Stew Lilker’s

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A Real Dental Crisis in Florida: “People can neither access nor afford dental care.” Some are turning to dental tourism 

A person receiving dental care with headline: A Real Dental Crisis in Florida: Affordability
Photo: Anna Shevets via Pexels | Observer graphic

Trimmel GomesFLORIDA – With the rising costs of dental procedures in the United States, many patients are turning to neighboring countries like Mexico to get care at significantly lower prices. Dental care in the U.S. can have a hefty price tag, especially for complex procedures like dental implants, orthodontics, and cosmetic dentistry.

Alvin King III, a resident of Fort Pierce, wanted to improve his smile after a chipped tooth, so he went online, browsing YouTube and social media to find a dentist with great reviews and the best price. He settled on a dental practice in Tijuana, Mexico, to get composite veneers designed to cover imperfections in tooth shape, size, or color.

"So, the total cost for me was $3,000 compared to the price in Florida I would've paid about $30,000," King pointed out. "Anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 in America.

Dental industry experts acknowledged the price gap, but warned people to be cautious and select a practice accredited by groups like the Commission on Dental Accreditation, to depend on the same quality standards. They also advised getting clear information about the costs of follow-up care.

Dr. Frank Catalanotto, president of Floridians for Dental Access, said the real dental-health crisis in Florida is so many people can neither access nor afford the dental care basics at home.

He noted nearly 6 million Floridians live in what's known as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas.

"Medical tourism is not the answer, from my perspective," Catalanotto advised. "We need to make it more accessible and affordable right here in Florida. We don't have adult dental benefits in Medicaid in our state. That means all those Medicaid patients, the only thing they can get is an emergency extraction and a denture."

Lafayette County currently has no dentists, and several other of Florida's 67 counties struggle with fewer than five dentists for their region. Catalanotto added his group is urging lawmakers to find ways to make oral care easier to get and afford.

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