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***UPDATE!: I have returned home after my 2nd & final dental trip to Costa Rica. A wrap-up post will be coming soon. If You're A New Visitor Then Please Use The Archive Menu To The Right To Start At Post #1 (2013 Dec)***

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

27: TRIP #1 WRAP-UP: JUST CALL ME SMILEY!

What can I say? I'm smiling every where I go. I smile at people I know, people I don't know and I even find myself smiling when there is no one around...just to practice. Yes it's just an acrylic, temporary prosthesis in my mouth, for now, but it sure beats the hell out of the nastiness that was in there before. My boost in confidence is so evident and that is nice. Before I would always try to avoid conversations with people as I knew they would be looking at my teeth...that's what I thought anyhow. Dr. Prada told me that my final porcelain teeth will look 1000x better. I'm sure that was a bit exaggerated but man I sure am looking forward to those!

At work today I talked with a couple of people that were surprised my dental work in Costa Rica went well. When I asked why, one of them said, "Well isn't the best dental care in the world right here in the United States?".  For some reason it reminded me of a scene from the HBO series Newsroom. In the scene the newscaster is visiting a university and answering questions from students who major in journalism. One girl asks the newscaster something like, "In your opinion what makes America the greatest country in the world?". He replied with...

"We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, Number 4 in labor force and Number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies...It’s not the greatest country in the world, that’s my answer."

Now I'm guessing some of you won't like this, but folks America is not #1 anymore. Many countries have not only caught up with us, but has passed us. Think about it...what is in the news almost every year? It's how America is way behind in education compared to MANY other countries. Now what are those better educated kids in other countries doing when they grow up? They are becoming surgeons, scientists, professors, dentists and so on. So why is it so hard to believe that you can get better healthcare, or in this case dental care, in another country? We, Americans, are brought up to believe that we are the best, that we are the most free nation in the world. Out of 207 sovereign states in the world, about 180 have freedom so it's not as a rare thing as we are sometimes led to believe.

I love my country and I feel lucky to be born here. But one of the reasons most of the world hates us, and they do, is the 'we are better than you' attitude that many of us carry. Costa Rica is a beautiful yet much different country. They have bad roads with strange, and in my opinion, non-effective traffic laws. Even something simple like garbage collection is done the way we in America did it over 30 years ago. Yet when it comes to something like healthcare...they surpass us. That's straight from the World Health Organization's ranking of the worlds health systems where America is 37th. Costa Rica and 35 other countries rank higher.

The dental care I received in Costa Rica was the best I've ever experienced. Super modern equipment and techniques being used by doctors who are so very personable and pleasing. You actually leave there feeling like you and the doctor are friends and will be for a very long time. All the research in the world wont prepare you for the warmth and encouragement that you will find...given you found the right dentist to go to. If you're on the fence, if you have been considering going to CR for dental work to save money, I can tell you that for me, and many others I have spoken with, it's totally worth it. I'm not saying that you have to go to my dentist in order to get great dental care. There are many great dentists in Costa Rica but I'm sure there are not so great ones as well, just like anywhere, so you still have to do your research and find one of the good ones. I receive no discount, no free work for doing this blog and/or mentioning DDS Dental and Dr. Prada. I would not ask him to do such a thing and I don't believe he would bring it up either. Even if he did I would politely say no.

Before...




After...




Before...




After...




And it will only get better when I return for my 2nd trip and receive my permanent teeth. There is no way I would have been able to afford this treatment in the states. I would have had to settle on dentures and at age 46,  I just didn't want to do that. I never did experience any pain...NONE! Had a couple days of minor swelling after the first temporary prosthesis was attached but that is it.

Hygiene: Obviously I didn't practice good oral hygiene for many years. I can assure you that is no longer the case. I'm brushing, flossing and water-picking at least 3 times a day. If I know I'll be away from home for most of the day then I bring a floss-stick, toothbrush and toothpaste with me...just like I did today at work. Hopefully this effort will help me keep my bottom teeth for a number of years more and of course help the implants integrate into the bone more effectively. A note on using a water-pick...I've been attempting to see exactly where I'm sticking the water-pick while using it instead of doing the by feel method with my mouth closed. Unless you want to spray water all over your bathroom mirror and walls (and sometimes up your nose) I highly suggest you don't attempt doing it my way.

I've been receiving great responses from many of you who have found my blog and I thank you so much for the encouragement and kind words. This is truly a life changing event for me and it's still only half complete. Please feel free to email me and ask any question and I'll do my best to give you a satisfactory answer. You can ask about costs, dentists that I recommend, or what I've heard/learned of a dentist that you are thinking of going to in Costa Rica. I've done so many hours of research over the last 7 or 8 months that I feel it would be a waste to not share what I have learned with others.

thedentaltourist@gmail.com
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Some have inquired about where I stayed while in Costa Rica. I have no problem listing those places here along with a link to the appropriate site. When I'm away for more than a week, I like to stay in more than one place in order to mix things up a bit. I would get bored out of my mind if I stayed in the same hotel for 2 weeks!

**Note: the blue highlighted words below are clickable links**

Nights 1 thru 3: When I arrived in CR, I had a few days before my first dental appointment so to the beach I went...Manuel Antonio to be specific. I stayed at TULEMAR and loved it. Private beach with free use of kayaks, boogie boards & snorkel equipment. Fantastic setting with monkeys, sloths and all kinds of colorful birds. TULEMAR  &  TripAdvisor User Reviews & Photos

Nights 4 thru 10: I wanted a place close to the dental clinic which is located in the upscale Escazu suburb of San Jose. Sometimes when I don't want a hotel setting, I check out two websites which lists rooms, houses and cottages for rent by owners. When we went to Hawaii in '08 we scored a beachfront condo for $89 per night using one of these sites! These two sites are AirBnB & VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owners). On AirBnB I found an American expat who has 2 incredible homes in the Escazu area which are joined by a courtyard. She rents out rooms in both houses and at great prices. Plus it was less than 2km to the dental clinic...super convenient. Her name is Liza and she was an excellent host. She is also the one who told me about Carlos the taxi driver who ended up being my go to cabbie and who will be once again when I return for my 2nd trip. This is where I'll be staying for my 2nd trip as it just so peaceful and affordable. Liza's Listings on AirBnB  (You can also Google "Luxury Living for Peanuts!" and it will take you to her listings)

Nights 11 thru 13: Next we moved to the Ringle Resort. Just 10 rooms but a beautiful place. The owner was a bit strange. We caught him entering our room, when we were not in it, to turn off our A/C. He made some remark about the costs. Yeah well isn't that covered in the rate?! Strange dude. The grounds are gorgeous and the rooms are elegant with incredible views of the valley. If you don't have to deal with the owner then I kind of recommend it. The Ringle Resort  &  TripAdvisor

Nights 14 & 15: We wanted to stay the last night or two in a place close to the airport since we had a very early flight Sunday morning and didn't want to have to take a cab all the way from San Jose. I had heard of a small boutique hotel operated by an American expat which is just 4km from SJO (airport). Individual cottages in a lush, tropical setting...beautiful! No t.v. or phones in the room but that was just fine with me. Berni is the name of the owner and although a bit off center (like I am), he is a great host. Check out The Pura Vida Hotel  &  TripAdvisor

When I return to CR for trip #2, September 15th (EDIT: May 18th...see post #28), I will of course resume this blog. But I may also add a post or two if anything important comes up regarding my dental work.

Thank you

-Smiley

Saturday, January 18, 2014

26: THE EVE OF LEAVE

Well tonight is our last night in CR and tomorrow (way too early in the morning) we leave for home. I think 2 weeks is our limit from being away as we are really looking forward to getting back. My dog, Sky, will either be so happy to see me that she'll tackle me and lick my face off or be so pissed at me for leaving that she'll tackle me and rip my face off. 

These last two nights we've been staying in a town very close to the airport called Alajuela. In the morning it will be a quick 4km taxi ride to SJO (San Jose Airport). A 2 hour layover in Phoenix then, if all goes well, landing in Portland by 4:30pm. A 30 minute car ride later and I'll be home walking into an ambush set up by a 90 lb yellow lab. 

Today we just relaxed for most of the day and then decided to walk around Alajuela. We sat in the town square as this seemed the thing to do since there were so many locals doing it. There was some dance going on with a small band...




The church at the town square...




Last nights sunset...




Tomorrow night when I arrive home, I'll be doing that final wrap-up I spoke of yesterday.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 17, 2014

25: GOOD PEOPLE & FINAL APPOINTMENT

A very nice day. Today I was able to meet a couple of people that are Topix forum members and who are also readers of my blog. Chris is here from Victoria BC, Canada getting dental work done by Dr. Anglada & Dr. Castro, two very popular and respected dentists. Jack is an expat who is originally from Michigan and has lived in CR for 12 years now I believe. We decided to meet up at the Suites Cristina Hotel where Chris is staying and where a lot of dental tourists stay during their treatment as it's in close proximity to some of the more popular clinics. 

We sat and talked at length about Costa Rican dentists, U.S. dentists, procedures and all kinds of other things. It was a very nice and entertaining discussion. Both Chris and Jack are fantastic people and it was a pleasure to meet them. 

Chris and Jack please keep in touch and I hope we will meet again.




I then headed to DDS Dental for my last appointment with Dr. Prada. Well it's my last appointment this trip. I'll be back around August. When the doctor cemented the temporary prosthesis on to the posts this last Tuesday, he used what he called a soft cement. He did this so it would be easier to remove today. Today I was able to get my work done in their newer section of the clinic which opened up just this month...




Once the doctor had the temp off, he looked around in my mouth and made sure everything was good. He said my gums were looking very nice and that's something I haven't heard in a very long time...if ever. He made a few minor modifications to the prosthesis so that it would be easier for me to thread floss between it and my gum. Then it was time for my favorite thing in the whole world, more molds...




Next it was time to recement the temp prosthesis to my posts but this time using a much stronger cement, "hard cement" is what I believe the doctor called it...





Then Dr. Prada took a series of photos that GQ Magazine requested (so not true)...





My teeth color is B1 which I like but I may go I shade whiter when I get my permanent porcelain bridges...




In this next photo the only reason I'm not crying like a baby, hugging Dr. Prada and saying, "Thank you doctor can I come live with you", is because I knew I would be seeing him again later this year...




There is no way I can express enough my gratitude for how this man has helped me change my life. I went back and forth trying to decide on what dentist to use when I was doing my research. I really felt bad because I was contacting so many different dentists trying to find that perfect one. Now that the 1st stage of my procedure is complete, I truly feel like I hit the jackpot by choosing Dr. Prada and his team at DDS Dental. A terrific, fantasic and talented Prosthodontist but an even better person. 

I will do a 1st trip wrap-up post after I return home this Sunday. Then, as I have stated a few times already, I'll return to Costa Rica later this year in order to be fitted with my permanent teeth. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the wrap-up!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

24: A DAY OF ALMOSTS

No appointments today, last one is tomorrow afternoon. After arranging wire transfers to both Dr. Prada's & Dr. Gonzalez's account via our credit union's website (love technology), we decided to head out to a coffee plantation and take a tour that I heard was very good. It's called The Britt Coffee Tour and located only about 20 minutes north of downtown San Jose. I assumed that the tour was something that started every half hour or hour. You know that saying about assuming? So we get there at 11:30 only to find out that there are two tours per day...11am & 3pm. Damn...almost! But we visited their gift shop and also had a great iced coffee at the cafe. Sat out in their wonderful garden area and enjoyed our beverage.

Then we decided to head towards the Cartago area, making Orosi are final destination. Orosi is a small town that has nice local charm and a good place to go to get away from the busy city. That's what we've heard but we still have no idea if that is true. We stopped for a short break in Cartago and checked out a beautiful Catholic Church. Then we continued on to Orosi. About 10km out of Cartago, Keli brought up a good point. Will we be able to get to Orosi, check out the town and then return home before dark?* I did a quick km to time to sunset calculation in my brainage area and responded to her with a very intelligent, "I dunno". But the real answer was no, but almost. So we flipped a U and our trip to Orosi turned into a Thursday afternoon drive. But that was fine as it was nice to get out of town for a bit.  *(Driving in SJ is challenging for most tourists and to attempt it after dark is only begging for trouble. Many of the streets are not stripped. No yellow line, no white line and no dotted white line to designate different lanes. Those conditions at night is not a fun thing to deal with)  

I almost forgot! We ALMOST got forced into a ditch by a trucker. We were entering a roundabout, which are crazy here by themselves, and a tractor/trailer rig was on our left and started to squeeze us. It was either get hit by the truck on the left, go into the very large ditch to the right, or hammer down on the throttle and shoot out into the roundabout traffic. I chose option 3 and luckily it worked out. Fun stuff.
All I have is a few photos of the church in Cartago...









Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

23: GRACIAS & ADIOS DR. GONZALEZ

(This is not a wrap up of my dental journey as one of my readers thought. Just a summary of my last appointment with Dr. Gonzalez. Still have another appointment with Prada)

Today I had my last appointment with Dr. Gonzalez (periodontist). He's the one who performed the surgery last Wednesday (extractions, gum surgery, implants, deep cleaning). My last appointment with Dr. Prada will be Friday.

The first thing they did was take a panoramic x-ray using their brand new machine in their brand new imaging center...



"Put on this bib, stick your head in here & bite on this"...



If I had known they could spy on me, I wouldn't have started playing with buttons and switches...



The results..





Next it was time to sit in my favorite chair.  Here Dr. Gonzalez is showing me how to use the special floss threader. This is so that I can get food particles out and helps with bacteria...




Gonzalez is so talented and efficient that he blurs when he works. He is so quick that even Prada is still looking at where Gonzalez USED to be. I was obviously fascinated by the stucko on the ceiling...




Here is my bag filled with the cases and serial numbers of each implant. 6 Zimmer brand and 1 MIS brand. Zimmer is considered to be top of the line alongside BIOMET 3i and Nobel Biocare. MIS has been around since the 90's but has really come on strong lately as a very, very good implant with a good thread design. MIS is an Israel based company...




Time to say adios to Dr. Gonzalez. A great guy and a skilled doctor...




It was a good appointment as they all have been. One more to go on Friday with Dr. Prada.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

22: NEW & IMPROVED! BUT WAIT...THERE'S MORE!

Today I had my appointment to receive my new and improved temporary teeth. These are the ones I will wear home with me and if all goes well they will stay in my mouth until I make my return to Costa Rica, at which time I'll be fitted with my permanent porcelain fused to zirconia teeth or PFZ for short.

It seems strange but I had those 1st set of temp teeth for less than a week. I thought they were pretty good for temps until I was fitted with this new one. I noted in an earlier post that I thought the front four teeth of the original were a bit too wide and the canines were sort of bulky. I wasn't complaining as I knew I wouldn't have them very long. I was making these observations because I was asked to do so by Dr. Prada in order to know how to refine the 2nd set. The permanent teeth I'll receive in 6 months, roughly, will be more realistic and customized than either of the temporary sets but for now I believe I'll be very happy with these.

Here is the 1st and 2nd prosthesis side by side. You can see how the original has a more yellowish tint and the front 4 teeth are more squared and chicklet like...




Dr. Prada did some prep work on my posts before attaching the new prosthesis. He said I probably wouldn't need to be numbed for this but he would be happy to do it if it made me feel more at ease. I chose to skip the numb stuff and it was absolutely fine...the man is gifted 





I'm always trying to steal a peak and see what is going on...




Here you can really see the improvement on my bite and alignment. The first mold is of my original teeth showing the bucked teeth and huge gaps. The second mold was taken after the first set of temporaries were in place...






Kind of a slight difference isn't it? See in the second mold how the teeth from the first prosthesis looks big and square? That is one of the things we improved on with the new one. 

Dr. Prada gave me the 1st prosthesis to take home with me. This is for worse case scenario. If my current prosthesis was to break then I could take this original in to my local dentist's office and have it attached. That would hold me over until I returned to CR for my final teeth. As I've said before, my final teeth will not be like what you see below. They will be in separate segments instead of one solid arch, and will look like real teeth and not like the chiclets in this photo. In fact the teeth below look very primitive compared to what the final porcelain teeth will resemble, thank God...





Here are the new temps in action...





When I get my final PFZ's, I will be able to sit with Dr. Prada and help choose size, shape, color, texture, rounded corners or squared and so on. I am very happy with my decision to choose Dr. Prada & Dr. Gonzalez for my dental work. Although I learned of even more qualified dentists since I've been here and even took a tour of the most popular clinic in Costa Rica, I would still choose DDS Dental and these two doctors. Simply outstanding!

I have a appointment tomorrow with Dr. Gonzalez and then a final appointment with Dr. Prada on Friday. 

Thanks for reading 

Monday, January 13, 2014

21: DOWNTOWN SAN JOSE and GRAND CENTRAL DENTAL

A weekday without a dental appointment so what to do, what to do?  I remembered seeing a self guided walking tour outlined in my CR book so I grabbed it early this morning, found the map, called our cabbie Carlos and within no time we were off. I've said it once and I doubt this will be the last time...if you're coming to CR get the book: COSTA RICA THE COMPLETE GUIDE by James Kaiser. Amazon has it.

Carlos dropped us off at the National Museum but it was closed on Mondays, of course it was, so we continued on with the walking part of the tour. First we came up on some skilled work done by local street artists...











Next was Parque Nacional which I believe means National Park...








Found a vendor who did a slight twist on the flavored ice thing. He also added some type of sweet cream on top and a type of white powder that was not powdered sugar (I know what you're thinking so stop it...it wasn't drugs)   ;)





Another park and some people watching...












Found out what happened to Ponch's & Jon's police motorcycles from the early 80's show CHiP's...





Found a dude that had the exact teeth I want for my final set so I took this photo so that I can show it to Dr. Prada. Keli said something about I should have brought my glasses but I didn't understand why she brought that up at this time...







Went to the Mercado Central which was huge, a confusing maze of small shops and booths and was a neat experience in which we found a very good frappuccino...











We had walked at least a few miles and I had a general idea of where we were in relation to dental clinics I researched within the last 8 months or so. Plus I have always had a weird and uncanny sense of direction so I knew we were close to the Cavallini clinic. We walked 1 block west and then 3 blocks north and there it was...





This clinic is by far the most popular clinic in Costa Rica with dental tourists. Even though it doesn't look it from the exterior, this place is huge for a dental clinic. The building extends to the rear quite a bit. I called Dan who is a very nice guy who happens to be in CR getting dental work at the same time as I. I knew he had chosen this clinic and was staying at the clinics hotel which part of this complex. Anyhow I called him to see if he was near and in fact he was in the clinic waiting for his appointment. He met me at the door and then took me inside for a tour. Actually it was a very nice woman named Ana, I hope I spelled that right, who ended up giving us a tour. I met both the senior and jr doctors, who were very kind, and even toured their on site lab. Here is one of their multiple waiting rooms...








Dr. Marco (son of Dr. Cavallini)...





They even have their own on site pharmacy...





Some views of the dental lab...




















That is Ana in the above photo...she was great. Next we went upstairs to their hotel which opened in 2010 I believe...
















I was glad that I was able to check out the Cavallini clinic. It's near impossible to do any kind of research on dental tourism and not learn of this place. It was good to finally meet Dan, in person, as well. We first started chatting on the Topix forum where many are discussing dental tourism and then we learned we would be in CR at the same time. Since our dental procedure started on the same day, but different clinics, we have been calling each other to make sure we were still well & kicking. It was good to meet you Dan and thanks!

It was a good day. Tomorrow I have an A.M. dental appointment with Dr. Prada. We will be discussing the build of the next temporary prosthesis. Size and shape of teeth as well as the color. I'm guessing I will have 2 more appointments later this week.