WHAT TO KNOW before visiting the dentist in Ecuador
This article is reprinted from the April 2022 edition of Hi Expat magazine.
Dr. Victor Carreño
In the January issue of Hi Expat magazine, I wrote about a few of the factors that have brought about the transformation of the medical landscape in Ecuador, and the growing opportunities for modern, excellent quality healthcare here. However, patients still report a wide range of experiences in our healthcare system, and as a newcomer to Ecuador, it is important to do some research to make sure you are receiving a level of care that meets your expectations.
Understandably, many new expats have concerns before their first visit to the dentist in Ecuador, and we have developed the Q&A guide below to help patients know what to look for when selecting a dentist, and what to expect at a dental appointment in Ecuador
How will I communicate with my dentist? Fortunately for English-speaking expats, there are many bilingual dentists in Ecuador. If your dentist of choice does not speak your language, you also have the option to bring along a trusted translator to your appointments.
What are the dentist’s qualifications? In the Ecuadorian education system, primary school is referred to as primer nivel, or the “first level”, and high school is the “second level” - segundo nivel. In order to become a licensed dentist, high school graduates complete 5 years of study to earn a Dentist degree at the tercer nivel or “third level” (similar to a bachelor’s or undergraduate degree in North America), and complete a 1-year residency. Some Ecuadorian dentists choose to supplement their education with postgraduate degrees at the “fourth level” in a dental specialty program, either in Ecuador or abroad.
Where can I verify professionals’ credentials? If you are looking for excellent care from an experienced dentist, you may want to choose a professional with fourth level training. Tercer and cuarto nivel degrees are registered in the public online SENESCYT system, which patients can access at https://www.senescyt.gob.ec/web/guest/consultas. Patients will need to know the professional’s full name including both apellidos (surnames) in order to verify their credentials. For example, you may search “Carreño Alava” and click on “Victor Hugo Carreño Alava” to see my SENESCYT profile.
Are dental offices in Ecuador hygienic? Do they follow sanitation protocols? There are several things to look out for at your dentist’s office to make sure they are complying with international standards. Are the waiting room, office and restrooms clean and brightly lit? Your dentist should open a separately packaged set of instruments for each patient - ask if they are sterilized using autoclave technology. Dentists must have an up-to-date registration with ACESS, the government agency regulating healthcare providers and their offices, as well as municipal permits and hazardous waste subscriptions.
Do dentists in Ecuador use the same technology as my dentist back home? Many dental practices in North America and Europe have “gone digital”, and the leaders of the dental field in Ecuador are doing the same. Our dental practice TopDental in Manta uses a cutting-edge intraoral scanner to ensure precision and quick turnaround time for all of our crowns, bridges, veneers, and 3D-printed dental implant guides and restorations, which are designed and fabricated using CAD/CAM technology. If you are interested in dental implants in Ecuador, make sure to ask if your dental surgeon will use a CT scan for proper digital 3D planning and to reduce the risk of complications.
What type of materials do dentists here use? There is a wide range of types, brands and quality of dental materials available in Ecuador, so make sure to ask your dentist what they will use in your mouth! Most dentists use metal-free tooth-colored resin composite for fillings, and there are some excellent dental labs in Ecuador that use top quality zirconia, porcelain and ceramic for permanent crowns, bridges and veneers. If you don’t know what type of questions to ask in order to ensure you are receiving dental treatment with top-of-the-line materials, I have written several blog articles on the subject at www.ecuadordentistry.com.
Will a dental hygienist perform my cleaning? Actually, in Ecuador the profession of dental hygienist doesn't exist - so a qualified dentist will perform your cleaning, polish and comprehensive oral health examination! In Ecuador it is common to find a practice with a team of specialists working together - dentist, oral surgeon, implantologist, endodontist, orthodontist, periodontist and more. A well-equipped team will be able to solve any dental issue or complication that arises.
How much should I expect to pay? Is insurance accepted? Prices for high quality dental care in Ecuador are just a fraction of those in North America, and are so affordable that both locals and expats usually pay out of pocket for care. Some health insurance plans reimburse for certain dental procedures, such as preventive care, fillings, extractions and root canals. Below, find some examples of prices at Ecuadorian dental practices like my own, with the latest technology and expert teams of specialists with cuarto nivel training, vs. average U.S.A. pricing.
If you are looking for a high standard of dental care in your native language, you will find that Ecuador offers skilled and highly trained professionals, modern and hygienic facilities, and cutting-edge technology and equipment, at an excellent value.