PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The price to get perfect teeth can be costly. It’s estimated more than 40 percent of people in the United States don’t have dental insurance, and even if you have it, many are stuck paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. 3 On Your Side has details about a growing trend that has people paying less. Medical Reporter Stephanie Stahl explains.

It’s the look everyone wants. Shiny, white pearly teeth. But it’s something that many people, like Shelia Liner, can’t afford to get. She’s had broken, damaged teeth for years. Even with dental insurance, she was quoted around $14,000 to fix them.

“I just thought I’ll never be able to have it done,” said Shelia.

In desperation, Shelia booked a trip to Costa Rica through a dental tourism company at a cost of $3,600, including all of her dental work, and she made a vacation out of it.

“I was just so excited to be able to smile again; it had been a long time,” said Shelia.

Experts say more and more people are heading outside the country to places like Mexico, Turkey, Belize, Thailand, and Korea to get dental work done for much less.

“Our fees here reflect a very robust system of safety,” said Dr. Edmond Hewlet, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

He says prices are higher in the United States because patients are paying for dentists who meet rigorous government mandated training, hygiene, and sanitation standards. He cautions that some dentists in other countries may not, and there’s little regulation for dental tourism companies.

“Let me make it very clear, there are untold numbers of highly qualified dentists out there all over the world. You want to make sure if you’re going to another country, you have one of those,” said Dr. Hewlet.

Dental Tourism companies claim many of their dentists are trained in the United States, but by operating outside of the country, they can charge less because equipment, rent and labor costs are cheaper.

It’s something Shelia is thrilled about, showing off her new look.

“It was well worth it. I’d do it all over again,” said Shelia.

The American Dental Association urges people to carefully consider all options before going to a foreign country for care. If you do get dental work overseas, make sure the country regulates or licenses that dentist, and that there are rules for instrument sterilization.

Reported By: Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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