The question of how, or how well, will my dental and medical needs be served in Ecuador, is a pregunta (the Spanish word for question!) that, as you have probably already anticipated, is not at all an uncommon one to be posed by a new resident or someone who is still in the planning stage of becoming a new resident of Ecuador. And so, as many others before you have naturally sought an answer to this question, this article attempts to illuminate what the quality of care in Ecuador is really like when you make a visit to the dentist or doctor for a check-up or for any type treatment/procedure.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which you wake up on one ordinary Friday morning, and you feel an ache in your tooth. You assume that you must have just slept on your jaw in a bad position or maybe you brushed your tooth with your toothbrush too hard the night before. So you decide to wait until tomorrow, Saturday, to see how you feel. But when you wake up late Saturday morning after having socialized at any number of always delightful expat functions the night before, your tooth still hurts but now worse than it did yesterday. Now you’re thinking, “uh-oh, I’ve got a problem here.” But your problem is now compounded by the fact that you woke up late on a Saturday morning, and the dentist’s office is about to close for the remainder of the weekend. Now you’re thinking, with your head in your hands, that the WAIT until Monday could be much more painful than if you had just visited the dentist the day before on Friday!
The scenario above is quite common but not without hope! The GOOD NEWS is that, when you finally do arrive at the dentist’s office on Monday, you will usually be in for a nice surprise — the dentist is gentle and considerate, with a professional touch that makes you relax and forget your sore tooth (or any other dental woe that brought you to visit the dentist in the first place).
You see, Ecuadorian dentists receive effectively the same training as North American and European dentists do, and, in fact, they often do part or all of their dental training in places such as the US, Canada, Italy, etc. Plus, many (if not all) of the dental supplies, chairs and machines used in any Ecuadorian dental clinic are manufactured in the same countries and by the same corporations where North American and European dentists buy those same items for their own dental practices too!
REPUTATION is a very important word as well as concept in Ecuador — some might say it is the only important word and concept in Ecuador. So if a dentist does not serve you in a courteous, effective, gentle, and overall professional manner and at a fair price, such bad patient experience can and usually will travel far and wide to many of your fellow expat constituent acquaintances and friends. Their warnings to stay away from a particular dentist can often prevent you from experiencing a “toothache” (as opposed to the usual cliché of a “heartache.”)
Moving onto the medical side of things, a medical doctor’s visit in Ecuador generally entails a brief discussion with the doctor in English and/or his English medical assistant translator present by his side, or, if you know enough Spanish, then you can happily speak with him in his native tongue instead. From there, a short exam with your shirt on or off will generally occur, including the normal checking of your reflexes as well as vital signs (all the same standard exam routine that usually occurs in a North American or European visit to the doctor).
Ecuadorian doctors are not usually pill-pushers or surgery-happy, as they believe more in the ability of the body to heal itself with proper care, diet and watchful analysis. However, if it is clear upon physical examination that you have, for example, a bacterial infection, then any good Ecuadorian doctor will immediately provide you with a prescription to purchase the appropriate antibiotic necessary to kill the offending organism that is trifling with your body. If you are instead nursing a painful knee, hip, shoulder, etc., once again, a true professional Ecuadorian doctor will discuss that he can either inject an anti-inflammatory – which is usually a NATURAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY and NOT a cortisone shot — and/or indicate which physical therapist you should use. The doctor will often even schedule the physical therapy session for you with the physical therapist on the phone or in person (if the doctor is really well set up in his office for patients with problem joints, he might well already have a physical therapist working in the same clinic ready to serve his patients).
As with dentists, medical doctors in Ecuador receive effectively the same training as their North American & European counterparts, and much less red tape is associated with their office operations and treatment protocols. The total length of your visit to the office is usually measured in minutes and NOT hours, as opposed to the typical case in North America and Europe when you may spend a half-day at the doctor’s office, for which, as you know probably being an expat coming from either North America or Europe, “those guys” sure do know how to charge!