Tips for Going to the Dentist in Antigua, Guatemala

Travel turns the most mundane tasks into adventures. From getting a haircut to going grocery shopping, from buying shampoo to flushing the toilet, when you’re away from home, even the simplest things can push you outside your comfort zone. In Guatemala, one of our mundane adventures was simply going to the dentist in Antigua.

In between climbing a volcano, eating our weight in desayunos tipicos, and climbing Volcano Acatenango, we spent an afternoon having a very different kind of adventure than typical for us in Antigua: getting a routine tooth cleaning.

I was raised to have my teeth cleaned by a dentist every six months on the dot, a tradition that I’ve happily kept up for most of my short adult life.

After leaving our 9-5 jobs behind, though, we also left behind our dental insurance: it had been roughly one year since we each had a cleaning when we stepped into Antigua, and it was time for that to change.

After doing a little research, we learned that dental tourism in Antigua is fairly popular: the prices are cheap, the services reliable, and (some of the) dentists speak English.

We were sold.

waiting room of a dentist in guatemala with 4 plastic chairs

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Our Experience Getting Our Teeth Cleaned in Antigua

Within days of arriving in Antigua for the second time, we marched down to the office of Dr. Ligia Porras, with a recommendation from our hostel in hand, to make an appointment.

Let me tell you: going to the dentist in Antigua is one of the only times either of us has actually looked forward to seeing the dentist–not because of the actual cleaning, but due to our burning curiosity about the similarities and differences between dental cleanings in the USA and Guatemala.

It was an absurdly simple experience: a woman walked out into the small waiting room upon hearing we were there, penciled us in for appointments the very next afternoon, and sent us on our way with a smile. No calling insurance companies, no paperwork, no medical history taken, nothing. Just a notebook, a pencil, and a smile.

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Naturally, having only ever visited dentists at home, we weren’t quite sure what to expect at our appointment the next day. The waiting went about as it does in any dental office that I’ve ever visited, except this waiting room was not equipped with air conditioning.

When the dentist called us back for our cleanings, we learned that the back room of the office consisted of two dental chairs squished fairly close together (no privacy here!), along with the standard array of lamps and cleaning equipment.

Granted, it was all a little more worn down than we are used to seeing (and there wasn’t any air conditioning there, either), but it was functional and clean.

jeremy storm having his teeth cleaned in a dentist in guatemala

We were surprised when Dr. Porras herself stepped out to do our cleanings. Rather than a hygienist doing the cleaning alone and then having the dentist do a quick check, the hygienist and the dentist worked as a team: the first holding our mouths open and using the vacuum (is that what it’s called?) to continually suck the moisture out of our mouths, and the dentist doing the actual cleaning.

In a combination of her English and our attempts at Spanish, the dentist let us know immediately after finishing that our teeth were fine (no cavities or soft spots, yay!), and admonished us not to wait a year between cleanings next time: “Every six months!” she requested, sounding remarkably like every American dentist that I’ve ever met.

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All in all, the total time elapsed between arriving in Antigua with the plan to visit a dentist and getting our exams done was 48 hours. Our total time in the office? Less than one hour.

Our sparkling clean teeth alone made the appointments worth it, but you sure can’t beat the efficiency or the price. Our cleanings came to approximately $23 USD each–money certainly well spent.

gate in antigua guatemala

Would We Go to the Dentist in Antigua Again?

Overall, we felt great about our experience going to the dentist in Antigua. We received great service for an incredibly low price.

If we ever needed more intensive dental work done, we would definitely consider going back–though we would likely spend more time interviewing dentists and collecting recommendations first.

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For something as simple as a dental cleaning, we were comfortable relying on the first recommendation that we received, and it worked out perfectly fine, and we definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Dr. Porras to anyone looking to add a dental cleaning to their to-do list in Antigua.

As our first experience in dental tourism (or any kind of medical tourism, for that matter), we consider going to the dentist in Antigua a solid success.

cerra de la cruz in guatemala, crucifix in foreground

3 thoughts on “Tips for Going to the Dentist in Antigua, Guatemala”

  1. $23 each!! Geez! My dental insurance costs so much more than that annually. Maybe I need to start flying to Antigua for dental appointments!

    Reply
    • You wouldn’t be the first one to do it! When I was researching dental tourism in Antigua I came across lots of stories of people needing expensive procedures done, and flying down to spend a month in Guatemala plus get the work done for the same price as getting it done at home!

      Reply
      • In Portland, Oregon dental hygienist does this:

        – strong mouthwash about 10ml for 30 seconds at the beginning, then spit it out into cup

        – review medical history and current drugs I take to identify any factors that could be contributing to any medical problems
        – measures pocket depth for each tooth at 3 positions on buccal (cheek) side and lingual (tongue) and records that information. I ask it be done out loud so I know where there are problems and she summarizes it for me afterward. Compare this time to last cleaning and see trends.
        – ultrasonic or power scaler that uses high pressure water to loosen and remove plaque and tartar from teeth
        – manual scaling (debriding)
        – dentist does exam
        – usually fluoride treatment

        For years all dental work was done in office of dentist who taught at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. When he retired he sold his practice to one of his students and dental work is done the same way.
        This is what I expected in Antigua and have not yet been able to find a dentist who does this level of work.
        Even when I have asked some dentists if they do the manual scaling and they say yes and I have tried them, they did did very little or did not do it.
        One dentist said there was no tartar/plaque. Never in my life time have I gone for a cleaning and there has been no tartar/plaque. I can name the dentist if you want since I remember who it was.
        Most people I know, and they are foreigners, are satisfied with the cleaning procedures here, only a few like me are not. Most all are satisfied with the dental work.
        This all is over a period of 10 years.

        Reply

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