South America Travelling

Open Wide! – Visiting the Dentist in Colombia

After having Lasik surgery in Vietnam, I am very happy to have cosmetic procedures during my travels. Perhaps this is incredibly vain of me, I don’t know. But with prices in the UK and Sweden being so high, many things are financially out of my reach.

It had been a long time since I last visited a dentist. In the UK free dentistry is available up until the age of 16. After that you’re on your own. And it’s not cheap. There can be problems signing up with a National Health Service (NHS) dentist as many are unable to take on new patients, and to go private is only for the wealthy. When I left home to attend university in another town finding a dentist seemed a lot of effort and I had other priorities for my new-found Student Loan wealth, so I didn’t bother to register with any dentist.

Fast forward 14 years: throw in litres of Diet Coke (thankfully I’ve never liked the sugary normal version), add more tonnes of chocolate than I care to think about, and you’ve got some teeth problems. I have never smoked and I don’t drink tea, coffee or red wine, but I have always had yellowed teeth. I’ve tried tooth whitening pastes and creams, all to no avail. I look at photos of myself and cringe.

Standing outside the surgery before the initial consultation

In Colombia, dentistry is much cheaper than back home so I thought why not? I’m travelling and the best souvenir I can give myself is a smile that I don’t have to hide. It won’t even add weight to my backpack! So after some online research (performed by my boyfriend who has far more patience with that sort of thing than I do), I checked myself in with a reputable surgery in Medellin. The dentist spoke very good English during the pre-appointment emails, and I was confident that all would be well.

On the day of my appointment I arrived hoping to leave with a gleaming white smile. Things did not go to plan when, after his initial check over, he said that he would have to do an extensive clean-up as I hadn’t been to the dentist for so long. It was not entirely unexpected: Kids, you can’t ignore the dentist and get away with it! Surprisingly, I did not need any work doing other than the extraction of a painful wisdom tooth on my lower jaw. I am amazed that I did not need any fillings. We could go ahead with the procedure.

The process (google image)

Tooth Whitening is a strange experience. Although it is often called ‘laser’ whitening there is no actual laser, only a high-intensity bright light. The initial clean-up was the most painful part of the whole procedure when a high-powered air stream is applied along the gum lines. When I washed out my mouth it was full of blood! Lying in the dentist’s chair with a plastic contraption holding open your mouth is never a pleasant experience but the first stage of the whitening is quite relaxing. The light is positioned a few centimetres from the mouth and set for fifteen minutes. It was only after about 12 that I began to experience discomfort on my bottom teeth. It didn’t particularly hurt, but felt very unpleasant: I imagine that it is a similar feeling to that when those with sensitive teeth eat ice-cream.

If you have sensitive teeth, I think whitening could be painful.

After the first 15 minutes you wash your mouth out thoroughly before the gel is reapplied and you are subjected to another session  under the light. This time the dentist made some alterations as I had told him about the discomfort in the first session and other than a few uncomfortable twinges the second session was much better.

Once the whitening procedure was completed the dentist filed down my teeth ever so slightly to even them out. This is not part of the whitening, just me being excessively paranoid about my smile. And then we were finished. I left the surgery feeling much more confident and very happy with the work I’d had done.

Gleaming teeth!

Artica Clinica Odontologica is a professional establishment and Juan Carlos, the dentist who treated me, speaks fluent English. He offered sensible advice about what was best for my teeth in the long-run. I initially enquired about caps and veneers which he was unwilling to perform on healthy teeth that did not require such extensive treatment. Many surgeries would have just seen the dollar signs and agreed. Their website clearly states the prices and  I was also given a price estimate in my initial appointment. Although it was not particularly cheap, it was certainly much cheaper than in the UK or Sweden. And I will be laying off the Coke in the future!

The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own. I am writing this post without the knowledge of Artica Clinica Odontologica, I paid for all my own treatment and have received no fees or advertising.

What do you think? Can you tell the difference?! Would you consider cosmetic surgery, dental or otherwise, overseas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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  1. says:

    Congrats on your new smile! I wanted to get teeth whitening done while I was living in Medellin, but because I’ve got crowns on my front two teeth (the result of a childhood accident), it’s not an option because the coloring wouldn’t be even. Oh well.

    I’ve had 2 routine cleanings by different dentists in Medellin, as well as a veneer done on a chipped tooth, and have been happy with the price and quality of work of it all.
    Dave recently posted..The Most Popular Posts of 2011My Profile

    1. Thank you, I can’t stop smiling right now (I will do later today when I have a wisdom tooth extracted though). The experience of visiting a dentist here is sure better than when I was a kid in the UK – the joy of going private! Although I wish I could pay extra to have gas rather than injections!!!

      1. says:

        Oh, yes – gas is a whole lot more fun.

  2. says:

    You smile’s looking great! A real difference from from your pre treatment picture. This technique works well when your teeth are in fairly good condition to begin with – as your’s were even after the coke and chocolate abuse!

    Any kids (or adults) reading this take the advice above and do look after your teeth properly. Brushing and flossing from the start are the best ways to keep your smile top class.

    1. Thank you very much! I will certainly be looking after my teeth a lot better than I did before and I’m trying to lay off the coke (but not the chocolate!) now too.

  3. says:

    Your post made me think about my very soon appointment to get my wisdom tooth pulled next week. And yea, soda … so good, but so bad for the teeth!
    Harrison recently posted..2011 Reflections and Hustling into 2012My Profile

    1. Thanks for the comment. Good luck with the wisdom tooth next week – I had mine done two days ago and I was really nervous beforehand (I was shaking!) but the whole procedure was fine. I didn’t even realise that they had given me the first two injections beforehand and I felt nothing during the extraction. It only took about 15 minutes (rather than the 35-45 they had estimated). Make sure you haven’t got much planned for a few days afterwards: it’s not really painful but you will want to rest. Hope it all goes well!

  4. says:


    Just came across your blog … great story about Juan Carlos and his Clinic. He is actually part of our network of doctors and clinics providing global healthcare in the Americas: .

    If you are still in Medellin, I’d love to interview you (video) about your experience in Colombia in general and specifically in Medellin and regarding medical/dental treatment. Would be great if you are still here – please leave me a note.



    1. Hi, I am still in Medellin but will be leaving at 6pm tomorrow. I would be interested in doing an interview but time is short and I only have tomorrow morning available. Is that any good?

      1. says:

        How can I reach you? Please send a PM to



  5. says:

    I am all over getting medical procedures in other countries. Colombia is fantastic for dental, as is Ecuador.

    I wear glasses and bought a pair in Cali, Colombia for $30 and cannot tell the difference from my $300 pair in Canada.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Struggling in SevilleMy Profile

    1. I am becoming a fan of medical procedures overseas – I just hope I don’t push it too far!!! I was speaking to somebody who had a tooth extracted in the UK and paid over £500 for the pleasure! I’m so pleased I had it done here. Thanks for the comment!

  6. says:

    Wow – big difference, well done. And thanks for such a detailed post…makes it all real and, well, documented!
    Rob Wilson recently posted..Filling Up The Dream TankMy Profile

  7. says:

    The UK dental system is far cheaper than in Canada (and at least it is covered under the NHS, I had no problem finding an NHS dentist), however I would love to find a Canadian dentist in London (anyone that knows one please shout), because after a check up on a visit home to Canada, my fears were confirmed, and the overlay I had put in in London isn’t to the standard of my Canadian dentist. Since it has come off twice in a year this wasn’t a surprise.

    After years of orthodontic work and £1000’s of my fathers money spent on my teeth I would like to keep them in good condition!

    How did you do your research in finding the dentist you used?
    Michelle recently posted..A Bag Addict’s Dream!My Profile

  8. David Anderson says:

    I appreciate you and your work!

  9. Jim S. Owen says:


    Great post!

    I really like your post! My dentist, who is extremely good, says DO NOT have anything to do with any form of whitening products, including toothpaste! So mine are staying as they are!

    I’d love to try the gel or strips. My teeth are so big that I worry they’d look unnatural if they were super sparkly.

    Thanks for sharing posts like this! Keep sharing!

  10. I have sensitive teeth. Can you share some tips to reduce the sensitivity?? Also, what is the average cost of dental whitening?
    Neha Khare recently posted..TRANSPARENT TEETH TO WEARMy Profile

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