patients can rest easy that they are being treated by Board-Certified of the American Board of Prosthodontics and other American Board eligible dentists.
Our facilities are staffed with dental professionals well versed in all areas of dentistry and communicate efficiently in both English and Spanish. Along with cleanings, fillings, crowns and teeth whitening, most patients come in search of Dental Implants.
Why Dental Implants?
For patients missing one or more teeth due to periodontal disease, caries or injury, dental implants have provided a revolutionary method of replacing the missing tooth or teeth. Generally a two-part process, a dental implant is first surgically placed at the location of the missing tooth, and after a few weeks of healing, it is restored with the desired type of prosthesis; for instance, a crown, bridge or denture. One of the benefits this provides is both the surgical and restorative phases of dental implant treatment all at one location.
The titanium endosteal implant was approved for human use in the United States in 1983. We were among the first faculty teams from Baylor College of Dentistry to be trained in the placement and restoration of dental implants. Through the years, dental implant systems and technology have continued to evolve, allowing us to place and restore thousands of implant fixtures for thousands of satisfied patients.
Dental implants are now considered the best solution for the replacement of missing teeth. Among the reasons to consider dental implants:
- Esthetics: Dental implants look and feel like your own teeth.
- Bone preservation: Dental implants prevent the bone loss and gum recession that often accompany bridgework and dentures.
- Tooth conservation: Bridge preparation requires the “cutting down” of adjacent teeth. Dental implants are self-supporting so the adjacent teeth are left alone.
- Function: Dental implants allow patients to once again speak and eat with comfort and confidence.
- Predictability: Research and clinical experience have resulted in tremendous strides in the success rate for dental implants. In healthy patients, success rates are generally 95-99%.
Following careful planning, the dental implant(s) are placed during an outpatient surgical procedure. Over the next two to six months, the implants are allowed to heal undisturbed until integration with the bone is achieved (osseointegration). During this time, a temporary restoration can be worn over the implant sites to preserve function and esthetics during healing.
In the second step of the procedure, the implants are uncovered and prepared for the final restoration. Impressions of the teeth and dental implants are made, and the final prosthesis is fabricated and delivered. Since proper implant positioning requires that adequate bone be present, often additional surgical procedures are required, depending on the conditions of the existing bone and the patient’s desires for the final restoration.
When bone volume has been lost, either due to wearing ill-fitting dentures, developmental defects, injury, trauma, or periodontal disease, a ridge augmentation procedure may be necessary at the time of or prior to dental implant placement. The scope of this procedure depends on the amount of bone needed, the size of the defect to be repaired, and the overall esthetic demands.
Advances in bone augmentation materials and procedures have resulted in significant improvements in success as well as significant reductions in complications and patient discomfort. Any recommended augmentation procedures are discussed thoroughly with the patient prior to surgery. However, many times these procedures are critical to both a functional and esthetic success.
When upper posterior implants need to be placed the quantity and quality of bone is key for the success. Traditionally this has been one of the most difficult areas to successfully place dental implants due to extensive bone loss and the close proximity to the sinus.
Sinus augmentation should help to correct this problem. This procedure will allow raising the sinus floor, stimulating the growth of the patient’s bone and obtaining enough bone to successfully place the dental implants.
There are different techniques to raise the sinus. In most patients a bone graft material is used. This is allowed to heal and a waiting period should be established before restoring the implants. In some instances the implants can be placed in the same procedure, but when the patients existing bone is deficient; the implants must be placed in a separate intervention, months later after the patient’s bone is mature.
Restoring Your Implants
The number of implants placed is determined by the type of restoration the patient desires in accordance with the existing bone structure among other considerations. The patient is left with a temporary prosthesis during the healing process of the implants. The bone and implant need time for integration, called osseointegration.
Implants can be restored within two and five months after placement depending if they are uppers or lowers, the quality of bone and the patient’s healing process. Sometimes osseointegration takes longer than five months mainly when graft procedures are involved.
Most patients have to plan a second trip to have their implants restored and it is important to know that depending of the complexity of the prosthesis, it will take between five to ten working days to return home with a full set of long lasting teeth.
Beginning the Process
In order to expedite the treatment process, medical tourism companies collect the necessary information for every patient, including any and all pertinent medical and dental records. The patient’s local dentist is often instrumental in providing important examination and treatment information.
By gathering this information ahead of the patient’s visit, we are able to determine the best treatment plan before he or she arrives, including outlining the required procedures, the necessary time to complete them, as well as the best way to spend their recovery time. Of course we encourage exploring the beautiful Salvadoran countryside.
Dr. Raphael Lorenzana, Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics, is the owner of Lorenzana Dental Clinic, a state of the art Dental Clinic in El Salvador. He graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry and is a Doctor of Dental Surgery. His education includes Medical University of South Carolina, Certificate of Prosthodontics and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Certificate in Occlusion and Fixed Prosthodontics. His professional appointment include Clinical Professor at the Department of Fixed Prosthodontics at Baylor College of Dentistry and Professor of Implantology at the Graduate Program of Implantology at Evangelical University. You may reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is www.DoctorLorenzana.com