Before we get to the 7 comforts of dental tourism to consider, don’t forget the 7 critical items before you head out the door: Passport, money, directions, hotel and ground transportation, and health-related options and paraphernalia. Forget any of those and it very well may be a trip of sour grapes.
More frequently than not, dental tourism or a “dental vacation” is misunderstood. It is not your average vacation with a little dental work thrown in. Sure, many unscrupulous intermediaries serving as Brokers, Agents, Un-qualified Patient Coordinators, or even Doctors themselves may sell it like it is a vacation, but it is not. In this case, common sense prevails. It is a trip to the Dentist, period. Same goes for medical trips. It may look like a spa, but it is all serious business in the operatory.
As a seasoned International Patient Coordinator, I never paint too pretty a picture to Prospective Patients – I prefer to establish realistic expectations. Sure, some people will get to see the beach, the mountains, the jungles or the volcanoes, but many will not. Why? Because dental work is often just what you expect it to be; and not everyone likes to go outside when feeling less than their best with a bruised face, puffy lips, or drooling; or accidentally launching bits and pieces of leftover dental stuff, or whatever at dinner guests while trying to speak like a normal human being. That is why.
So, instead of making sure you shop for the perfect bikini, or new set of golf clubs, or clothes to go out on the town, I suggest you stick with the basics. Comfort items; those few precious goodies that you can cling to in order to make you feel better – if not comfy cozy and your normal self, at least mediocre, and not miserable.
The recommended list of things can vary greatly from Patient to Patient, but I thought it good to suggest a few that seem to work well for many. Good luck, I hope they serve you well.
- Comfort food
This stuff is good for anything: Rainy days, canceled plans, divorce, and even the loss of a loved one. Do not underestimate the power of your stomach to help control your brain and put it in a better place. Pain is never pleasant, but an empty stomach on top of it is worse. So consider 2 things. a) What you like to eat to feel good, b) what you need to eat to stay healthy and strong to make it thru your clinical experience.
Those who are scheduled to have surgical procedures and even those with less invasive Treatment Plans need their strength in order to heal as quickly and completely as possible. You need to stay nourished. That means plenty of fluids and also some food or substantive food substitutes. Vitamins and other supplements before, during and after treatment may be appropriate, but maybe not. Consult with your Doctor or trusted caregiver if in doubt.
Real food is always good, if available, and manageable. For some, it is baby food in a jar, soft cheese or mashed potatoes. Others go for bananas, and some prefer protein shakes. Whatever is your body’s core food, keep it in mind, and possibly on hand if it can make it past TSA, legally. But think soft. Consider gelatin, jelly, pudding, creamy peanut butter, and tofu. Obviously, foods like that will serve you better than hard, salty pretzels, chewy bagels, rock candy and beef jerky. And think cool, or warm; not hot, and definitely not spicy.
These things are great. They become our first textile security when we enter this world, and they offer a similar comfort and protection against the elements up until the time we are ready to move on. If a blanket is too unruly or too heavy to transport, think about taking a pillow. You can’t wrap yourself in it, but it may be nice to have on the plane and supplement the comfort of the pillow(s) that await you at your chosen place of stay. And think about bringing along a few fabric softener sheets to provide a familiar scent and touch of home.
Have you ever been cold and miserable? It’s terrible. And the chance of crossing the line into misery in the dental world is always a possibility. So, at least make sure you won’t be cold. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Many surgeons need to wear extra garb to make sure your environment remains sterile, or at minimum clean. These dressings can cause Doctors to overheat, so many keep their operatories nice and cool. You may not see frost when you speak, but you may not be far from that point. A light sweater/jacket is a smart insurance plan against discomfort in the chair, and also in the unpredictable mountainous regions of Costa Rica.
- Photos of family, friends or other
Don’t forget the most important thing in your life: your family, (and photos of them). They are probably on your smartphone, but a hard copy to post in your room will hopefully bring an added calm and happiness. If your family is less than the calming type, consider a photo of your friends, or the Pope, or Jesus, or Buddha, or whatever else calms you and helps you relax. Maybe you can bring a mandala or a photo(s) of your pet(s).
- Wife’s perfume/husband’s cologne/pet’s something or other
Do not underestimate the power of familiar sights, smells and sounds to help you feel more comfortable, relax, reduce pain, and heal better: at your hotel, in the chair, and in the plane.
- A friend
Nothing is better than a friend who has dental issues to take your mind off your own discomfort, to prevent loneliness, and to share any good stuff that happens on the trip. In the worst case scenario, misery loves company, so you can moan, groan and growl at each other to release any tension and relieve yourself a bit. In the best case scenario, you will actually have a good time together.
- Your Bible, other religious books, or source of energy and recharge
There’s an old saying when all else fails, pray. So, for both the religious and unreligious, think about taking your own Bible, or alternative Holy Book. Gideon is rare to find in Costa Rica. Non-believers can consider meditation manuals, crystals, chimes, relaxing music on MP3, or whatever else may float your boat, sooth your soul and provide you enough positive energy to make it thru until you get home.
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